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Aspen winner: Talking a new kind of business

  • Cam Buchan
  • |
  • Dec 9, 2019
Aspen winner: Talking a new kind of business

More than measuring profitability, beyond driving revenue, many organizations today want quantifiable metrics of their effect on the world around them. It’s an increasingly important measure for investors, customers and potential employees.

But the tools and practices to help leaders understand their organization’s impact are not fully developed. It’s still an emerging field, says Diane-Laure Arjaliès, assistant professor at Ivey Business School, whose course provides HBA students with the skills and insights for just such an assessment – both in the profit and not-for-profit sectors.

Called Assessing the Broader Impact of Business, the undergraduate course combines theoretical frameworks with significant fieldwork to enable students to evaluate the social, environmental, or economic impacts of an organization or project on society. The course has just received the 2019 Ideas Worth Teaching Award, an initiative of the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program, as one of 10 selected from around the globe that prepares future business leaders to tackle society’s largest challenges and create a more inclusive version of capitalism.

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“The problem is that right now the way we evaluate things in our society is biased towards the bottom line, or what we can measure with cash, and we’re missing 99 per cent of what is valuable in life,” said Arjaliès. “This course empowers students to effect change in society.”

Arjaliès has long been interested in this area of business education, and is coming at the topic through cases, research and in the classroom.

Time for a change

Melanie Issett’s future is taking her down some new and interesting paths today.

The Combined HBA-B.Sc. Environmental Science student is exploring a number of career paths, such as social finance or government, but there is one consistent requirement for the organization she chooses. She wants to work for an organization that measures, understands and values its impact on society.

“100-per-cent right!” Issett said, when asked about the importance of working for an organization that understands its impact on society and the environment. “Over the last few years, the number of Certified B Corporations globally has just gone up incredibly. So whether it’s a Certified B Corp company or one that shares those values … this will definitely be a major driver of my career decision making.”

Taking business into the future 

“Coming from a business school environment, you’re used to talking about company performance measures in dollars. It’s refreshing to have a course here at Ivey that goes beyond traditional business measurements, and looks at it through a different lens,” said Shawn Liu, HBA2.

Liu said, that while the tools learned in the course are still being developed, there is a definite need for these metrics to become part of the business environment.

“Companies do need some sort of a measurement tool at their disposal, aside from profit-driven measurements.”

It’s part of a better future, said Issett.

“I was really drawn to this course because I recognize that our current form of shareholder capitalism just isn’t serving us. We really need to start taking a broader picture to try and address, for example, the environmental crisis we are facing.”

Ivey Professor Tima Bansal is a 2017 winner of the Ideas Worth Teaching Award for Prospering Over the Long Term, a course that examines the long-term and societal implications of core business topics in Ivey's MBA Program through an innovative co-teaching design.

More about the Ideas Worth Teaching Awards 

Additional details about each of these award-winning courses and faculty, including their syllabi, are available online at www.ideasworthteachingawards.org

The Aspen Institute’s Business & Society Program recognizes the power of business school teaching to influence the culture embedded within capitalism and, as a result, has been honoring innovative faculty since 1999. These 2019 Award winners join an esteemed fellowship of previous winners who are courageously rethinking the path forward for business and society.