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Centre for Building Sustainable Value · Rebecca Zuker, HBA '23 Candidate

How Ivey alumni act as world-changers – Disrupting comfort zones and thinking globally

Nov 16, 2022


Photo sourced from Philippa White

As Philippa White (HBA 2001) reflects on her time at Ivey over 20 years ago, she recalls the details of cases, the nuisances of a 48-hour report, and how her exchange experience to Bangkok, Thailand, shaped how she views the business world today. However, she also remembers how little discourse there was surrounding sustainability. She shares that at the time, young professionals felt they had two choices – to either work for a for-profit business or an NGO. Philippa became determined to expand the ways professionals could work and create value.  

When Philippa entered the professional workforce, jobs in sustainability were few and far between. A limited number of companies had a division for corporate social responsibility, and even then, these initiatives were isolated. After five years in advertising, Philippa decided to create The International Exchange (TIE). TIE is a social enterprise that links future leaders in the private sector with social initiatives across the globe. With clients worldwide, TIE creates space for professionals to grow, view situations differently, find their unique power, and make meaningful change.   

Philippa described one of her most impactful projects thus far - sending an advertising executive to Malawi for a month to work with a social enterprise creating fuel-efficient stoves. What this social enterprise needed was increased awareness of their product. The country was suffering the consequences of using open pit fires for cooking and fuel-efficient stoves could solve the problem, but residents weren’t aware of them or the benefits.  

At the end of the 30 days, the partnership generated over 10,000 sales. Even after this trip ended, the momentum did not stop. Over two million stoves were sold across the country by 2020. And in 2021, this social enterprise was asked to help the government of Malawi prepare for the high-profile United Nations High-Level Dialogue on Energy. This resulted in a global team of professionals coming together over six weeks to create a beautifully positioned message and film that the President of Malawi delivered to represent the 2.8 billion people at the meeting who still don’t have access to cleaner cooking opportunities.  

This story represents the essence of TIE; pushing one into a different environment and disrupting their comfort zone in the name of growth. It is just one of the success stories of which Philippa is extremely proud. Because of TIE, corporate executives develop the vital leadership skills to drive their companies into the future, while communities benefit from the power of the private sector.  

Holding over 16 years of experience in the social impact sector, Philippa has continued to innovate. She believes transformation in the private sector depends on changing attitudes, people, and objectives. Philippa knows sustainability is not something that can be accomplished by checking off a box on an ESG report. She believes that implementing sustainability into business depends on opening up conversations and supporting human-focused organizations. “The people that are turning the ‘can’s’ into ‘do’s’ are those who know their purpose and have the confidence to break and challenge systems,” Philippa states.  

“The future of sustainability lies in the skills that are more difficult to replicate in a classroom – the soft skills such as flexibility, empathy, courage in convictions, and resilience. It’s those skills that help a business create a competitive advantage. Modern leadership is required for the modern world. The only way the sector is going to change is by creating changemakers.”   

For more information, visit The International Exchange