Category: News

Summer retreat brief with our new general coordinator

The first SIP workshop is out!!

 

Last week, as the first part of our summer retreat with our new and enthusiastic board, Alice and Jueji, members of the Sustainable Investing Project, led us through the very first workshop of the initiative. Alice, our finance coordinator and current leader of the project, explained that the goal of the workshop is to start guiding organizations through the process of choosing what to invest in, within the large realm of sustainable investments (here’s a resource developed by previous team members if you would like to know more yourself!)

 

During a couple of hour, we discussed what we valued as an organization so that the SIP team got a clearer idea of where to start their research to build our portfolio (a collection of hand-picked investments, in the form of chosen companies we think our organization should support).

Alice and Jueji first explained very clearly what sustainable investing was all about, why it mattered, and how we would create a portfolio as an organization. We then went through what we considered important sustainability issues, and then proceeded to prioritizing them (which was very challenging for us!). Finally, we established a list of criterias companies we would invest in should conform to, that align with the priorities we chose.

 

The workshop sparked amazing discussions, and got the team very excited and committed to the research. The session aimed to give us more vocabulary and ease with investment concepts. It also enabled us to start conversations in and out of the organization, while giving our researchers a clearer scope to build our portfolio.

Hopefully the SIP team got enough feedback from us and is now ready to look into our options! SC will lead it by example, and Alice is hoping other organizations will collaborate and join the research, enabling the community to slowly create a significant fund.

 

SIP is starting to get a lot of attention, we are glad there is strong interest in that project in the community, and some momentum around sustainable investing practices in Montreal!

More and more non-finance people are starting to get their hands on investing, just like Alice did – with an accounting background, she explained she is continuously learning through SIP and getting familiar with those concepts, as she wants herself to eventually be able to know what to invest in.  

 

‘If you have money, you have power. Investment touches everyone,’ she finally pointed out. So get in there, reach out, and make your money count!  Join the movement and get involved now!

 

SC is hiring a new general coordinator!

We are looking for a new general coordinator to replace our amazing Mark, who has been at SC for the past 4 years – he got offered a great position at the SAF, our friends and office-mates (so he will not go very far away from us!). We are excited to welcome someone new to our dear team!
If you feel passionate about sustainability and want to build a stronger community, and you have experience in organizational logistics, apply now!

Check out the job posting here!

Compost The Bug – Episode 1 !!!!

Sustainable Concordia is excited to share the first episode of our new podcast, Compost The Bug! You’ll meet the podcast volunteers and hear from Canadians in La Manzanilla, Mexico, and their views on climate change.

Produced and edited by our external coordinator Emily, this has been in the works since the new year and we can’t wait to hear what y’all think about it. What kinds of things should we talk about in the future? If you have feedback or want to help with future episodes, give us a shout!

 

Ankit on interning at SC!

We will be hiring new interns soon! Check out what it is like to intern at SC, through the eyes of Ankit Kumar, working on social media and content creation these past months

 

“In mid-October 2017, I started getting involved with Sustainable Concordia as a Social Media and Online Content Creation Intern and I can proudly say that during the past months my learning curve regarding the concept of sustainability has been exponential. I have been fortunate to meet several like-minded people who are passionate about sustainability and want to bring about a change in the world and in the society, that we live in.

Right from day one, I have received tremendous support from my colleague – Pauline, the communications and design coordinator at Sustainable Concordia. I was given complete autonomy on how I want to shape my internship and the kind of projects that I want to take up and at the same time, I was also provided with proper guidance and the right resources to unleash my creativity and come up with exceptional work.

During my internship, I have learnt how to write persuasive blog posts by exploring a topic through different angles and by incorporating different voices, expertise’s and sources to support and feed your point. I realized that it is important to dig deeper and bring different perspectives on the table when one is writing articles to share with the community.

Secondly, I also got the chance to attend various workshops and events in the university which helped me broaden my views about sustainability and look at the amazing work that some of the other sustainability-related organizations are carrying out.

At the Divest 101 workshop, I got to learn about what divestment is, its history at Concordia and in the world, and how to make a change in our context. At the Sustainability Mixer 3.0, I made new connections with members of the Concordia Community who are interested in researching and working on projects around sustainability. Zero Waste Week, which was an effort to promote sustainable waste management practices by Concordia student groups such as the Dish Project, Concordia’s Centre for Creative Reuse (CUCCR) and Waste Not Want Not, helped me gain insight on some creative solutions for reducing waste.

