Observed annually on April 22, Earth Day is “the largest, most celebrated environmental event worldwide” (Earth Day Canada). Ashish Pujari, an associate professor in the marketing area at DeGroote, focuses on innovation and sustainability in his research and his teaching. He developed a course in Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility, now offered in DeGroote’s MBA program. Below, Pujari shares his perspective on the status of corporate social responsibility and how DeGroote students and graduates will change the world.
Has sustainability truly been embraced by corporations?
Corporations have largely accepted the notion of ‘triple bottom line’ of economic, environmental, social sustainability and there are signs of some success across industry sectors, but significant efforts are needed to make a real difference. Challenges remain particularly in integrating social and community issues in managerial decision making.
What attitudes are you seeing in students today with regards to sustainability?
I have seen a significant change in students’ mindsets in the past few years. Students now enter universities with not only a better knowledge about the challenges of sustainability issues, but also with a lot of determination to make a real change in communities and society they live in. Our responsibility is to provide them advanced and sophisticated evidence-based knowledge, tools, platforms and opportunities to help them reach their potential.
What strategies should companies be considering if they want to integrate sustainability into their business?
Companies are already adopting some strategies that are worth considering. Expanding their product portfolio with increasing number of innovative and greener products, using alternative sources of energy, measuring and managing their carbon footprint, reducing greenhouse gas emissions are some of them. The real and much greater change will come from embracing sustainability as part of corporate culture that will show authenticity in their efforts leading to a greater trust by their stakeholders.
How is DeGroote training the next generation of business leaders to ensure they adopt sustainability as a core value?
DeGroote School of Business has made significant strides to integrate sustainability and ethics into its curriculum. Our MBA course on Sustainability and CSR teaches future business leaders the principles of triple bottom line, tools for sustainability implementation and performance measurement. Students work on real life projects on sustainability issues that benefit large and small firms as well as local community organizations.
In a new initiative, DeGroote is establishing a new interdisciplinary Business Sustainability Research Group that will engage faculty, students and community to work on important ideas to solve challenges businesses and communities are facing.
What does the future hold for DeGroote, for corporations and for our environment?
Corporations cannot work in isolation. There are stars in every industry and laggards in every industry. That is the story of sustainability. DeGroote’s focus on sustainability will grow further through our new research group, and we will have more engagement with corporations. We will also give our students the training they need to fulfill their determination to have a positive impact on society.