Students in the Sabres Credit Union are embarking on a journey of discovery. They have completed their training in the financial industry and now exploring current business topics of interest. As a class, the students chose to learn about being sustainable and what sustainability means in the business world. According to our research, sustainability means to focus on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
The initial discussion on sustainability brought out the typical topics of Recycling, Reusing, and Reducing plastics, cans, paper, etc. However, students had never heard of the notion that being sustainable also means being socially responsible with people. They also wrestled with the idea of being profitable while saving our planet and helping others. In the past, businesses tended to make a profit while often sacrificing People and Planet. Thus, the Triple P bottom line was introduced: People, Planet, Profit.
In the first Ted Talk we viewed, the speaker mentioned global companies like Toms Shoes, Tesla, and Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, as examples of companies that include steps to be more sustainable. Toms Shoes donates a pair of shoes to a person in need for each pair purchased, Tesla is working to decrease our reliance on fossil fuels, and Ben and Jerry’s uses only non-GMO ingredients in their products. We then looked at our own community and discussed companies that were participating in sustainable activities. Little Caesars, for example, donates all the unsold pizzas to local homeless organizations. Numerous local businesses promote Fair Trade products and programs. Many of the newer buildings in Steinbach are LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. The students researched what it means to be LEED certified prior to realizing that our school has a LEED certification plaque near our own Sabres CU.
As a class, we have been researching businesses’ impact on the environment. CBC Marketplace has great resources with regard to recycling plastics and the fashion industry. Students became appalled that large corporations are selling their recycling to dump it in third world countries where it is disposed of, thus emitting toxins into the air, water, and soil. Students have also been looking at businesses that promote positive environmental change. Apple, for example, uses only renewable energy in its California facilities. Apple has also reduced its carbon footprint by 35% over the past 3 years. The students were excited to see a large corporation like Apple helping to save the environment, however they questioned what was being done to reduce the e-waste that their Apple devices were creating when they upgraded.
The second part of our research looked at the human aspect of a business. The students are looking at Fair Trade and learning what makes a product Fair Trade certified and how this is a benefit to the producers. Once again, they are researching companies like Starbucks, Tim Hortons, and other coffee companies to determine who is fulfilling the human aspect of the Triple P Bottom Line. Students often comment on the fact that Starbucks coffee is 90% ethically sourced and how this relates to the price. They also find it interesting that Tim Hortons does not disclose where their beans are sourced from.
The final step of the course of study involves creating an action plan for a company to turn itself into a Triple P business. The students pick a company, local or global, to evaluate. While evaluating the company they are diving into the human aspect, how they treat their employees, how they treat their suppliers, how the products are sourced, and what are they doing to improve life for others. The students also look at the carbon footprint of the business. This includes the physical space, the products they sell and how they are sourced. The students also question what kind of recycling and waste reduction practices the company has. After all this research, they write a formal report and make recommendations on how the company can become more sustainable while continuing to be profitable.
Author: Esther Penner, SRSS Staff