The best workshop of all was the internship orientation meeting organized by Sustainable Concordia where I met an excited bunch of interns who had joined SC this semester and the strong cohort of coordinators at SC. This combination of sustainability-minded individuals resulted in stimulating discussions about the complexities of sustainability, which was followed by a fun social mingling session.

Till now, interning with Sustainable Concordia has been an enriching and rewarding experience. For the next semester, there are some fascinating projects in the pipeline that I am excited to work on such as the Sustainable Investing Project, the Resource Library at the SC office and our campaigns for this year – Carbon and Institutionalizing Sustainability. I am pretty sure this intuitive learning experience will not only help me in my academic journey at Concordia university, but it will also be immensely useful in my professional career later in life

 

Stay tuned for more of Ankit’s articles and for upcoming opportunities at our organization!

Noah Baum and Dario D’Onofrio’s (great) podcast on divestment at ConU

Maybe you heard the news: Sustainable Concordia wants to start a podcast really soon! 2018 will be the year of audio exploration –  We’ll have interviews, updates, found footage, event coverage, maybe even office drama.
We hope you are as excited as we are!

Two students, Noah Baum and Dario D’Onofrio, decided to talk divestment for one of their classes and interviewed Emily, our External and Campaigns Coordinator. Their podcast is officially the first audio piece featured on our website, inspiring us to soon kick off this whole new project! Thank you Dario and Noah for these precious and captivating 8 minutes!

Check their work right below ~ and stay tuned for SC’s own content!

 

Talking SIP Launch with Floris Ensink

Looking back at the launch and discussing the project’s next steps

Ankit Kumar – Social Media and Content Creation intern

 

A team of highly motivated individuals started working on the Sustainable Investing Project about a year ago. They witnessed a strong interest from different groups and individuals in investing as a way of expressing social engagement and making a positive change.

On January 15, 2018 the SIP team officially launched their guide and presented their first workshop in the JMSB building. To know more about this coveted project, we caught hold of Floris Ensink, one of the board members at Sustainable Concordia and one of the key members of this project since its inception. Let us find out what he has to say:

As per my understanding, the sustainable investing project is being launched in stages. Can you tell us what these stages are and what stage are you currently on?

“Throughout the summer and fall semesters, a team of interns have been working on a guide that demystifies the world of finance in an easy to understand way for anyone who’s never delved into the subject. The second part of the guide discusses all the ins and outs of how to integrate sustainability in investing, it discusses the different approaches of sustainable investing, ways to measure impact, and ways to assess and minimize trade offs between social and environmental impacts, and financial returns. The last part of the guide consists of a more hand on support for whoever is going to put the theory in practice.
We’re still working on that guide, but at the same time, we’re reaching out to our different audiences, such as community groups that have money to invest and individuals that are interested in the topic. We’re organizing sustainable investing workshops, hosting discussions and organizing simulations. Eventually, we want to set up a sustainable fund through which organizations and individuals can invest money, in a way that allows people to easily get started and learn as they go, while being exposed to acceptable levels of risk. The first call out for those actions was given at the launch event held in John Molson School of Business on January 15th.”

 

About the SIP launch, how do you feel it went? What kind of feedback did you get about the event?

“For us, the launch event was a great opportunity to test if we would succeed in bringing our enthusiasm and insights about sustainable investing across to a varied audience. The feedback we got from people was very encouraging. People were engaged and asked a lot of pertinent questions. We’ve been asked to come and talk or provide workshops by a number of organizations. We really got the feeling there’s a strong demand for what we’re doing and that there’s a momentum for sustainable investing.”

 

That’s amazing! At the project launch, I also go to know that the SIP is a community-oriented project. Can you tell us how this project can help the Concordia community?

