ClassAction: JMSB class making sustainability a valuable commodity 

By Russ Cooper

As always in business, the bottom line remains the bottom line. But Management Assistant Professor Raymond Paquin and his class are developing methods for businesses to broaden their view to include environmentally sustainable strategies as a way to save (and make!) more money.

Raymond Paquin Magnifying glass

Raymond Paquin

Paquin's one-term MANA 369: Business and the Environment is examining the way Canadian business operates in the global environment. Covering its relationship with the public, stockholders, consumers, employees and the community, the class explores many issues facing the future of Canadian business, such as how to thrive with an ecologically sound modus operandi.

"If you accept the paradigm that the point of business should be to make money, then asking questions about how business creates value for society should enter into that paradigm," says Paquin.

As part of their final project, the class' 16 students are forming four groups and preparing sustainability audits. Two groups will be assessing different departments here at Concordia, and the other two groups will be auditing for-profit companies. Among the resources the students have at their disposal will be the approach and tools created by Sustainable Concordia.

Second-year JMSB undergrad Harry Picken is part of a team that will be assessing an as-yet-undetermined department at Concordia. His team will be looking at everyday things such as paper use, recycling, and computer usage, exploring ways to further reduce the department’s environmental footprint. "You can save a lot of energy by just turning a computer off for the evening," Picken says.

In the end, these audits will hopefully provide these departments and organizations with meaningful approaches for reducing their environmental impact in ways which save money and also facilitate changes in thinking and action around these issues.

"The audits are a way of getting out of the classroom and getting our hands dirty, and it's a chance for students to bring strategic conversations to potential employers.

"In terms of being economically viable, I'm of the belief that what the students will find, these companies haven't even looked at," says Paquin. "It's a matter of exploring how we understand and measure our environmental and social impacts. Once we know that, we can begin to use that information for change."

Paquin, a relatively new face at Concordia (he arrived fall 2008), chose to teach here in part due to our commitment to sustainability, especially within the JMSB.

"The groundswell of initiatives and interest towards sustainability was really encouraging," he says. Paquin also calls JSMB Dean Sanjay Sharma, "one of the leading scholars in our field," referring to his vision and initiative to make sustainability a core element of the business world.

While the current economic situation may be grim, Paquin believes these values are necessary for the next generation of movers and shakers – they will not only create a competitive edge, they will be necessary for future success.

"Firms are becoming more interested in environmental and social matters not only because regulations are becoming more stringent, but also because consumers and the public are demanding it. The way we've done business in the western world is not sustainable," he says. "Once these economic doldrums get sorted, businesses are going to redress the situation that our global natural resources are depleted. It's going to force us to change the way we do business.

"In the end, the key point of the class is to create motivation for change."


Concordia University