We find out what challenges the pair of MBA students face when trying to achieve a sustainable environment, including measuring pollution and inequality.
Why did you decide to begin MBA programs?
Mark – I have a civil engineering background, which has allowed me to develop strong analytical and technical skills. Working on multidisciplinary projects, I realized that greater business knowledge in fields such as finance and marketing would be beneficial to my career development.
I decided to enrol in the MBA program at the Rotman School of Management because of its focus on Integrative Thinking, which is an essential problem-solving skill to develop in order to become an informed and effective leader.
Jason – I am an Ontario Certified Teacher, but most of my work experience has been teaching in several countries around the world. My other great passion is writing.
I came to the conclusion that my thinking and writing could benefit from the analytically rigorous MBA curriculum and my eventual impact – via writing or thought leadership – could be leveraged through curriculum areas such as business design, organizational behaviour and behavioural economics.
What are your career plans after you complete your MBA degrees?
Mark – I would like to work in management consulting, preferably with a focus on sustainability. As a leader of the Rotman Net Impact Club, I have developed a firm belief that companies can operate in a socially and environmentally conscious manner, and still realize sustainable long term profitability and growth.
Jason – Currently, I am consulting for NeXus Consulting Group, a Rotman-affiliated consultancy for non-profits and social enterprises. After my MBA, I would like to continue in this area, or work in the for-profit sector in corporate social responsibility (CSR), or sustainability consulting.
What are your club's main initiatives?
Mark – Rotman Net Impact strives to affect positive social and environmental changes by empowering MBA students to use their skills to improve the world.
Our club promotes sustainability in business, and we allow our members to explore potential career opportunities that make an impact in diverse areas such as CSR, social entrepreneurship, non- profit management, international development, environmental sustainability, sustainability consulting, renewable energy, and responsible investment.
We achieve our goals by organizing numerous speaker events, networking sessions with industry professionals, and interacting with other Net Impact Chapters at local MBA schools.
Is aid used efficiently in countries that receive it?
Mark – This has been an increasing concern. There is often concern about corruption of local officials and whether aid trickles down to those in need. Greater transparency of the entire process is required in order to ensure it is being properly allocated.
Furthermore, there are concerns that certain charities and aid organizations have excessive overhead costs, and that only a small portion of aid money goes to the cause. Non-profits should be required to disclose the percentage of money actually directed to the intended cause.
Is increasing inequality a disadvantage of trade and economic growth if all living standards are improving?
Mark – This is a very complex issue with no simple answer. I believe that increased trade and economic growth can improve living standards in developing countries. However, the problem is that there is a highly unequal distribution of income and resources. A small minority have profited immensely while the majority of people remain poor.
I believe more needs to be done to protect the working poor, and ensure that reasonable wages are being paid, and that basic health and safety regulations are implemented.
Recent discussions about introducing initiatives to reduce the widening gap between executive compensation and median worker salaries, is an example of one step in the right direction.
Jason – At least in the American context, it is hard to say “all living standards are improving” because real minimum wage and average savings have gone down, while poverty has gone up since the onset of globalization.
I believe that free markets work best when every member of society is provided with equality of opportunity, so that each person’s outcome is their own responsibility, and not a function of race or economic class.
We are leaving economic value on the table when the poor cannot afford living conditions, nutritious diets and education that can sustain the success of future generations. Without equality of opportunity we are not sustainably developing our human capital; we are even incurring more risk of socio-political unrest.
Do you think that the Kuznets Curve, which shows an inverted 'u-shape' relationship between economic development and environmental pollution, is accurate?
Mark – The Kuznets Curve has been shown to be fairly accurate for certain types of air pollution and water pollution. However, this has not been the case for carbon emissions, which certain developed countries such as the USA and Canada are still struggling to reduce.
The greatest concern about the Kuznets Curve is that it is typically represented on a national scale, which may give the illusion that developed countries are following the expected downtrend in the “u-shape”, when in fact they are offshoring their manufacturing facilities to the developing world and shifting the source of pollution elsewhere.
Jason – From a hierarchy of needs perspective, it is accurate to say that people prioritize short-term survival needs over long-term survival needs. Although we see evidence that harmful pollutants tend to be phased out as economies develop, such as only a few underdeveloped countries like Afghanistan, North Korea and Myanmar continuing to use leaded gasoline, there is still a risk that developed countries do not perceive and therefore control for threats that arise from pollution or a lack of bio-diversity.
So although I don’t believe that economies always become more sustainable as they become more developed, I do believe that if the world’s economy is to sustain itself we will have to work together to make the Kuznets Curve a self-fulfilling prophecy.