*** NOTE ***
The 2008 edition of the student-organized Sustainable Business Conference was held March 14, and attended by about 400 people, mainly students. With spiking global food prices, changing weather patterns and growing concern about waste, pollution and health, the organizers’ choice of food as the theme was timely.
The audience filled the D.B. Clarke Theatre throughout the day and listened intently as speakers discussed organic farming, genetically modified organisms, locally sourced food, fair trade, and other issues.
The students heard sobering facts about how difficult it is to make a living as a farmer in Canada, especially in the organic market. Despite reports of high food prices in many parts of the world, Canadian consumers have a wealth of choice and spend relatively little on their food, much of which comes from other countries.
Among the speakers was Laurence Fauteaux, a women’s studies student who has been working with Équiterre, a non-profit organization that links local organic farmers with city dwellers.
Another speaker was Rob Clarke, a Concordia alumnus who is executive director of Transfair Canada, which oversees fair trade certification in this country. Started with government funding, it is now self-supporting and is expanding. It has 258 licensees in Canada, mainly in coffee sales.
The conference itself was carefully designed to leave as light a footprint as possible. The annual daylong event started in 2005, when students discovered that of Concordia’s four faculties, the John Molson School of Business had the least information about sustainability, in the form of literature, projects and resources. Since then, they’ve never looked back.
This year a new student organization was announced. The John Molson Sustainable Business Group will develop business cases for competitions, give tours of companies and bring in speakers, all from a sustainable perspective.
Dean Sanjay Sharma, whose own academic field is sustainability, is strongly supportive, as is President Michael Di Grappa, who was Vice-President, Services, when the sustainability movement was set in motion five years ago with a sweeping audit of the university’s environmental, economic and social practices.