Sustainable words

A team of researchers at York’s Institute for Research & Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS) and  Schulich School of Business has received special recognition from the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) association and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) at the 13th Annual Canadian Awards for International Cooperation.

The awards, which recognize the work of Canadian businesses and organizations in developing countries and countries in transition, were presented Nov. 1 at a special ceremony held as part of the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters’ annual conference in Toronto.

The special recognition was given for an article published on Oct. 15, 2005, by the leading management journal, the MIT Sloan Management Review, titled “The Business of Development: Self-Reliance through Sustainable Local Enterprise Networks”.

The article drew on years of work including 50 case studies and research projects, and “can be expected to have a significant impact on both the business and development communities in Canada and internationally,” CME said in its citation. “This will effectively mobilize Sustainable Local Enterprise Networks (SLEN) on the ground and build the capacity of businesses, entrepreneurs, government bodies and NGOs to innovate and undertake non-traditional partnerships for creating and preserving social, environmental and economic capital in developing countries.”

David WheelerThe article is based on analysis of 50 cases of successful sustainable enterprise in developing countries. The authors – all members of the IRIS project team – include David Wheeler (left), director of IRIS and Erivan K. Haub Professor in Business & Sustainability at York’s Schulich School of Business; Kevin McKague, senior research Fellow; Jane Thomson, visiting research Fellow; and graduate researchers Rachel Davies, Jacqueline Medalye and Marina Prada.

The study revealed that examples of successful sustainable enterprise in developing countries often involve informal networks that include businesses, not-for-profit organizations, local communities and other groups. These networks can lead to virtuous cycles of reinvestment in an area’s financial, social, human and ecological capital. Successful SLENs, the authors found, require at least one business enterprise to ensure the network’s financial sustainability and serve as its anchor; however, that anchor role may be played by a cooperative or a profitable social enterprise launched by a non-governmental organization. While multinational corporations were sometimes part of the SLENs studied, entrepreneurs, nonprofits and sustainable local businesses were more common.

The Canadian Awards for International Cooperation honour the achievements of Canadian businesses and organizations supporting sustainable economic growth, stability and social programs to reduce poverty in the developing countries of Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean as well as countries in transition in Central and Eastern Europe.

Some of the award-winning projects by Canadians that were carried out around the world include:

  • a land administration system for mine-affected areas in Cambodia;
  • a sustainable water and sanitation project in Honduras;
  • a tire retreading plant in Guinea;
  • a Canada-Bulgaria export marketing training program;
  • access to world markets for homebound women in Pakistan;
  • a climate change program in South Africa; and
  • a youth group’s participation in the UN’s World Summit on the Information Society.