UBC Community, Partners, and Alumni Publications

In the Company of Giants Vice President Research, Office of the Jun 30, 2008

Your browser doesn't seem to have a PDF viewer, please download the PDF to view this item.

Item Metadata


52387-In the Company of Giants[4].pdf [ 68.54kB ]
JSON: 52387-1.0075477.json
JSON-LD: 52387-1.0075477-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): 52387-1.0075477-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: 52387-1.0075477-rdf.json
Turtle: 52387-1.0075477-turtle.txt
N-Triples: 52387-1.0075477-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: 52387-1.0075477-source.json
Full Text

Full Text

June 2008 19 In the company of giants I n a post-Enron world, the public’s appetite for sustainable and ethical business practices has put many organizations under intense scrutiny to practice the ethics that they preach. While some companies have made marginal strides in the right direction, others have fallen victim to their own hype by failing to live up to their own stated intentions. With Vancouver’s reputation for sustainability stretching far beyond its west coast roots, Dr. James Tansey, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Social Enterprise (CSSE) at UBC Vancouver, is looking to secure UBC as a source for leadership and consultation on corporate social responsibility. Frontier: Why did you establish the CSSE? Jt: If you’re based in Vancouver, everyone talks about sustainability and the issues around it. Vancouver has the strongest associations in North America of any city in this concept. Initially, we were approached by a benefactor who said he’d really like to build something around sustainability and social enterprise in this region so CSSE is filling a gap that everyone expected should be filled by now. F: What do you hope to achieve with CSSE? Jt: We’re looking at four programming areas. The first is human capital development where we’re placing MBA students into businesses and not-for-profits and managing their skills to improve performance in social enterprise. The second is taking on specific projects on a yearly basis and driving development in those areas. For example, we’re currently looking at carbon markets development and we recently ran a workshop on food security and aquaculture. The third is developing research excellence, particularly in corporate social responsibility. We have approached a number of organizations and offered our services in an effort to help these organizations become leaders in their field. The fourth is the development of teaching for undergrads, grads and executive training. F: Which organizations have you approached so far? Jt: Currently, we’re talking with one of the biggest mining companies about what they can do to more effectively manage their corporate responsibilities. We’re also talking to an automotive association and are planning a sustainability strategy for them. Both of those companies come from sectors where there is little expectation for them to change so a lot of this desire to change is being driven by the values of the company and in particular, by junior staff who are pushing change through the board level. F: Many people see sustainable business practices as an oxymoron. Why do you think this is the case? Jt: Over the last 10 years there has been a shift in how people see sustainability. What we’ve realized is that businesses and markets have an incredible role to play in shifting consumer habits and driving behavioural change in managing environmental issues. For example, coffee is the second-largest traded commodity in the world so if large organizations like Starbucks are serious about creating fair-trade coffee then that changes the practices on a fundamental level. F: How would you rate sustainable social development in Canada today? Jt: At the federal level, it is still lacking, partly because federal governments have much less power than national governments in other countries. But in BC, the changes on the provincial level, particularly with the carbon tax, are making it the leading jurisdiction in North America and one of the leading in the world. Vancouver has a reputation in urban areas for very intelligent land-use planning which has a huge impact on sustainability reform. Our resource management still has some way to go. I don’t think we’re handling forestry as well as some other countries but I think that will change over time. F:  Why should the public care about sustainable social development? Jt: I can give you the clichéd answer about looking after the next generation but I believe that what people do has an immediate payoff in terms of their quality of life. If you look at BC as a province, we have tremendous opportunity for economic growth by orientating ourselves away from the traditional resource-extraction mentality and focusing on the softer skills of human-sustainability markets. Vancouver is very well placed to build an economy around that. If consumers recognize the value of this for themselves then they’ll see the value of this for other consumers in North America. F: Your work spans multiple disciplines. Why do you think it’s important to take an interdisciplinary approach in your research? Jt: The only work that I’ve ever done is interdisciplinary and my research tends to be problem-oriented. Problems in society don’t fall into neat domains so if we want to be problem-oriented in our research then we need to be interdisciplinary. Having said that, we’re enormously dependent on disciplines as repositories for information so we’re not replacing disciplines, we’re trying to find points of integration between them. F: What sparked your interest in this field and keeps you motivated? Jt: I grew up watching nature programs like David Attenborough’s Life on Earth and it probably left the biggest impression on me. I connected with the value of nature and that, as an industrial society, we’re becoming more detached from nature and somehow losing something along the way. Dr. James Tansey is an assistant professor at the Sauder School of Business in the organizational behaviour and human resources division. He is head of the Centre for Sustainable Social Enterprise (CSSE) and has received funding from Genome Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) in addition to a private benefaction.


Citation Scheme:


Citations by CSL (citeproc-js)

Usage Statistics



Customize your widget with the following options, then copy and paste the code below into the HTML of your page to embed this item in your website.
                            <div id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidgetDisplay">
                            <script id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidget"
                            async >
IIIF logo Our image viewer uses the IIIF 2.0 standard. To load this item in other compatible viewers, use this url:


Related Items