James Yeretsian is an HBA ’22 candidate and Co-Director of Ivey Connects. In his blog below, he writes about the Journey to Purpose event designed by Professor Oana Branzei as part of an annual full-day immersion experience for HBA Sustainability Certificate students, fellows, alumni, and faculty. The event included case discussions, panel sessions, and presentations from purpose-driven professionals from Canada, India, and Africa. The conversations and learnings were focused on Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG). Here are some takeaways.
In the Grand Challenges panel, students heard from Ajeet Singh, Founder and Director of Guria India. Guria is a non-profit organization fighting child prostitution, second-generation prostitution, and sex trafficking in northern India. Singh started Guria India in 1988 after adopting three children from a red-light district. His story was an inspirational reminder of the power of acting with purpose.
“The mind and the heart must be used together,” Singh told the students. “Using just the mind will allow us to make cars, buildings, and profit, but using the heart with the mind allows humans to find purpose and strive to help those most vulnerable.”
Singh said Guria does not just remove children from horrible circumstances, it also helps them to get an education to propel their futures. Guria’s end-to-end strategy brings survivors into a loving community and provides them with educational and wellness classes. A pleasant surprise was when Ivey students heard directly from some young girls that Guria has rescued who are currently in Guria’s programs. They spoke about their favourite classes, ranging from handicrafts to lessons in photography, videography, dancing, and singing.
UN Sustainable Development Goals
In the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) panel, students heard from Dana Krechowicz, Senior Sustainable Finance Manager at HSBC Canada. The discussion focused on net-zero emission ambitions, specifically how HSBC Canada is taking part in Canada’s climate action efforts. It was fascinating to learn what net zero means for service-oriented businesses like HSBC Canada. For HSBC, Krechowicz said it means helping drive down corporate clients’ emissions. Krechowicz said, moving forward, Canada’s major banks will start to weigh financing decisions more heavily off corporate clients’ specific emission-reduction plans and results. This showed the students the power service-oriented businesses, such as banks and professional services firms, have in influencing corporate priorities. If companies are unable to secure financing because of their environmental footprint, they will be forced to change their behaviour.
Paul Allard, Co-Founder and CEO of Impak Finance, spoke about the impact investing and sustainable finance space, specifically reporting on non-financial impact metrics. He spoke about the transition from a financially driven economy fixated on financial returns, to an impact economy focused on the impact an organization has generated. The impact economy is an economy in which consumers, lenders, and investment firms placed as much importance on impact reports as they do financial reports.
To close the day, Sustainability Certificate students shared moments of the day that resonated with them. Ultimately, the Journey to Purpose event gave us a greater understanding of how one can marry purpose with a career. We learned purpose is something that evolves, but if we remember to use our minds with our hearts, we will lead meaningful lives in and outside of our careers.