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Centre for Building Sustainable Value

Tom Collins

I spent my childhood actively playing in the outdoors: Sailing, Cross-country Skiing, Biking, and Scuba Diving. Later, I became quite involved in the sport of Kiteboarding and was lucky enough to travel throughout the southern hemisphere training and competing during my Highschool years. These experiences, combined with work experience in Alberta's Tar Sands instilled a drive to explore sustainability issues when I began university. On my first day at UWO, I transferred out of the BMOS program and into Huron's Global Development stream, with the intent of pursuing an HBA dual degree.

In my first semester of university I was exposed to systems thinking approaches to sustainability, and continued to educate myself about the concept and it's history, both in the diverse range of courses I took, and on my own time. I have now developed a fairly strong understanding of the approach, and intend to study it explicitly at the Masters level, but face the problem that there is little formal recognition of my focus in the two undergraduate degrees I intend to earn. The Sustainability Certificate will allow me to show employers and Masters programs that I indeed do have some level of training in environmental issues. I believe that a strong foundation in social (Global Development Studies), financial (HBA), and environmental (Sustainability Certificate) will allow me to pursue my passion in my later education and career aspirations.

Additional Information

Personal Definition of Sustainability
The recognition that all aspects of business operations are informed by and must be understood in the context of the social and environmental systems they reside within. While socially sustainable practices are important, environmentally sound practices hold a greater importance at this point in time, for if all resource flows are confined into comprehensive systems, social experimentation can occur without existential consequences to life in our biosphere. While social and ecological practices are linked, systems approaches to environmental management create specific metrics which will allow us to operate in a definitely sustainable way. As a result, "at least if we screw up [our societal experiments] the birds can laugh at us, instead of screaming in terror".

Sustainability-in-Action
My first sustainability related project was a High School entrepreneurial venture consisting of a small Beekeeping company which produced organic Honey and provided pollination services for area farmers. My experiences kiteboarding and traveling are what instilled my interest in sustainability as a career choice, and I have worked with Huron's Student Refugee Program and the World University Service of Canada's (WUSC) Shine-a-Light program for the past two years - a charity which provides low-cost solar lighting and remedial tutoring to young girls in refugee camps in Africa.

My pre-HBA degree of Global Development Studies has improved my understanding of sustainability, and work experience in the green energy and energy efficiency sector shows I am quite interested in making a career in the area. During the summer of 2011 I worked as an Energy Efficiency Project Analyst at a high-technology firm, and will work in a similar capacity this upcoming summer. Finally, I am intending to attend the Africa Service Learning HBA course this spring which will provide me with the ability to discuss my theories with African business students, providing feedback on the feasibility of my ideas.