Sustainability: The key to success for JMSB students 

Conference guides students to adopt sustainable practices and lead their field

By Russ Cooper

Making an impact without making an impact – this is the future of business. And Concordia knows it.

From Nov. 12 to 14, the Career Management Services (CMS) and the John Molson Sustainable Business Group (JSG) teamed up to present the Sustainability in Business event. Held in several buildings around Concordia, the three-day interactive event was focused carefully on students and their changing business environment where competitive edge means everything for success. In today's world of business, that success hinges upon learning everything one can about sustainability practices.

"Many companies and corporations are progressively incorporating sustainable practices. For many, being sustainable is part of their corporate culture," says CMS Career Advisor Shelly Elsliger [BEd 05]. "Students who are knowledgeable and interested in playing an active role in the growth of sustainable development will be recognized by many top employers."

Initially, the JSG (a student group only put into motion this past summer) planned to have one speaker series and one company tour this semester. But when those from CMS and JSG got together to compare ideas, both realized a conference like this would be most beneficial for the JMSB community.

"We came together to increase awareness between business and sustainability," says JSG Graduate President Chantal Forgues. "This conference was the perfect opportunity."

Attendees at the conference participated in two days of learning, and one day of seeing how sustainable practices are being utilized today.

On Wednesday, JSMB Dean Sanjay Sharma (who had an integral role in helping establish JSG) addressed students regarding the growing importance of sustainability. Two other JMSB professors, Clarence Bayne and Raymond Paquin, each gave an interactive workshop to spark further interest and encourage students to become involved.

Thursday saw participants enjoying speeches from industry leaders, including Ecco-Ultra Lounge in HollyWood Marketing Director Rami Nassour, The Natural Step Canada Senior Sustainability Advisor John Purkis, Jour de la Terre Québec Director Pierre Lussier and Alcoa Canada Primary Metals Director of Human Resources, Health and Safety Jerry Touzel.

On Friday, students experienced the real thing. The group ventured to the town of Kingsey Falls to take part in a tour of Cascades, whose facility and practices are among the most sustainable in Canada.

"That was our plan. We want students not just to learn about it, but to see it in action," says Forgues.

"Five years ago, there weren't many students asking about sustainability when
they were inquiring about their future careers," says Elsliger. "But now, I see more and more students looking for work with companies subscribing to the sustainable ideal, and I think more and more will be asking about it in the future, as well," says Elsliger.

The event was not only about teaching and experiencing. It also practiced what it preached. Every effort was taken by organizers to make sure all materials used (or not used) at the conference had sustainability in mind; the non-disposable cutlery was provided by Sustainable Concordia’s R4 Free Dish Project, no bottles of water were offered, the coffee served was fair-trade varieties from Dix Mille Villages, and food (such as cheeses and apple juice) were from local producers and businesses.

"This was a simple way to show that sustainable alternatives are out there and available for everyone," says Elsliger.

For those interested in learning more about sustainability, the fifth annual Sustainable Business Conference (to be held Feb. 13) will focus on sustainable building technologies in keeping with the spirit and completion of the new JMSB building.


Concordia University