Sustainable Business Examples from Around the World – British Columbia, Canada

Finest at SeaAs businesses become more engaged in sustainability around the world, we are presented with an increasing range of examples of active companies. However, when I speak with students and faculty, they say that they repeatedly hear the same examples from the same international companies.

In an attempt to share some new examples of good practise, 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. Below are some examples from Canada, more specifically across British Columbia.


Rachel Goldsworthy,Coordinator, Centre for Social and Sustainable Innovation,  Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria, Canada

Maple Leaf Adventures is a small ecotourism business that takes visitors from around the world into wilderness areas of Canada’s West Coast to experience the region’s rich natural and cultural history. Along with a host of other responsible-tourism attributes, Maple Leaf has respectful longstanding agreements with local First Nations that provide access and guides to their traditional territories. One of the biggest impacts of Maple Leaf tours, though, is that they give passengers a first-hand look, smell, and taste of healthy wilderness, and they invariably disembark with a zeal to protect it.

Finest at Sea is a completely integrated seafood business that owns the fishing boats, the licenses, the processing plants, retail shops and even some food service outlets. All of its products, which are sold to local and global markets, are sustainably harvested. As well, the owners believe in a sustainable workforce so they train staff to work in a variety of roles; nobody gets stuck at a filleting table all day every day, and that makes for happier, healthier employees as well as a resilient business.


Mark Giltrow, Program Head Sustainable Business Leadership Programme, British Columbia Institute of Technology.

Vancity with nearly 500 000 members is a credit union serving the metro Vancouver area. Among it’s many sustainable initiatives it has undertaken the B-hive. The B-hive allows Vancity to target the $100 million dollars a year procurement it spends on goods and services to member businesses that provide sustainable social or environmental impact to the community. By directing money to their business members as well as showcasing specific positive impacts that some of their business are engaging in, the B-Hive helps ensure the alignment of Vancity values and circulates cash flow among its members.


Stephanie Bertels, Assistant Professor, Simon Frasier University Beedle School of Business, Canada

Potluck Café Society provides healthy meals and creates jobs for people with barriers to employment living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES). Its highly successful catering business supports its community programs which have become a beacon for those living in the DTES. Shift Urban Cargo Delivery is Canada’s first trike delivery service. It operates as a co-op to deliver products such as office supplies, food, clothing, and even recycling to business throughout Vancouver, saving on fuel costs and GHG emissions. Shift is a participating organization in Radius, a social innovation lab and venture incubator based at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business. Inner City Farms revives neglected garden space and converts lawns into beautiful and productive urban farms throughout the city of Vancouver. In 2013, it grew food for over 50 families and 6 restaurants through its Community Supported Agriculture program.


– What are your favorite local sustainable businesses? Share them in the comments area below. –




Business Examples from Around the World – Finland, Belgium and France

As businesses become more and more engaged in sustainability around the world, we are presented with an increasing range of 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 Finland, Belgium and France.

Nikodemus Solitander and Martin Fougèr, Hanken School of Economics, Finland

Finland is not really a leader in sustainability issues – especially in comparison to its Nordic counterparts. However, one interesting recent development is that companies seem to be increasingly willing to engage with NGOs and be active in social responsibility initiatives. One good example of a company taking an active stance relating to social responsibility is SOK / S-group (retailing cooperative, second largest retail organization in Finland), S-group has become particularly responsive to NGO claims in the past few years, and is actively taking on the issues raised. When it comes to environmental responsibility, Finnish companies often pride themselves on their ability to innovate in ways that are more sustainable. St1, a Finnish energy company which has taken the lead in sustainable bioethanol production and is using waste and industrial side products as 
raw material (instead of e.g. palm oil, much criticized by environmental organizations). St1 has a very clear sustainability vision that permeates its strategy and at the same time they make it clear that in order to be able to finance these types of innovations they have to be pragmatic (they are not yet generating profits with their waste-based biofuel and they thus finance its production by operating more traditional service stations).

