BCIT Sustainable Business Leadership students: Using businesses as a force for good

From the climate emergency and global pandemic to the growing inequality and systemic racism, many people are reflecting on the environment, economy, and society and asking what they can do to help in response to these interlocking crises.

BCIT alumna Rose Kang
BCIT alumna Rose Kang now works as a Sustainability and Donations coordinator for Nature’s Path Foods.

BCIT alumna Rose Kang is one of many individuals who aspired to be an agent of change. She looked to have a career that fits with her desire to make the world a better place.

“I’ve always wanted to do things that helped people,” says Rose.

She had been working as a project manager in residential renovations when the pandemic hit and decided the time was right time for a change. The BCIT Advanced Diploma in Sustainable Business Leadership (SBL) — the only program of its kind in BC to focus purely on sustainable business leadership — appealed to her as it paves a rewarding job path to advocate for and implement sustainable practices.

The program uses case-based learning and applied activities, including a Sustainable Business Consulting Project, which enables students to work with an industry client to solve a sustainable business challenge. The Advanced Diploma  offers both full-time or part-time options, evening courses, small classes sizes, and instruction by industry experts.

“Everyone had different backgrounds and different experiences but we all came together because of the passion for sustainability,” recalls Rose, who completed her 10-month full-time SBL Advanced Diploma in June 2021 and now works as a Sustainability and Donations coordinator for Nature’s Path Foods.

“The instructors were amazing,” adds Rose. “They provided valuable insights from their real-life vast experiences, not just theory-based knowledge.”

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Moving from theory to practice: A flexible and hands-on learning approach

BCIT student Alexandra Eady
Alexandra Eady is a part-time student in the Sustainable Business Leadership Advanced Diploma program.

The Sustainable Business Leadership Advanced Diploma curriculum and flexible delivery format appealed to part-time student Alexandra Eady.

“It’s not just looking at the boundary of your business, it’s looking beyond and how you can really help encourage change throughout the entire system,” observes Alexandra, who is set to finish her Advanced Diploma in June.

“You become more of an investigator, and to lead with curiosity. You want to research things to understand their true environmental and social impacts, from cradle-to-grave.”

Students tackle everything from social equity and environmental governance to designing sustainable business processes, the circular economy, sustainable change management and leadership, and more.

“I’ve enjoyed all of the courses for different reasons,” notes Alexandra. “They have helped expand my knowledge base while challenging me to explore important topics I’ve had less exposure to in the past.”

This type of critical inquiry is more important than ever since ‘business as usual’ is no longer an option, says Tessa Jordan, Program Head, Sustainable Business Leadership, BCIT.  “As environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risk analysis goes mainstream, sustainable business leaders are required to turn the theory into meaningful action.”

Similar to BCIT’s recently launched ESG Fundamentals Microcredential, in partnership with the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade,  the SBL program encourages students to consider ways they can transform ideas into action.

“We give you the theory to become a systems thinker so you can operationalize sustainable business practice,” emphasizes Tessa. “It’s all about moving from theory to practice.”

All students complete a 24-week capstone project with an industry client so they gain practical experience solving real-world problems.

Current projects include supporting a company’s light-duty fleet electrification to help reduce greenhouse gases. Another involves assisting BC municipalities to determine the best impact investing models to promote resilient local economies.

SEE MORE: What you need to know about starting a business

Receiving recognition from United Way’s Social Purpose Institute

“We operate within a finite planet,” stresses Caroline Dépatie, Associate Dean, Business Administration at BCIT.

“We have to stop this idea in business that we can just produce-consume, produce-consume in this never-ending world of consumption and production,” says Caroline. “We need to stop what we’re doing and really reassess.”

Part of this includes bringing sustainable business into the BCIT Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree program. There are currently three sustainable business courses on offer. One of these courses –  Social Purpose Business (BSUS 7200) –  was recognized for its leading-edge content at a recent national summit, Propelling Purpose: The Road to the Purposeful Economy, hosted by the United Way’s Social Purpose Institute.  The course introduces BBA students to the growing field of social purpose business and the role of business in helping to drive change, following the framework provided by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Social Purpose Business course description sums this up nicely saying:

“Whether through corporate social responsibility, social purpose, or social entrepreneurship, businesses are looking to build positive social and environmental returns into their business models by promoting social equity and operating within planetary boundaries—to make money doing good.”

Alexandra shares the same sentiment, “The BCIT Sustainable Business Leadership program has provided me with the tangible skills and practical knowledge I need to successfully transition into a career rooted in sustainability, using business as a force for good.”

Inspired to learn more about making the world better through business? Attend an upcoming info session on BCIT’s Sustainable Business Leadership Advanced Diploma or click here for full program details.

(This story was written by Chantal Eustace)

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