Economic Sustainability

Change Agent:
20 Years of Sustainability at UBC

Creating a shift

At UBC, we’re fostering economic sustainability in and out of the classroom, with a long-term view of where we can innovate to create a more sustainable future. Whether it’s through our social-venture business incubator, service-learning opportunities for economics students or new approaches to investment, we’re helping to shift traditional methods of business, resource markets and trade. Find out how we’re developing more sustainable approaches to the exchange of goods and services at home and abroad.

Good business

From electric-vehicle companies to carbon offsetters, it’s clear that business has an important role to play in creating a more sustainable way of interacting with our planet. At SauderS3i, UBC is fostering initiatives that advance sustainability and social innovation through research, investment and application. Conceived in 2007 and launched in 2009, the centre builds business partnerships and fosters innovation along four core themes: First Nations development; building the low-carbon economy; social innovation; and impact investing. SauderS3i is empowering emerging social entrepreneurs through its social-venture incubator program by giving participants the skills they need to scale up their social venture into a successful long-term business.

Accelerating the future

Every now and then an idea comes along that has the power to transform our world. The Coast Capital Savings Innovation Hub (CCS iHub), launched at the Sauder Centre for Social Innovation & Impact Investing in 2013, helps such ideas take flight. Each year, up to eight innovative local companies are accepted into this unique year-long business accelerator where they receive financial support, communal workspace, expert mentorship and student interns. Participants have included Wize Monkey, a company that helps growers in developing regions earn money year-round by producing and selling a tea made from coffee leaves; and Awake Labs who are developing a wearable device, Reveal, that measures and tracks anxiety in children with autism to predict behaviour meltdowns before they happen. This year’s cohort includes UBC Forestry PhD student Felix Böck’s ChopValue Manufacturing, which creates innovative composite materials using recycled chopsticks. The iHub supercharges new social ventures, giving them the power to move from start-up to established venture — and begin the business of doing good.

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UBC PhD student recycles chopsticks for home décor startup

UBC PhD student recycles chopsticks for home décor startup

Global citizens

Sustainability-minded economics students at UBC have an opportunity to not only gain a mastery of the subject matter, but also put their knowledge into practice in a unique course that integrates rigorous academic study with international service learning. Students enrolled in Economics of Sustainability: Communities, Markets and Technology take part in 12-week placements in developing countries, where they explore ways to build local economies that support the environment and benefit all community members. Past NGO placements in the fourth-year, for-credit program have included eco-agriculture research in Mexico, income-generation projects in Swaziland and micro-finance work in Uganda.

Tracking the Games

How can large-scale, global events be more sustainable? That’s one of the questions Olympic Games organizers asked when they turned to researchers in UBC’s Centre for Sport and Sustainability to track the impact of the 2010 Winter Games. The 2010 Olympic Games Impact (OGI) Study, standardized cross-Games report on the tangible long-term effect of hosting an Olympic Games, was the first of its kind and is now a requirement of all Olympic organizing committees. The researchers, led by Faculty of Education professor Rob VanWynsberghe, measured changes in environmental, social and economic indicators between 2001 and 2012, uncovering ways in which the Games enhanced or negatively affected sustainability.

Four years later, when UBC became a host venue for the Special Olympics Canada 2014 Summer Games, we succeeded in making it the most sustainable Special Olympics to date. In the Sustainability Report on the first Special Olympics Canada (SOC) National Games, key UBC event successes included being the first to have a dedicated sustainability team, the first to go bottled-water free and the first to track its environmental footprint.

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UBC and the Special Olympics Canada 2014 Summer Games

UBC and the Special Olympics Canada 2014 Summer Games

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Story Credits

Special thanks to our story partners: The UBC Sustainability Initiative and Campus and Community Planning and the many units, departments, and faculties at UBC that helped contribute invaluable information on sustainability for this story.

Story team: UBC Communications & Marketing — Cindy Connor, online producer; Cynthia Deng, web developer assistant; Margaret Doyle, digital storyteller; Paul Joseph, UBC photographer; Michael Kam, web developer; Adrian Liem, manager, digital communications; Mark Pilon, communication designer; Jamil Rhajiak, digital communications specialist; Laura Stobbe, communication designer; Matt Warburton, manager, graphic design; Aida Viziru, web interaction designer. Content writer — Jessica Werb. Copy editor — David Leidl.

Published: May 2017