Talia Stough and Kim Ceulemans, University of Brussels, Belgium

Colruyt Group is Belgian company, active in all segments of the retail chain, and amongst others working on ecological and fair trade food partnerships. Colruyt Group values education for sustainable development, is a sponsor of the Environment, Health, and Safety degree program here at HUB, and they are actively involved in our sustainability commitment.Umicore is a Belgian, now global, materials technology and recycling group. In 2013, Umicore was ranked as the most sustainable company in the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World index.KAURI is the Belgian multi-actor learning network and knowledge centre on Corporate Responsibility (Business Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Governance & Corporate Citizenship) and NGO Accountability.

Tashina Giraud, Sustainable Development Manager, Euromed, France

La Poste (French Postal Service) is a long term partner for our school. They helped us launch our first research chair in 2007 on sustainable performance and are a founding member of the Responsible Management Network. La Poste has put in place an ambitious zero-carbon policy with eco-driving classes, electric vehicles and carbon compensation. Through this, sending your mail in France no longer emits CO2. The Poste is also a new partner in the circular economy research chair.

Adecco (temporary job placement) is one of the founding members of the Responsible Management Network and they invest heavily on this topic, such as by putting in place a employment agency that helps find jobs for “de-socialized” people.

2012 Summary of Best Practices in Responsible Management Education (Part 2)

2012 has been an interesting year for sustainability and management education and through Primetime I have tried to share some of the incredible work that PRME signatories are doing to mainstream responsible leadership and management education around the world. Primetime has become quite a repository of examples and in the final few blogs of the year I wanted to summarize the range of resources and experiences that have been featured.

Getting faculty engaged

Faculty are key when it comes to bringing about change in sustainability on campus. Several blogs focused on how to get faculty on board with sustainability (9 April) as well as a range of examples from signatories featured in the Inspirational Guide (23 August). Faculty including those from Maastricht University (22 October – Outside the Classroom New ways to feature sustainability in business courses) and Kozminski University (16 January), have initiated a range of innovative courses around sustainability. Several have also initiated Certificates in Sustainable Business, taking a variety of different and innovative approaches (26 April).

We also focused on a range of methods for teaching sustainability, in particular the increasing number of tools available online for faculty to use in their courses, including lectures (19 March), discussion spaces (23 January) as well as online games developed by NGOs (27 February), the business sector (5 March) and universities (15 March).

Finally we focused on bringing out some of the favourite business and sustainability examples of faculty from around the world, including examples from the Dominican Republic, Tanzania and Slovenia (3 July), the USA and Australia (29 October), Poland, UK and the Netherlands (13 February), and Canada, UK and New Zealand (30 August).

Sustainable Campus

Quite a few schools are doing some excellent work around creating more sustainable campuses including looking at providing more sustainable food options (7 May – Sustainable Food on Campus Part 1 and Part 2) and encouraging bike use on campus (6 February – Creating more sustainable campuses: Bikes). Universities have come up with innovative ways to make their campus more sustainable including Aston with their Go Green Awards (21 August – Go Green Awards), Olin’s Sustainability Case Competition (17 September – Using a case competition to make campus more sustainable), the Student Green Energy Fund at University of South Florida (December -)  and Viterbo’s Metrics of Sustainability course (3 September – Engaging your students in making your and other organisations more sustainable).  We also looked at a variety of ways in which students are becoming more engaged in these discussions whether it be through conferences (9 January – Responsible Leadership in China), Board Fellows Programmes (2 January –  Board Fellows Programmes) or through a range of contests (19 November – Contests for Business Students in Sustainability). As signatories are getting engaged in more and more activities across campus they are also exploring how to better communicate these activities and other sustainability programmes both across campus and with other stakeholders (30 July – Communicating your work with stakeholders).

Exploring specific themes

Quite a few schools are doing some excellent work around specific topics and, in particular around Rio+20, many of them were featured here. In May, we had a focus on Water, both on campus and in the curriculum (21 May – Creating a more sustainable campus: Water Part 1 and Part 2). We have also had blogs on the topic of Microfinance (20 February –  Teaching Students about Microfinance) and social entrepreneurship (5 November – Innovations in Social Entrepreneurship Courses Part 1 and Part 2).

