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Master of Science in Sustainability Management (MScSM) Program – SDG Awards 2017

In this SDG Awards 2017 entry:

Voting Category: Small-to-Medium Organization

SDG Action

The Master of Science in Sustainability Management (MScSM) Program at the University of Toronto Mississauga is committed to help achieve the following SDGs:

  • SDG 1: No Poverty
  • SDG 2: Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being
  • SDG 4: Quality Education
  • SDG 5: Gender Equality
  • SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  • SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13: Climate Action
  • SDG 14: Life Below Water
  • SDG 15: Life on Land
  • SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  • SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals

The Master of Science in Sustainability Management (MScSM) program is driven by the goal of a sustainable world. The program is unique in its philosophy, approach, and expected outcomes. The program’s philosophy is that sustainability includes social, economic, and environmental aspects, but there is no way to separate “social” or “economic” or “environmental sustainability” because one of these cannot be achieved without the other two. Sustainability related issues and problems are interconnected and interdependent, and these need to be analyzed and addressed using systems and integrative approach in which all aspects of the problem are analyzed and addressed. This is the key challenge to humanity in this century.

The program has started making inroads in addressing this challenge through its unique features that include:

  • The program’s culture is driven by the values of a sustainability management family which are purpose, relationships, and collaborations. The culture is founded on three pillar of “love and sustainability” – respect, integration, and balancing of diverse views/perspectives of everyone involved;
  • It is a sustainability management program and not a business or environmental science program, and the program is about sustainability management at any type of organization – profit, non-profit, or government organization;
  • The program covers not merely how to manage sustainability at an organization but how it should be managed, and thus integrates relevance and ethical aspects with rigor;
  • Students are required to demonstrate the application of their knowledge of sustainability and integration of knowledge from different disciplines to address sustainability issues during internship, capstone course, and research paper; and finally
  • Diversity is the key element of the progra

In terms of diversity, the program is designed for students from different backgrounds such as management science, social science, natural science and engineering; students are recruited from all around the globe; students are given the option to take their electives from any discipline of the University of Toronto; students have the option to take the Collaborative Program in Environmental Studies which further strengthens their interdisciplinary education; and students have an option to take their elective courses at three European universities – Lund University, University of Geneva, and Utrecht University. Students are exposed to different views and perspectives about sustainability through guest lectures, seminars, workshops conducted by sustainability professionals from different organizations.

In brief, the program is designed to enhance and build capacity to implement all SDGs in a comprehensive manner. The program was launched in September 2014; two cohorts (55 students – 34 Canadians, and 21 International students from 15 countries) have graduated; and 65 students (49 Canadian and 16 International students from 13 countries) are currently in the program.

SDG Impact

The program has made multi-dimensional impacts on numerous SDGs in Canada and other countries.
The impacts are grouped in four categories;

Cultural transformation within the university: The program has transformed the culture at IMI. This includes the attributes of family culture and the commitment for various SDGs. MScSM students are recognized throughout the campus as a unique group of students focused on sustainability and community welfare. New initiatives at IMI include participation in implementation of new waste reduction and use of organics bins, purchasing of sustainable materials, and using double-sided printing.

Impacts by the graduates of the program: The program graduates are working in various sectors – approximately 66% in the corporate sector, 9% in non-profit, 6% in government, and 18% in consulting, and are making a great impact in sustainability operations of these organizations. Graduates have brought a lens of sustainability to both direct and indirect impact roles. Some of these graduates have been tasked with greening the organizations and their operations while others have made considerable impacts on gender equity (SDG 5), sustainable use of water (SDG 6), energy audits and renewable energy (SDG 7), circular economy (SDG 8), responsible investment (SDG 8), and waste education with youth and corporations (SDG 2).

Some exceptional impacts include establishment of a social enterprise, creation of a consulting firm, and sustainable Arctic tourism. Two graduates of the program have established a new social enterprise – Just Vertical – which has been termed by some sustainability experts as the “Uber of urban farming”. Just Vertical has the potential of becoming the biggest farmer while owning no land, and it has great implications for access to fresh, healthy and low-cost food supplies. Just Vertical has joined hands with a second social enterprise – Growing North – to bring down the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables in Canada’s northernmost communities (SDG 2). Another MScSM graduate co-founded Kingsley Eco-Asia –a consulting organization in India, which supports many organizations to move their needle towards sustainability. Lastly, another one of our graduates is currently working on cutting-edge sustainable Arctic tourism with the Government of Nunavut.

Impacts by students during the program: Students have impacted many SDGs during the program through internships, capstone projects, and major research papers. During the last three years, 81 students have completed their internships with 68 organizations; 22 capstone projects with 20 organizations, and 65 research papers. About two-thirds of the internships were brand new positions within organizations created for the program’s students, thus expanding sustainability work at these organizations. Examples of completed capstone projects include sustainability bench marking and strategies to improve sustainability, corporate education on waste projects, feasibility assessments for renewable energy projects, environmental impact analysis, and business models for social enterprises. Examples of completed research papers are tourism in the Canadian North (SDG 8, 9,12), circular economy and carbon offsets (several SDGs) exploration of viable renewable energy avenues for developing countries (SDG 7), food security in remote regions of Canada (SDG 2, 3), climate change in developing nations (SDG 13,14,15), and gender equity (SDG 5).

