Tima Bansal and Dr. Amit X. Garg have been awarded the 2021 Hellmuth Prizes for Achievement in Research, Western’s highest distinction for sustained excellence in research.
An Ivey Business professor, Bansal started her research and teaching career as a bit of a maverick in business-education circles.
She focused on qualitative research in a field that favoured numbers; societal issues that focused on business concerns; and environmental sustainability in a world where profit was king.
This was in 1991, only four years after economists had coined the phrase “sustainable development.” By the time sustainability filtered into business schools and the corporate world, it had been translated into the “triple bottom line” of financial, social and environmental impact, Bansal recalls.
But she quickly realized that profits would always have primacy in the triple bottom line. Sustainability in business must also include relationships, not just transactions, she maintains. It should also prioritize resiliency over efficiency and account for long-term environmental impact, including waste legacy, not just profits.
“In the early days, I was working against the paradigm,” she said. “But I was too naive to know that.”
Bansal helped establish the field of business sustainability
Among the field’s most cited scholars, whose work routinely appears in the discipline’s most prestigious journals, Bansal has earned some of its highest international honours.
She is professor of sustainability and strategy, Canada Research Chair in business sustainability, fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, fellow of the Academy of Management, and founder and executive director of Ivey’s Network for Business Sustainability.
Bansal has seen a real shift in environmental awareness in business education: “The first time I taught this stuff, I almost got thrown out of the classroom as being irrelevant. The students were angry: many were saying, ‘climate change isn’t real.’ Or, ‘how is this relevant to me?’ Now, it’s students pushing for more sustainability in the curriculum.”
Not that it’s an easy evolution in a world that emphasizes ever-more consumer goods and ever-higher profit margins, and where the annual revenue of Walmart, for example, is twice the gross domestic product of Pakistan, she said.
Valuing the environment
The corporate sphere isn’t the only one needing to come to terms with the real costs of business – business that’s created enormous wealth but also placed pressure on the planet’s limited resources, Bansal said.
“We all need to start valuing the biophysical environment in a different way. We have to find a way to operate, to grow within a material economy that’s limited by physical constraints. There’s no silver bullet. It’s a systems problem and we need lots and lots of solutions to get where we need to be.”
These days, Bansal is gratified to see a growing critical mass of scholars at Ivey and elsewhere whose sustainability research is making a difference in the business world.
“I might have been the maverick at the beginning, but now we are a community that is catalyzing change. That’s what I feel my role in all of this is: to catalyze insight and change among students, among businesses and among my peers so that we travel that journey together.”
Recipient Amit Garg an outstanding nephrologist
Dr. Amit X. Garg is a world-renowned nephrologist at Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), where he provides care and conducts research to improve health outcomes for patients with kidney disease, including those receiving dialysis or a kidney transplant.
“I am most fortunate to be able to contribute and I am so grateful to be supported and surrounded by many brilliant people, both in the workplace and at home (with his wife, Western biology professor Niki Sharan),” Garg said.
“Working in teams, it is so rewarding to contribute to knowledge and innovation which helps improve the health and care of people and families at a time in their life when they are, or soon could be, affected by a very serious disease.”
Garg is medical director of the living kidney donor program at LHSC, a past president of the Canadian Society of Nephrology, and has received several national and international honours including, this week, the 2021 Kidney Foundation of Canada Medal of Research Excellence.
A prolific researcher, he has more than 600 peer-reviewed publications including collaborations with more than 1,000 international researchers.
His recent published work includes recommendations for improving the evaluation and screening process for living kidney donors and transplant recipients; a study that found a common muscle relaxant may cause severe side effects among patients with low kidney function; and a new surgical method to reduce the need for blood transfusions among patients with kidney injury.
A list of previous winners of Hellmuth Prizes for Achievement in Research can be found here.