We finished off the year with a three part series focused on the UN International Year of Cooperatives, which took part throughout 2012, with an overview of the year (26 November – Introduction), a range of examples of cooperatives around the world (10 December – Business examples) and finally some examples of schools providing teaching and programmes around the topic (24 December – Business School Response). In 2013, this focus will continue with a look at how to incorporate cooperatives into business education programmes.


In 2013 we will continue to provide a range of best practices around mainstreaming sustainability and responsible leadership into management education globally. Some new features for 2013 will include a dean’s corner and a continued focus on how to incorporate the 6 Principles of PRME into your work.

Primetime is all about featuring the work that you are doing at your schools in the area of management education and sustainability/responsible leadership. If you have an interesting example that you would like to share with the community or if there is a particular theme that you would like to see explored, please do email me at

Happy New Year!

2012 Summary of Best Practices in Responsible Management Education (Part 1)

2012 has been an interesting year for sustainability and management education and through Primetime I have tried to share some of the incredible work that PRME signatories are doing to mainstream responsible leadership and management education around the world. Primetime has become quite a repository of examples and in the final few blogs of the year I wanted to summarize the range of resources and experiences that have been featured.

Rio+20 and the 3rd Global Forum

In 2012 many of us made our way to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil for Rio+20, where world leaders, governments, the private sector, NGOs and other groups came together to shape how we can reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection to get to the future that we want (29 March – Management Education and Rio+20 Part 1 and Part 2). The academic community came together for the PRME 3rd Global Forum for Responsible Management Education, the official platform for management-related Higher Education Institutions (8 June – Getting ready for Rio+20, The Nine Major Groups Part 1 and Part 2). There were also a range of other events throughout the Rio+20 meeting where the PRME community was quite active (30 May – Getting Ready for Rio: Business Education Events). Jonas Haertle, the Head of the PRME Secretariat, followed up the event with a thought piece on the contribution of the private sector and academic institutions in support of sustainable development and the Rio+20 process (5 July – Why Rio+20 was still a success)

There were several outcomes of the Global Forum (19 June – Outcomes of the 3rd Global Forum, 14-15 June, Brazil). One of the major outputs was the Inspirational Guide, a collection of case stories that provide the answers to the most frequently asked questions concerning the implementation of PRME and seeks to inspire further integration of PRME by highlighting real world examples from signatory schools and universities (31 May – Introducing the Inspirational Guide).

PRME Working Groups

The different working groups were also very active this year and we focused on some of the projects done by the Poverty Working Group (10 September – Poverty Working Group Part 1 and Part 2), the Working Group on Anti-Corruption in Curriculum Change’s Toolkit for embedding Anti-Corruption guidelines into MBA curriculum (12 November – A toolkit) and the Global Gender Equality Repository for Management Education put together by the Working Group on Gender Equality (26 June – Creating a Global Gender Equality Repository for Management Education).

Collaborations across schools

Several member schools got together during the year to share experiences around sustainability issues both at PRME regional forums (MENA, Asia, Australia/New Zealand) and outside of these meetings. Aarhus University in collaboration with PRME organized the first PRME Leaders +20 competition which aimed to encourage faculty and student teams to submit innovative ideas on how to address sustainable development as part of management education courses and curricula at business schools (31 January – PRME Leaders+20 competition). Two of the winners of the contest were featured; The University of Auckland’s new course “Managing change for a better world” (9 July – Creating new courses around sustainability), and MacEwan Business School’s work to include more of an emphasis on sustainable business in the core introduction to Canadian business course (15 October – Competition Challenges Business Students to Rethink Course in Sustainable Terms).

Faculty from Mzumbe University and KCA University visited ISAE in Brazil to learn about their approach to embedding sustainability into their curriculum (3 December – East Africa University Researchers learn from Brazilian Experience). Several schools from across the US, led by Maharishi University, collaborated on a Summer MBA Sustainability Consortium opening up summer sustainability courses to students from the different schools (16 July – The Summer MBA Sustainability Consortium). In Australia several signatory schools have collaborated on a Graduate Certificate in Social Impact (1 October – Graduate Certificate in Social Impact). There were also a range of research related collaborations featured from Canada, the US, France, UK, Denmark and Belgium (24 April – Research Collaborations and Sustainability Part 1 and Part 2).