The results of many research papers and capstone projects have been communicated to wider audience through presentations at conferences, workshops, and publications. Some examples of these activities include presentations at the Arctic Cruise Conference, COP 22 in Morocco, and the Nudge Global Leadership Challenge. Student also have articles published on subjects such as remote sensing satellites as a solution towards anticipating food and water wars, carbon tax decisions, and what makes sustainability reports shine. In addition, one student moderated a high-profile panel discussion at the UN Global Compact Gender Equality Forum in Toronto and another student shared dialogue between like-minded individuals to enhance their self-perception and service-leadership at the 2016 University Scholars Leadership Symposium (USLS’16) held in Hanoi, Vietnam. Additionally, another student organized an event on climate change and national security.

Other Impacts: Faculty members associated with the Program have significant impacts on many SDGs through their research initiatives. Geographically, these initiatives range from the Arctic Circle to the Galapagos Islands, and include the subjects of corporate sustainability, ethics, sustainability issues in the great lakes, impact of nationally-aggregated personality traits on nation’s environmental action, engendering the production of corporate environmental norms, energy efficiency targets in Ontario, First Nations peoples wellbeing, organizational culture and sustainability, green accounting, sustainability reporting and financial performance, and sustainability strategies.

In summary, impacts of MScSM students, staff, and faculty members have been recognised by numerous awards that include Corporate Knights’ Top 30 under 30 award, Greenbiz 30 under 30 award, UTM Principal’s Involvement Award, Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award, IMIvator award (IMI Innovator award), IMI Team Collaboration Award, and International Life Science Award.

Future Plans

The program has two goals over the next five years: (i) to launch executive development programs on sustainability management; and (ii) to offer sustainability education opportunity to all undergraduate students at the University of Toronto Mississauga. Action plans to achieve these goals are described below.

The program is working with the Director, IMI, and faculty members to develop executive development programs on sustainability management. The response of all concerned people is encouraging, and we plan to launch the first program within the next two years.

Sustainability is one of the five priorities of the new strategic plan (2017-2022) of the University of Toronto Mississauga. Under this priority, the program is developing a new initiative – Sustainability Pathway (SP) – for undergraduate education at UTM. Under SP, every undergraduate student will have an option to complete a SP during his/her undergraduate degree at UTM. The SP will have four educational attributes:

Sustainability Thinking – Systems and Critical Thinking, and Global Citizenship
Sustainability Knowledge – from different perspectives/subjects – cultural, historical, social, biological, geographical, economic, political, legal etc.
Sustainability Integration – Integration of knowledge from different disciplines; and
Sustainability in Practice – experiential learning and change agents
The program’s proposal on SP has been included in the new strategic plan of the university. Hopefully, the SP will be launched in September 2019.

SDG Partnerships

The program strongly believes that various types of partnerships are the key for advancing and successfully implementing SDGs. Hence, right from the beginning the program has developed a multitude of partnerships. We have grouped our partnerships in four categories:

Partnerships for program’s academic components: Sustainability Conference Day, guest lectures in courses, independent guest lecture series, internships, capstone projects, panels, field trips and networking events are integral parts of the program. These activities are organized on and off campus, and provide opportunities to program students and faculty members and sustainability experts from different organizations to share their experiences and knowledge and to move forward on sustainability issues. In this process, the program has developed a network of over 500 sustainability professionals from almost all sectors and all types of organizations. Collectively, this approach allows us to bring education on almost every single SDG topic in to the classroom. Outside the classroom, partnerships have resulted in field trips to explore green roofs, storm water management systems, waste management systems, sustainability at consulting firms, and sustainability at airports.

Partnerships through memberships of network organizations and representation on boards of organizations: The program is a member of Global Compact Network Canada (GCNC), Partners in Project Green (PPG), Toronto Sustainability Speaker Series (TSSS), Mississauga Board of Trade (MBOT), and Women in Renewable Energy (WIRE). In addition, the program staff and faculty members act in various capacities on boards/advisory committees of many organizations focused on sustainability development including sustainable energy, gender issues, indigenous programming development, undergraduate sustainability curriculum, and sustainability at University of Toronto.

Partnerships through the Sustainability Leaders Series (SLS): The program started the SLS in 2015 as an annual event designed, to engage the local community, local businesses, and university campus at large in sustainability education. Bruce Poon Tip (in 2016) and David Miller (in 2015) were the speakers at this series, and approximately 200 people attended each lecture. The series has enabled community connections, and expansion of SDG-related information to the public while forging of community-campus partnerships.

Research Partnerships: Faculty members associated with the program have made strong partnerships for the purposes of research on sustainability. Research partnerships include environment and food security related partnerships with the Northern Farming Training Institute (NFTI), Hellman Foundation, Parks Canada, Northern Contaminants Program, ArcticNet and the Molson Foundation; partnerships related to waste management and ecotourism with the Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Equador and Procafe S.A. in the Galapagos; and partnerships related to First Nations peoples wellbeing with many First Nations in Ontario and British Columbia.

We will continue to strengthen these partnerships, create new partnerships, and extend our partnerships outside Canada, specifically in the developing world. We are very open to join hands with other organizations to advance the SDGs.

Supplementary Media & Documents