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Centre for Building Sustainable Value

Where business meets sustainability: Lessons learned from my summer internship

  • Maya Gandhi
  • |
  • Oct 12, 2021
Where business meets sustainability: Lessons learned from my summer internship

Maya Gandhi is an HBA 2022 Candidate and enrolled in the HBA Sustainability Certificate. She spent her summer working at Green Economy London, as part of the Ivey Connects and Canada Life internship program.

We have a lot of work to do. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2021 report has once again stated the fact that for years we have known to be true: anthropogenic climate change is real, and its effects are quickly getting worse. 

While the sustainable actions that individuals incorporate into their daily lives are important, implementing such initiatives at a corporate level is a crucial step to combating climate change.

When I began looking for a summer internship, I searched for positions that aligned with my desire to learn about how businesses could seamlessly integrate green practices into their typical operations. I was searching for impact-driven work that made me feel like I was truly helping businesses make sustainable improvements, and the Ivey Connects and Canada Life internship program helped me to find it. 

This summer, I worked as a Business Development Specialist for Green Economy London (GEL), one of seven Green Economy Hubs across Ontario that provide support to businesses looking to set, track, and achieve sustainability targets. GEL provides a variety of resources and programming to its members, making the practice of reducing a business’ greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, and waste creation less daunting. The Hub is connected to the London Environmental Network, a registered Canadian charity and non-profit, that hopes to build a sustainable community by helping local environmental organizations deliver on their missions.

GEL immediately caught my eye as a community-based organization that worked with both businesses and individuals. Since joining the team, I have created social media content on the topics of conservation impact bonds, the biodiversity crisis, ESG (environmental, social, and governance) metrics, and easy-to-incorporate sustainability practices. I have also connected with GEL members and other community businesses regarding solar panel and zero emission delivery workshops. Additionally, I have searched for funding that subsidizes the cost of switching to more energy efficient appliances or electric vehicles, among many other sustainable ‘switches’, and have sent countless emails to encourage businesses in the community to join GEL as their first step to building a better future for us all. 

Through my time at GEL, I have learned that organizations like GEL are run by individuals with complex interdisciplinary interests. It is important to have an understanding of the environment, sustainability, and business to be able to connect with communities in a way that makes a real difference. The importance of an interdisciplinary knowledge base and an adaptable work ethic has also been reinforced in my HBA studies. Through reading cases and engaging in class discussions, I have realized that a good business is also a sustainable business. Knowing this, I was motivated to prove the business case for sustainability in my work by showcasing how business can succeed without sacrificing our climate. 

Working at GEL opened my eyes to the opportunities that lay ahead of me. I became more certain about the teams I like to work in, the environments in which I perform best, and most importantly, the work that I love to do. I was able to recognize how applicable our business education can be when looking to solve problems ranging from financial management to climate change! 

It is my hope that this generation of business leaders see the importance of placing sustainability at the forefront of strategy as it is only through cross-sector collaboration that we will be able to limit climate emissions to preserve our planet for years to come.