Collaborations with business

Collaborations are not just happening across universities but also increasingly with the business sector. Several schools have been busy pairing up with both other business schools and local businesses to create more case studies focused on sustainability, in particular at a regional level (16 April – Creating Teaching Cases around Sustainability). In Canada, Concordia University has paired up with banks from across the city of Montreal to provide a new Sustainable Professional Investment Certificate for bankers (16 August – Sustainable Professional Investment Certification).

We have also seen an increase in collaborations within schools and transdisciplinary learning (23 July – Using a common theme to engage the student body in sustainability). Some examples this year have included Bentley, with their course around Energy Needs (24 September – Creating a cross-disciplinary course in sustainability) and Aston’s approach to teaching ethics (8 October – Taking a transdiciplinary approach to teaching ethics).

–       Part 2 will be posted January 1st

2012 International Year of Cooperatives and Management Education – Business Examples from Around the World (Part 2)

Each year the United Nations identifies an issue of global importance and raises awareness about it in the international community. The 2012 International Year of Cooperatives recognizes the diversity of the cooperative movement around the world and its contribution to socio-economic developments, such as poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration.

The World Co-operative Monitor launched in October 2012 ranks the 300 largest co-operative and mutual enterprises by turnover and provides a list of these organized by industry. The official website for the Year also provides a list of national cooperative associations organized by region. A few PRME professors shared their thoughts on top cooperative practices with us:

Leo Wang, Assistant Professor, School of Business, McEwan University, Canada: Mountain Equipment Co-op in Canada is a great example of an alternative business model that is built around leaving the world a better place than when we arrived. As both a cooperative and a business engaging in sustainable practices, it tries to champion sustainability in many different aspects (supply chain, internal processes, communications with consumers, etc.). For just $5 you can get a lifetime membership which gives you the right to vote. They now have over 3.3 million members.

Elizabeth Franklin-Johnson, Euromed Management, France & CEREFIGE, France: Sol à Sol is playing an important part in constructing the social economy as well as preserving nature. Selling organic fair-trade “Maté”, a traditional Argentinean drink, this cooperative offers rural workers in Argentina a chance to develop sustainably, have access to training and have a fair price for their products. From Sol à Sol’s base in Marseille, France, goods are packaged by employees in an environment which helps the social and professional integration of adults with disabilities. Sol à Sol has managed to combine the social, economic and environmental pillars into their business model, as well as having the additional ethical angle, all of which confirm their implication is sustainability, and in my mind ticks all the boxes!

Other examples recommended by faculty and students include;

  • Mondragon in the Basque region of Spain is a cooperative movement of workers that began in 1956 which has more than 83,000 employees and 9,000 students. 85% of its industrial workers are members.
  • Rabobank in the Netherlands was founded as a cooperative over 100 years ago by enterprising rural people who had virtually no access to capital markets. It has since grown in into an international financial service provider with a wide range of products. Its focus on sustainability revolves around four themes: safe and sustainable food supply, renewable energy and cleaner production, economic participation and access to finance for all and community involvement.
  • Unimed do Brasil is the largest private healthcare operator in the world. It also has the largest number of coops – 370 – which include 109,000 doctors and 3,029 accredited hospitals that provide care for more than 18 million customers.
  • Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Cooperative Union in Japan is an organization that started in 1965.  Initially, a single Tokyo housewife organized 200 women to buy 300 bottles of milk in order to reduce the price. It has since grown and now places an emphasis on direct producer/consumer links and is dedicated to the environment, empowerment of women and improvement of workers condition. Today, there are 600 consumer co-operatives with over 22 million members (almost a fifth of the country’s total population of 127 million) who buy a wide range of food products, clothing, publications and daily goods.

What other examples of cooperatives can you think of? Share them in the comments box below.

– This is part of a three part series on the International Year of Cooperatives. Part 3 will feature the response from business schools.


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