“Our main target audience consists of community groups and individuals who want to contribute to the community. As mentioned before, we want to make sustainable investing, as a means to express engagement and as a way to make a difference, accessible to a broader group of people. We want to make people aware of the possibilities of sustainable investing and help them unlock that potential. What we try to bring across is that money is power, when you put that money on the bank, you give your power to the bank, when you invest it, you exercise your power. In some way, we’re trying to democratize sustainable investing. We believe that broader active participation of citizens in investment decisions will be beneficial for financial markets as legitimate centres of power, as well as for the communities that are impacted by decisions make on financial markets.
At Concordia, we have everything that is needed to set a positive example. We have the funds, the knowledge, the audience, the infrastructure and a culture that is strongly rooted in participatory governance. We strongly feel that there is a huge potential to make this subject one of the differentiators for Concordia University.”

Now that a considerable amount of research has been done on “Sustainable Investing” and the project has been launched, what would be your next course of action?

“The most important next step will be to host workshops on sustainable investing and to organize talks about it. The project will become meaningful in the interaction with people. We want to facilitate exchanges, raise awareness, share knowledge and start familiarizing people, both those with a financial and those with a community background, with the concepts and terminology that we’re using in our guide. We can’t do this alone. We solicit student groups, community groups, experts on finance, professors, professionals, artists, etc. to help us host events, validate our guide, reach out and make the project come to life. What we would like the Concordia administration to help us with is to provide more transparency about Concordia’s endowment funds and in the social, environmental and governance performance of the funds it’s investing in. I know that that has not been common practice in the past, but we must look into the future and realize that in the long term, exposing yourself to your stakeholders will create stronger ties, build trust and will eventually be a source of pride for the entire Concordia community.”

Who all are there in the team of this project? How can other interested folks join the team?

“The project is hosted by Sustainable Concordia and credit must largely go to Mauricio Buschinelli, who is the financial coordinator of SC and who facilitates the entire process. Another person whose time and expertise has been invaluable is Marc Richards, who held the position of financial coordinator until 2016. Jueji Chen, Mariamalia Alvarez and Kamden Biggart are interns who are, or have been working on the project and who have provided fantastic support with writing the guide. Chantal Forgues is supporting the project in here role as sustainability coordinator at Concordia University. This is a rare group of people who each have expertise both in finance and in sustainability, and who, in some way, know how to make things make sense from both perspectives.”

Call-out to interested folks: Come join our team!

“As mentioned, we will be soliciting feedback from financial experts. We’ll need help organizing workshops, hosting talks, spreading the word. I invite anyone who is interested in joining our team or helping with the project to send us an email, indicating how you’d like to contribute, so that together we can make this something really exciting.”

 

The Concordia Food System – Lets change what’s on our plates!

-Ankit Kumar, Social Media and Content Creation Intern

 

The Prevalent Food System at Concordia University

Currently, most of the food system at Concordia is controlled by one company – Aramark – that holds an exclusivity contract with the Concordia University. Aramark, besides being a costly option for students (their resident meal plan itself costs a whopping $4100 for a year), is not transparent regarding the sustainability of their food production.This cycle of outsourcing food at Concordia to multinationals that are removed from the day to day realities of student life, whether it be through Sodexo, Aramark or Chartwells, is overbearing the food landscape at Concordia now.

The million-dollar questions that arises is: Why should students settle for an expensive multinational food provider when they can run it themselves and provide affordable food within a socially and environmentally conscious framework?

 

Sustainability issues with the current food system at Concordia

There are a lot of sustainability issues that are concerned with growing food in our society –

  • One of the major problems with the current norm is that it sources its food from thousands of miles away, practically from the other side of the globe. According to a research conducted by Development and Foods Canada, the food in an average Canadian meal travels 3000 kilometres to get to your table. This not only needlessly removes many from the local economy, but also increases Concordia’s carbon footprint. Much of the food is grown on monocrop industrial farms, which rely heavily on chemical pesticides and herbicides to grow (often genetically modified) crops. In 2011, Statistics Canada reported that 69% of Canadian crop farms applied herbicides, 15% employed insecticides and 23% used fungicides. These pesticides get mixed with the water and the earth and have disastrous effects on our health.
  • Secondly, the meat and dairy products tend to come from inhuman meat processing plants which often use dangerous and questionable practices. Also, the prevailing multinational corporate model relies on the constant exploitation of workers and if we turn to our own backyard, we will see that we have the same problems related to migrant exploitation here in the province of Quebec. This article in the McGill Daily further elaborates on the plight of migrant workers in Quebec.
  • The current food system forces Concordia students who want to live in the university residence to buy an expensive meal plan, without a clear possibility of opting out or using their meal plan money somewhere else, like at a student run café or restaurant. In this light, it’s clear that the food system is specifically organized not to serve the interests of students as stakeholders, but to directly serve the interests of investors as shareholders.

