Sustainable Professional Investment Certification: 5 Questions with David Lank at Concordia University

The David O’Brien Centre for Sustainable Enterprise in cooperation with Finance and Sustainability Initiative Montreal has created the Sustainable Investment Professional Certification Program (SIPC).  This program offers basic sustainability training to business professionals with 70 to 80 hours of self-study curriculum material, online study guidance, certification testing, culminating in the Sustainable Investment Professional Certificate. I recently had the chance to speak with David Lank from the John Molson School of Business about the programme.

1. Why did you decide to start the Certification?

We saw a growing demand coming from the investment community in Montreal who wanted to understand the basics of sustainability and sustainable investing. Their clients or their own organizations were looking to invest in initiatives that offer a financial return while providing a social and environmental benefit. The SIPC was developed to equip investment professionals with the new set of skills and knowledge required to understand and seek out opportunities in the rapidly emerging sustainable finance sector.

2. How did you go about starting it?

The SIPC program’s curriculum was developed by a select group of faculty at the John Molson School of Business (JMSB) at Concordia University. The Program is guided by a Business Advisory Council (BAC) consisting of practitioners in the fields of sustainability and finance from some of Quebec’s most esteemed corporations including Addenda Capital, Caisse de dépot et placement du Québec, Cascades, Desjardins, GIR and Osisko. Along with JMSB professors, the BAC was integral to ensuring that the program curriculum was relevant for the educational needs of investment professionals. In addition, the SIPC Program itself was born from, and developed with the help of, the Finance and Sustainability Initiative (FSI). The FSI is a Montreal based, not-for-profit organization that encourages and promotes sustainability as a best practice in the financial sector. It is comprised of over 65 participants/members, representing the mainstream financing and investment community, social and green finance, academia and academia service providers.

3. What were some of the challenges and how did you overcome them?

We thought the biggest challenge would be raising corporate funds to start the program, but we actually found that partners were eager to jump on board with their support. There’s always a challenge in convincing the mainstream financial industry of the need for change, and of the financial, social and environmentally benefits of sustainable investing. However, it’s starting to take less convincing as recent events (banking scandals, economic crisis etc.) are showing that things can’t continue business as usual.

4. What have been some of your successes? How has the program been received?

The program has been really well received. We will have put over 70 students through this first year and have gotten back really positive feedback. Some successes include receiving Approved Provider Program status from the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst institute) and other similar financial industry governing bodies. We have had major companies such as the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) commit a number of their employees into the program because they saw the value in this kind of training and in associating themselves with this type of initiative.

5. What would you recommend to other schools thinking of putting in place certification courses around the topic of sustainability? What are your plans/hopes for the program moving forward?

The goal of any program should be to make it as relevant as possible to working professionals. Therefore, it was crucial for us to have actual practitioners in the field of sustainable investing involved at all stages. It also such a rapidly developing area that it requires curriculum to be constantly updated in order for the training to stay relevant. Our goal is to bring our certification to the next level this upcoming year by increasing enrollment and having a larger international student body. We want the SIPC to be recognized as the go-to program internationally for this type of training.

Research Collaborations around Sustainability – Canada, US, France, UK and Denmark

To advance sustainability and the related themes being explored at Rio+20 in June 2012 and beyond, there needs to be an increase in research around the topics of sustainability and responsible leadership. Below are some examples from Canada, the US, France, the UK and Denmark.

  • The David O’Brien Centre for Sustainable Enterprise at Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business has launched a Sustainability Scholars Program. Researchers from around the world are invited to visit for two to eight weeks and are encouraged to collaborate with faculty at the business school on research around sustainability and responsible leadership.
  • Villanova School of Business (VSB) has formed a Strategic Initiative Groups (SIGs) to enable diverse, multidisciplinary groups of faculty to collaborate around shared research and pedagogical interests. One such VSB group is the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) SIG, which serves as a hub of ethics-related scholarship and teaching at the school.
  • Euromed Management is a member of the international academic network SEABUS (International Research Network on Social and Environmental Aspects in Business and Management). This network, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research, brings together ten research institutions from across the globe to foster research in the area of social and environmental aspects of business and management.
  • Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences (ASB) provides seed money to stimulate interdisciplinary research collaborations within sustainability through a programme called Virtual Communities on Sustainability. If an ASB researcher has an idea for a research theme that requires expertise from more than one department at ASB, other research units at Aarhus or other universities, an organisational framework is now in place to support such initiatives.
  • Cranfield School of Management has set up a Small Grant fund, whereby applicants from across the School can apply for funding to support research that intersects with responsible and sustainable management.

An Inspirational Guide for the Implementation of PRME: Placing sustainability at the heart of management education, which includes more great examples of how schools are engaging faculty and addressing other common questions/concerns related to embedding sustainability, will be launched at PRME’s 3rd Global Forum at Rio+20 in June.

Creating more sustainable campuses: Bikes on campus

Bikes are a common sight on business school campuses around the world and are very popular with both students and staff alike. In this edition of “creating more sustainable campuses,” we look at a variety of innovative ways that campuses and the cities that they are located in are becoming more bike friendly.

  • In 2011 the League of American Bicyclists awarded a range of campuses across the US Bike Friendly University Awards. University of California Davis, who was awarded gold, offers Summer Bicycle Storage and regular auctions on campus and on eBay to sell abandoned and unclaimed bicycles. Students also have access to courses on bike repair and maintenance on campus. Other winners included University of Wisconsin-Madison  University of Maryland, University of Colorado.
  • Stanford has over 12,000 bike racks on campus and maps showing bike paths on and off campus. Students also have access to a range of bike safety repair stands where they can make minor repairs and pump their tires for free as well as free rentals of folding bikes. All this is organized by Stanford’s campus bicycle coordinator.
  • The University of Oregon’s Outdoor Program’s Bike Program, which provides bike loans, a free shop, and education on campus, is entirely student funded and operated.
  • In a project designed to increase awareness about alternative modes of transportation, faculty and Staff at Grenoble Ecole de Management in France have access to electric bicycles 4 weeks each year (trial phase), which are reservable for a 24 hour period free of charge. The school also has over 100 covered car parking spaces that have been turned into bike parking for the growing number of bikes on campus.
  • A growing number of schools, including Winchester Business School, offer subsidies and/or interest free loans for staff interested in buying bicycles for their daily commute to campus.
  • Newcastle University in the UK has a self-service bike sharing system called WhipBikes. Faculty and students pay a one-time registration fee that enables them to use any of the 150 bikes scattered across campus. If they want to use a bike, they simply pick the one they want and text its number to WhipBikes, which replies with the lock code for that bike.
  • Cities around the world are putting in free public bike systems, which are being used extensively by students.  At John Molson School of Business, Concordia University students have access to Montreal’s extensive public bike system, which features over 5,000 bikes and 400 stations, many on/near campus. Similar systems can be found on campuses around the world, including in Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam and across Asia.
  • For students from Copenhagen Business School, Norwegian gas company Statoil has equipped five of its stations across the city with Cykelpleje centers dedicated to bicycle maintenance and repair. Students of Pamplin School of Business Administration, University of Portland travelling through Portland International Airport have a special bike repair section in the lower terminal, where they can take apart and reassemble their bikes, as well as several bike paths connecting the airport with the city.

Does your campus promote bike use in an innovative way? Please share your experiences and stories in the comments area below.

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