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Centre for Building Sustainable Value

Elijah Dietrich

I feel fortunate to grow up at a time when sustainability is having a renaissance and I’m motivated by the urgency driving it. Growing up in Winnipeg, my interest in sustainability began during a school trip to assist polar bear research in Churchill, Manitoba. Since then, my passion for this field has taken me from an environmental research ship in the Arctic to a UN climate conference in Poland and beyond. Now, I’m excited to apply what I learn at Ivey and in the engineering degree I’m pursuing on main campus to address sustainability issues through technology and business.

 

What is your personal definition of sustainability?

Personally, I believe sustainability to be practically synonymous with balance. This means giving as much as you take, be it from people or the planet, in order to all exist in harmony. A truly sustainable system would be able to exist far longer than the current global economy. In such a system, resources would only be consumed at the rate at which they are replenished. As evinced by phenomena like climate change and plastic buildup in the ocean, finding such a balance is quite difficult – yet it is necessary if we are to achieve a more stable and equitable future.

 

What role do you see sustainability playing in your professional career?

Sustainability will always be at the heart of my work. I’m currently considering careers in a variety of fields, from consulting to venture capital to technology. In any of these fields, I will seek positions that allow me to have a positive impact through a focus on sustainability.

Looking back at my previous experience, this focus is already quite clear. As a strategy intern at TD Asset Management this past summer, I convinced my manager to let me research and prepare recommendations for executives on the opportunities within ESG and sustainable investing products. Looking forward, this summer I’ll be taking part in a program called the Cansbridge Fellowship which provides me with resources to intern in Asia. In my search for internships across the Pacific, my focus is on renewable energy developers, cleantech startups and sustainability advisory roles at large firms.

As the negative effects of poor environmental, social and governance practices are increasingly scrutinized, priced and regulated by the public, investors and the government, respectively, finding sustainable ways of working is becoming essential in the modern economy. Developing and implementing these solutions is exactly what I’d like to do over the course of my career.

 

What sustainability projects have you been engaged in?

As a member of the Prime Minister’s Youth Council, I have provided advice to the Prime Minister of Canada on an ongoing basis over the past two years. I have primarily focused my advice on the environment, natural resources and reconciliation with indigenous peoples. In this role, I have also had the opportunity to provide advice to Canadian negotiators at COP24. Furthermore, I’ve developed solutions to fishing gear pollution with a team that presented to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, who fulfilled my team’s recommendation for Canada to join the Global Ghost Gear Initiative.

This year I helped establish Student Energy at Western. I led my team in organizing an event where students negotiated energy policies and visualized their impact on the climate with the help of simulation software. My team and I also hosted a screening of a documentary on fusion energy where we recruited researchers from ITER, one of the world’s leading fusion projects, and from UBC to answer students’ questions. I’m now currently organizing a pitch competition in collaboration with EnviroWestern, the Centre for Environment and Sustainability, and Facilities Management, wherein students will develop and pitch solutions that will help Western achieve carbon-neutrality.

Elijah Dietrich

Elijah Dietrich