 

The Solution – Student-Run Initiatives

As students, we can work together, stand up for what we believe in and redesign the way we want to feed our campus. Some of the benefits of student run food initiatives are:

  • Student initiatives prioritize accessibility by providing affordable, vegan-friendly and gluten free options, as well as Kosher and Halal foods.
  • These spaces also feature locally sourced foods, from as close to the Montreal area as possible. Given the opportunity, students are more likely to source their food from organic farms with environmentally friendly practices. To cite an example, the Concordia Farmers Market is a student-run initiative which offers a collection of goodies to the university community — seasonal vegetables, honey, tea, bread, meat — all locally produced and organic.
  • A cooperative model provides living wages for students and community members alike, while working with farms that provide fair and dignified working conditions for their workers. The Hive Café – located at the heart of Concordia University’s Loyola Campus and Downtown campus, is one such solidarity co-op that provides healthy, affordable, and locally produced food options, while highlighting sustainable practices, employing dignified working conditions for suppliers and worker-members alike, nurturing a community-run space, and fostering an alternative food system.

For those who are genuinely interested in changing the food system at Concordia University and are passionate about food, they can choose to pursue food-related courses at Concordia University. You can find the list of courses here.

Imagining the Future!

It is high time that we start building the world that we want to see, and it starts here, on campus. In Concordia University, in the not-so-distant future, it would be beneficial for everyone if most of the food services are student-run.

Concordia Transitions, which will be happening next weekend, Feb 2-4th, is an annual student conference where the focus is on urban agriculture, alternative economics and the massive potential for change within the Concordia Food system. In February, students, faculty, social entrepreneurs, local change-makers, and activists come together to share knowledge and food, and collaborate around how to build a food-system that answers directly to the needs of the Concordia University community – students, workers, teachers, the farmers we depend on, and our community at large.

Negotiating, if not completely withdrawing the contract of Aramark, while making it much more favorable towards students and student-run food providers, are the high hopes of student-led food organizations for the upcoming years. Building a strong alternative food model at Concordia can also inspire and foster change in other universities around the city and the country.

But, it starts with us and it’s happening right now. Let’s change what’s on our plates!

How’s interning with SIP?

We are now all familiar with the Sustainable Investing Project (SIP) taken on a team of finance-savvy and sustainability-minded folks. One of them is Jueji Chen, currently conducting her thesis at JMSB, who has been interning at Sustainable Concordia for the project during the past couple of months.

 

What has the SIP team been doing these days?

Since this summer, the SIP team has been constantly gathering information to eventually create a solid guide for organizations like SC to invest in sustainable ventures. The semester is ending, and the project has evolved immensely: in January they will be launching their guide and hopefully present their first workshop.
As an expert in finance, Jueji has been editing and reviewing the content put together so far. She explains that she sees herself “in this project as a researcher and this is why they hired [her], because coincidently [her] thesis is the combination of finance and sustainability.”
The team is composed of students and professionals, working in and outside of the finance realm, but all passionate about sustainability. This diversity represents the variety of points of views and experiences in the community and is essential to the project. Everyone has something to bring and something to learn. When it comes to Jueji, for instance, while using her strength in research, she has learned to view finance in another way. She is getting to “combine [her] academic background with more real-life scenarios, hence to make it more practical.” When asked how this approach has worked so far, she said: “I’ve been really enjoying the process, it has improved my sustainable understanding, which facilitates my own research as well as this project.”

 

What is it like interning as part of SIP?

Having met (most of) the folks involved in the project, and witnessing how fast it is growing, it seemed to me that working as part of SIP was a stimulating opportunity.
Jueji approved and added to that idea, stressing the fact that the environment was inspiring: “The most precious thing I get here is to communicate with people.” She continued, “When I work on my thesis, I am alone, except talking to my supervisor. But here I can communicate with colleagues, I like to exchange ideas with people. It is this spirit of collaboration that I value a lot.”

This collaborative approach simply embodies what SIP is all about: making connections, gathering information, considering different approaches and sharing it all with the community.

