The inaugural Ivey Sustainability Week, from Jan. 30 to Feb. 5, led by students of Ivey Business School, saw the highlighting of ties between sustainable practices and business success.
The event enabled students to learn about sustainable entrepreneurship, innovation, careers and research. It also showcased locally-sourced food as well as artists, musicians and guest speakers whose work illuminates the impact of human behaviour on the environment.
Students had the opportunity to participate in a global co-creation challenge event where they worked in teams to draft a sustainability guide for a developing country. The week concluded with a full-day conference called Roots, organized by the Ivey Social Impact Club, where students heard from global experts and entrepreneurs about how environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors can drive impact.
The event was part of an initiative organized by Ivey Honours Business Administration (HBA) Association sustainability directors Faith Bradshaw, Kiera Taylor, Firuza Huseynova and Kieran Bovingdon to encourage meaningful discussions about the values and societal systems that are contributing to the climate crisis. The event was supported by Ivey’s Centre for Building Sustainable Value (BSV).
“The inaugural sustainability week aimed to bring issues of sustainability to the forefront of the Ivey conversation, helping students understand the inextricable link between climate justice and business success,” said Bradshaw, an HBA’24 candidate.
One inspirational message from the event was the importance of asking difficult questions about our future. Kelly Greene, a multimedia artist and Western’s first Indigenous artist-in-residence, shared how she uses visual art to make statements about humans’ reliance on the Earth and the environmental harm they’ve contributed, in hope of creating change.
Greene said her tagline, ‘How future business is conducted will determine humanity’s survival’, was inspired by Indigenous artist and environmental activist Oren Lyons’ call for humans to change their values in order to survive. She showed photos of more than a dozen pieces of art over three decades and discussed the messages she hoped to convey. Greene shared how, through her art, she expressed her feelings on colonization and capitalism, industrialism, residential schools, the Earth’s destruction and endangered species, such as bees.
Throughout the week, some of Greene’s artwork and that of other artists was displayed in the Grand Hall of the Ivey building. The art exhibition was curated by Western’s Public Arts Commission.
Finian Makepeace was the keynote speaker for the week. Makepeace is co-founder of the environmental non-profit organization Kiss the Ground, producer of the Kiss the Ground movie and a leader with the Regenerate America coalition aiming to influence agricultural policy to support regenerative agriculture. During his virtual address, Makepeace talked about the power of regenerative agriculture, which includes techniques such as cover cropping and reduced tillage to rebuild soil and help reverse global warming.
“It’s critical for you to know that we can shift the narrative,” he said. “Regenerating soil is the big win – the story we want to tell our children and grandchildren.”
During a session called ‘Looking Forward 100 Years’, the students brainstormed ways Ivey can become more sustainable in line with its new purpose, ‘Inspiring leaders for a sustainable and prosperous world’. Working in groups, the students considered ways the school and Ivey community members can reduce food waste and their carbon footprint and incorporate more sustainability content into the curriculum and events. Among the many ideas were an Ivey bus program, composting, creating a greenhouse or garden to grow produce, selling mystery bags of leftover food, reusable event decorations, and introducing a sub-branch of the Ivey Alumni Network that includes alumni in sustainability-focused roles.
The students also had a glimpse of the Ivey research that’s making an impact on sustainable business practices. During a panel session presented by the BSV Centre, seven Ivey faculty members shared how their research is contributing to the school becoming a thought leader on the critical sustainability challenges facing business and society.