Western welcomes Bansal, Cao as new CRCs
By Paul Mayne
March 21, 2013
The dominant business model emphasizes profits, with long-term societal interests sometimes a distant second to short-term business objectives. Richard Ivey School of Business professor Tima Bansal wants to change that.
The recent awarding of a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Business Sustainability will go a long way in helping her research contribute to more resilient businesses and, therefore, a more resilient economy, environment and society.
Bansal was one of two Western professors to receive new CRC appointments, announced on campus by Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology). Faculty of Science professor Jiguo Cao, who is working on identifying genes that control virus infection when responding to various treatments, was the other chair named. Also receiving CRC renewals were François Lagugné-Labarthet, Faculty of Science; Amardeep Thind, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry; Andy Sun and Xianbin Wang, both of the Faculty of Engineering.
Bansal’s research investigates business practices that promote sustainable development, practices that balance short- and long-term interests and balance business and society. She looks to not only help businesses mitigate social and environmental risks, but also provide businesses with tools that expose new sustainable opportunities.
“There is a perception that there’s a trade-off between competitiveness and environmental and social responsibility,” said Bansal, who will receive $1.4 million over the next seven years. “In fact, they are completely consistent, especially over the long run. Canada’s long-term prosperity depends on firms making development sustainable.”
She added business sustainability takes a systems lens to organizational research, recognizing that businesses are nested within larger systems, and healthy organizations require healthy systems. Her focus will be on three systems-based constructs that help integrate business sustainability: time, space, and scale.
The absence of these constructs in business research and practice may have contributed to unsustainable business practices and may have blinded managers from identifying sustainable solutions, she said.
“We need to understand some of the problems that are leading to the separation of business and society,” Bansal said. “There are huge opportunities, and challenges, ahead of us.”
In addition to integrating these constructs more centrally into businesses, the Network for Business Sustainability, nbs.net, which Bansal founded, enables business sustainability by fostering collaboration between industry and academia. Bansal said by including businesses in the dialogue to seek solutions, it will help fuel innovation among Canadian businesses, propelling them into a leadership position worldwide.
“I believe Western and Ivey are two of the greatest institutions in the world,” Bansal said. “Ivey has given me the opportunity to flourish, to explore ideas around sustainability before it was fashionable, and to now allow me to achieve excellence with this opportunity. We are who we are because we sat on the shoulders of giants. Our giants are the people who support us.”
For Cao, who will receive $500,000 over the next five years, his research will one day help medical doctors determine drug prescriptions and antiviral treatments based on genetic information of individual patients.
As the CRC in Biostatistics and Environmetrics, Cao is developing cutting-edge statistical methods to identify the relevant genes controlling complex dynamical systems, which can be modeled with differential equations. And with differential equations used to model complex dynamical systems in many areas – from neuroscience and biology to climate and finance – his research has many important applications.
Collaborating with more than 20 statisticians and scientists from Canada, the United States, China and Europe, Cao’s interdisciplinary research has the potential to lead to significant benefits to human health, environment, economy and education around the world.
The Government of Canada will provide $90.6 million in support of the 120 newly awarded and renewed CRC positions this year in the areas of engineering, natural sciences, health sciences, humanities and social sciences. The research will be conducted at 39 Canadian institutions.
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