Besides, as a community-oriented project, all voices are taken into account and seen as valuable. The goal is to make everyone feel more at ease with finance after all! Interning for SIP, Jueji also directly felt that it inspired participants more willing to get involved: “My colleagues always encourage me to express myself. I’m really motivated by that, I’ve become more confident.” Outside of the team, the launching will continue to embody these ideas as it will aim to “not only make more people know about SIP but also look for their opinions about it” no matter how much they know about finance, Jueji explained.

 

So, what should we expect from the launching event onwards?

Now that research is kind of settled and a launching event is being planned, we cannot help wondering what will happen next. For Jueji, the project is just starting: “There is no limit we can exert over imagination. I see entrepreneurship in this project, we can tailor and extend it as much as we want.”  

By the end of her internship, she wants to go as far as possible in completing and polishing the project: “I would expect that we get to the 4th stage, which is to present [SIP] to professionals and to collect their feedback. Furthermore, we can promote our project among non-profit organizations – which are our target audience and even help them make sustainable investment. If we can fulfill these missions or even achieve the potential of doing so, that’d be awesome.”

 

I don’t know about you, but I can’t get enough of all this positivity coming from SIP! Stay tuned for more news within the next few weeks and information about their launching event here.

 

Photo: Sustainable Concordia and The Dish Project workshop for incoming interns, Fall 2017.

Divest Concordia’s last events of the Fall

The past two weeks have been busy for Divest Concordia – Let’s hear what happened!

There was an art build on Tuesday November 21st

At 11am, a small group sat on the floor of the H mezzanine and started making objects with the Divest Concordia colors. An art build is this spontaneous initiative to take up public space in order to be visible and surprise the public. Emily Carson Apstein, the external coordinator at Sustainable Concordia and active member of Divest Concordia, said they “painted some patches and holiday ornaments, using materials from the Resource Library and CUCCR.” During these creative two hours, they  “talked to students who were going by, played some music and hung out!” Emily explained.

… And a Divest 101 workshop on Wednesday, November 29th

The workshop was held in the Art Nook, on the 7th floor of the H building. During about an hour, folks got to learn about what divestment is, its history at Concordia and in the world, and how to make a change in our context. The presentation contained stunning statistics, videos, and an activity. Maya Provencal, coordinator at the Dish Project and avid supporter of the divestment movement, attended both events and said in retrospect: “I did not know very much about the relationship between the university and Divest Concordia and I thought that was very interesting.”

The events were successful on different levels

Both events brought together people from different horizons and sparked fruitful conversations. Emily thought the 101 workshop was a success as they “had students from around the world there, and talked about the global implications of divestment.” She added “there was an exchange student from Germany who told us his entire town divested!”

Regarding the art build, Maya, for whom it was the first time participating in this type of event, “thought it was really fun!” She “thought it was a really cool and unique way to get a message across, to push the campaign”.  On the other hand, Emily saw it engaging as they “had interesting conversations with people who wouldn’t normally talk about divestment” and added that this was the whole point because “those kind of events are about creating public awareness.”

Will we see them happen again next semester?

The events had a fairly small amount of interactions, which were however meaningful and highly engaging. Emily explained that “because people are busy, especially this time of the year, it’s hard to get a large turnout for an event, but if we have many smaller events then we can reach the same number of people and have more discussions.” The plan is therefore to have art builds and workshops monthly in the Winter semester. Maya (a participant) expressed, in agreement with this decision, her desire to see more events like these happening in order to keep on raising awareness and be more present in the Concordia landscape.

The events allowed her to get a better understanding of the movement and motivated her to be a part of it. In conclusion to our conversation she said: “I am definitely planning to attend all the events I can because they are informational and inspiring, and good. I think I am going to be more involved, I would love to facilitate the workshop eventually.”

What else will Divest do in the Winter?

Divest Concordia is preparing a whole lot of exciting projects! Generally Divest is “looking forward to increasing student engagement around campus.” Emily also revealed some news: “We’re hoping to make more connections with faculty as well next semester. I’ve talked to some specific professors that are interested in divestment.”

Let’s not spoil it all, we’ll tell you more on upcoming projects next time! Don’t hesitate to reach out to the external coordinator to get involved and to visit this page for information on the campaign.