As businesses become more and more engaged in sustainability around the world, we are presented with an increasing range of interesting examples of active companies. However, when I speak with students and faculty, they say that they often hear about the same examples from the same international companies over and over again.
In an attempt to share some new best practice examples, I asked a handful of faculty members from around the world about their favourite classroom examples of local companies that are actively involved in sustainability. Here are some examples from New Zealand, Canada and the UK.
David Lank, David O’Brien Centre for Sustainable Enterprise, John Molson School of Business, Concordia University, Canada
The companies that we like in Montreal are the ones that are not just environmentally focused. For example, there’s a Montreal newspaper with a social focus called L’Itineraire that is produced and sold by homeless people. It provides them with a small income and, more importantly, a sense of purpose. There’s a non-for-profit restaurant called Robin Des Bois that has a social enterprise focus. All the employees are volunteers, and all profits are donated to charity organizations in the community that work to overcome social isolation and poverty. This type of venture taps into an often neglected basic human need – to be part of something bigger than oneself. We also love Bixi, the bike sharing company that started in Montreal and now can be found in some of the biggest cities around the world. Bixi is environmentally friendly and healthy: What’s not to love?
Victoria Johnsen, Environment and Sustainability Officer, Aston University, UK
I think the university sector is a great example of sustainability initiatives. One of my favourite projects is the national Student Switch Off scheme, which encourages students living in school residences to save energy and rewards them with prizes. They have a number of large sponsors, but last year also worked with local companies, such as the Electric Cinema in Birmingham, so we have recommended some more great local shops and cafes for them to approach, such as the Warehouse Café, who serve local, vegetarian food. Birmingham is home to more and more independent shops and cafes, which is a really encouraging sign; I think that encouraging this type of business, and working with local companies is the way forward.
Ross McDonald, Senior Lecturer, University of Auckland Business School, New Zealand
There are a few businesses in New Zealand that I think are just great. Hot Rot was started by a group of women in Christchurch who are experimenting with composting disposable diapers and removing and recycling the plastic. Ask, Share, Give is a site that allows people to give, exchange and request almost anything that is not nailed down – and indeed that too. You Rent is an effective tool library that similarly allows for a boost in collaborative modes of consuming. But overall, it is not so much individual businesses as the culture of doing business in New Zealand that I like. People here support local businesses, growers, artists and initiatives focused on sustainability wholeheartedly.