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HBA event brings sustainability to the forefront of business conversations

Feb 7, 2023

L-r: Kelly Greene, Kiera Taylor, Faith Bradshaw, and Kieran Bovingdon

L-r: Artist Kelly Greene with HBA students Kiera Taylor, Faith Bradshaw, and Kieran Bovingdon.

Building on the statement that “business as usual is over,” from Indigenous rights and environmental activist Oren Lyons, Ivey students highlighted the ties between sustainable practices and business success for the inaugural student-led Ivey Sustainability Week.

Sustainability Week enabled students to learn about sustainable entrepreneurship, innovation, and careers as well as Ivey research on critical issues related to people and the planet. It also showcased locally-sourced food, as well as artists, musicians, and guest speakers whose work illuminates the impact of human behaviour on the environment. Students even had the opportunity to participate in a global co-creation challenge event where they worked in teams to draft a sustainability guide for a developing country. The week concluded with a full-day conference called Roots, organized by the Ivey Social Impact Club, where students heard from global experts and entrepreneurs about how Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) can drive impact.

It was all part of an initiative organized by Ivey HBA Association Sustainability Directors Faith Bradshaw, Kiera Taylor, Firuza Huseynova, and Kieran Bovingdon to encourage meaningful discussions about the values and societal systems that are contributing to the climate crisis. The event was supported by Ivey’s Centre for Building Sustainable Value (BSV).

“The inaugural sustainability week aimed to bring issues of sustainability to the forefront of the Ivey conversation, helping students understand the inextricable link between climate justice and business success,” said Bradshaw, an HBA ’24 candidate.

Art shows alarming condition of the planet

One inspirational message from the event was the importance of asking difficult questions about our future. Kelly Greene, a multimedia artist and Western University’s first Indigenous artist-in-residence, told how she uses her visual art to make statements about humans’ reliance on the Earth and the environmental harm they’ve contributed, in hope of creating change.

Greene said her tagline, How future business is conducted will determine humanity’s survival, was inspired by Oren Lyons’ call for humans to change their values in order to survive. She showed photos of more than a dozen pieces of art over three decades and discussed the messages she hoped to convey. Greene shared how, through her art, she expressed her feelings on colonization and capitalism, industrialism, residential schools, the Earth’s destruction, and endangered species, such as bees. She said her goal is to inspire empathy so future generations will survive.

Throughout the week, some of Greene's artwork and that of other artists was displayed in the Grand Hall of the Ivey building. The art exhibition was curated by Western's Public Arts Commission.

Advocating for sustainable practices

Finian Makepeace was the keynote speaker for Sustainability Week. Makepeace is Co-Founder of the environmental non-profit organization, Kiss the Ground; producer of the Kiss the Ground movie; and a leader with the Regenerate America coalition aiming to influence agricultural policy to support regenerative agriculture. During his virtual address, Makepeace told about the power of regenerative agriculture, which includes techniques such as cover cropping and reduced tillage to rebuild soil and help reverse global warming. He cited that more than 50 per cent of agricultural soil is heavily degraded, which impacts farmers’ livelihoods and contributes to water, health, food security, and national security crises. He called upon the students to get involved in stewardship programs to increase their knowledge and step up as advocates.

“It’s critical for you to know that we can shift the narrative,” he said. “Regenerating soil is the big win – the story we want to tell our children and grandchildren.”

Bringing Ivey’s new purpose to life

During a session called Looking forward 100 years, the students brainstormed ways Ivey can become more sustainable in line with its new purpose, “Inspiring leaders for a sustainable and prosperous world.” Working in groups, the students considered ways the School and Ivey community members can reduce food waste and their carbon footprint, and incorporate more sustainability content into the curriculum and events. Among the many ideas were an Ivey bus program, composting, creating a greenhouse or garden to grow produce, selling mystery bags of leftover food, reusable event decorations, and introducing a sub-branch of the Ivey Alumni Network that includes alumni in sustainability-focused roles.

An HBA student shares his group's ideas.
Sharing ideas at the Looking forward 100 years event.

Research on critical sustainability issues

The students also had a glimpse of the Ivey research that’s making an impact on sustainable business practices. During a panel session presented by the BSV Centre, seven Ivey faculty members shared how their research is contributing to the School becoming a thought leader on the critical sustainability challenges facing business and society. Here is a summary of the research presented.

Krista Pettit, MBA ’04, PhD ’16
Assistant Professor, General Management and Strategy
Pettit’s recent research looks at the underlying strategic processes that help organizations to transform their visions into actions.

Isam Faik
Assistant Professor, Information Systems
Faik is investigating the links between technology and sustainability such as digital inequality in marginalized communities.

Rob Klassen, MBA ’89
Professor, Operations Management and Sustainability
Klassen’s current research projects focus on sustainable supply chains and the challenges related to corporate net-zero strategies.  

Klaus Meyer
Professor, International Business
Meyer is exploring the role of global perspectives and global coordination in sustainability initiatives.

Wren Montgomery
Assistant Professor, Sustainability and General Management
Montgomery’s research looks at water access and affordability, particularly the impact of the Detroit water shutoffs. It also focuses on greenwashing and brownwashing in the wine industry.

Oana Branzei
Professor, Strategy and Sustainability, Director, Sustainability Certificate Program
Branzei is looking at what constitutes a regenerative organization as well as how Finland’s approach to lake regeneration can be applied to the Great Lakes of North America.

Jury Gualandris
Associate Professor, Operations Management and Sustainability, Faculty Director of the Building Sustainable Value Centre and the Network for Business Sustainability
Gualandris’ work is centred on sustainable supply chains and the circular economy. A current stream of research shows that circular businesses aren’t always sustainable.

During the session, Nadine de Gannes, HBA ’09, HBA Program Faculty Director, invited the students to share what sustainability-focused topics they would like to see prioritized in Ivey’s academic curriculum.

L-r: Rob Klassen, Isam Faik, Nadine de Gannes, Klaus Meyer, Krista Pettit, Oana Branzei, Wren Montgomery, and Jury Gualandris.
Ivey faculty at the critical issues session (l-r): Rob Klassen, Isam Faik, Nadine de Gannes, Klaus Meyer, Krista Pettit, Oana Branzei, Wren Montgomery, and Jury Gualandris.

Read more about Ivey's new purpose and focus on critical issues in the Ivey Next strategic plan.

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