Taking on the green challenge  

By Karen Herland

Paul Shrivastava is excited to take the helm of the David O’Brien Centre for Sustainable Enterprise. Magnifying glass

Paul Shrivastava is excited to take the helm of the David O’Brien Centre for Sustainable Enterprise.

“You can do well by the environment and simultaneously improve the bottom line.”

Paul Shrivastava, the Director of the David O’Brien Centre for Sustainable Enterprise argues that corporate sustainability is not a costly proposition, quite the opposite.

With 30 years as a management researcher, consultant and professor, Shrivastava is aware that companies exist to create economic wealth. But he disagrees with those who dismiss sustainable business efforts because they fear implementing them would require cutting back on productivity.

“Many of the practices and systems in place now were developed in an era when we didn’t understand environmental costs,” he said. “For instance, 70% of the energy produced is wasted. Cutting that waste preserves resources and improves the bottom line.” Ultimately, doing more with less increases profit.

Shrivastava studied mechanical engineering but quickly realized he did not want to practice it. He earned an MBA in India, and PhD in the U.S. in strategic management. While he was teaching at New York University, an industrial gas leak at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal killed thousands of people. The disaster brought him back to his home community.

He ended up writing a book about the events, and studying several other technological disasters through the 80s and 90s. “I realized that many of them shared a significant environmental component.” For the last dozen years, he has focused on elaborating sustainable management methods.

He feels because we are operating with finite resources, sustainability has to be an integral part of business. He is convinced of the potential of the David O’Brien Centre, committed enough to leave a career and tenured chaired position in Pennsylvania to move here.

“I’ve known about Dean Sanjay Sharma’s work in sustainability since the early 1990s,” Shrivastava said. “I came up here and talked with him and saw the strategic plan and the commitment to sustainability at the university level.” Recognizing that sustainability can only be tackled holistically, he was equally impressed by the importance sustainability issues are accorded at the municipal, regional and national levels.

And Montreal held another attraction; one that had brought him here frequently in the past. “I have a passion for the Argentine tango, and Montreal has some of the best dancers, teachers and festivals.”

Shrivastava has been working with a small team of part-time administrative support and two graduate student researchers. “All of them have a passion for sustainability.” Together, they have been laying the groundwork for the centre.

He is developing both an undergraduate and a graduate course on sustainable management that will be offered through eConcordia.

“I want the centre to be a place that would develop an interdisciplinary research program for understanding how to make corporations sustainable. A platform for people interacting on issues relating to sustainability.” The centre will generate research on corporate social responsibility and sustainability practices, and provide support for businesses

“But this is not my personal research agenda, this is a collective project.” Shrivastava has been getting to know people on and off campus since he arrived in Montreal. “I’ve talked to over fifty people, learning what they do and considering cooperative and collaborative projects.”

He is identifying existing courses in geography, political science, sociology, the School of Community and Public Affairs, and the Faculty of Engineering, that will benefit students of sustainable business practices.


Concordia University