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Bansal awarded top Western research prize for sustainability work

May 14, 2021

Tima Bansal

The research community is collaborative by nature, but for Tima Bansal, extending such collaborations to businesses, policy-makers, and the public is key to a new understanding of sustainability.

Bansal, a professor of General Management, Sustainability, and Strategy, has been awarded the 2021 Hellmuth Prize, which is Western University’s highest distinction for sustained excellence in research. The award recognizes her impressive body of research on sustainability and related matters as well as her leadership in bringing societal issues into new arenas.

Bansal is known as a pioneer in the field of sustainable development in organizations and began her research agenda at a time when climate change and social inequalities were considered outside the domain of business. Throughout her career, she has led initiatives to shape business curriculum and the next generation of managers. Bansal introduced much of the sustainability curriculum at Ivey, making it the first business school in Canada and among the first worldwide to include sustainability programming. She also founded the School’s Centre for Building Sustainable Value in 2005 and led it until 2020. In addition, she helped to shape the management discipline through her work as Associate Editor and Deputy Editor of the Academy of Management Journal.

Bringing sustainability knowledge to business

But Bansal said she is most proud of two partnerships she has forged between academics and industry to advance sustainability research.

In 2003, Bansal founded the Network for Business Sustainability (NBS), which brings together researchers and managers as knowledge partners. To date, more than 35,000 researchers, managers, and students from around the world contribute to and follow NBS's work.

More recently, she founded the Ivey Innovation Learning Lab, a consortium of senior leaders from 25 diverse organizations and academics who meet regularly throughout the year to rethink the corporate innovation process.

Bansal has long advocated that for researchers to offer practical advice to managers, they need to draw on insights from lived experience, and she said she’s glad to be making an impact in that area.

“It is good to know that it is possible to change both management discourse and practice through research,” she said.

National and international recognition

Bansal has received many accolades for her efforts. She has held a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Business Sustainability since 2013 and was also recently inducted to the Royal Society of Canada and the Academy of Management. In addition, she was the first Canadian to be named a Faculty Pioneer for Academic Leadership by the prestigious Aspen Institute. In December 2020, Bansal was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Hamburg.

Ivey Dean Sharon Hodgson said it is rare to see academics demonstrate such success across a range of dimensions. The Hellmuth Prize review committee highlighted Bansal’s leadership, the strength of her international contributions, and the practical applications of her work for advisory boards and companies as well as her mentorship of colleagues and partnerships.

“Tima Bansal has been recognized widely and internationally for her outstanding scholarship and leadership in reshaping the business paradigm, so that societal issues are at the centre of business and not on the periphery,” said Hodgson. “At no other time is it more important for business to play a role in society than now. She is well-deserving of the Hellmuth Prize for Achievement in Research.”