On Feb. 9, Grand Valley State University’s Seidman Sustainability Association (SSA) welcomed Professor Vivek Dalela to speak about the importance of sustainability in marketing. This meeting is a part of the establishment of Sustainability Month, during which SSA will hold a meeting the first two weeks of February and March.
Each meeting will feature a professor from the finance, marketing, economics or management department to share their insights on a sustainable future within the business world.
“Lately, the Seidman Sustainability Association has talked about sustainability in different areas of business with a focus on B Corporations,” SSA Vice President Delaney Blanchard said.
B Corporations are companies that have been analyzed by a certification board, which looks carefully at their positive or negative impact on society in conjunction with the environment. In order for a corporation to be a certified B Corporation, the company has to earn a certain amount of points in consideration of sustainability.
The SSA strives to reach students who’re interested in sustainability, specifically pertaining to business practices.
“Our philosophy is that we don’t talk about the environment because we like hugging trees,” SSA President Nevin Schuring. “We talk about the environment because that’s what actually matters.”
As part of the discussion, Schuring said that the way people treat the environment is critical to how they build businesses. Dalela said sustainability is the environment, economy and society combined. All three of those elements need to work together as one in order to create a sustainable future in the world of business.
“Specifically, sustainable marketing focuses on the organization meeting the needs of its present consumers without compromising the ability of future generations to fulfill their own needs,” said Dalela.
According to Dalela’s research, sustainable products are now growing five to six times faster than average. Gen Z is a huge driver of sustainable habits with 50% reducing consumption of unsustainable brands and 45% stopping purchasing certain brands altogether. Consumers are more motivated to support brands who are doing good things to the Earth and taking care of their carbon footprint.
“One of the key things about taking a sustainable approach is that it has to come from a place beyond the reason to make profits,” Dalela said.
Greenwashing, which is when companies pretend to be sustainable in a disingenuous way to draw in customers, was identified as one of the key issues standing in the way of a sustainable future. This behavior comes from a desire for profits without care for sustainability, which is a trend that SSA is actively pushing against.
Active protest against insincere practices, other governmental actions and education of the general public is the future that SSA is envisioning for sustainability in business.
“After taking in my surroundings and seeing the direction that our society is headed, I think of the Gandhi quote ‘Be the change you want to be in the world’ and I wasn’t being the change,” Schuring said. “So I thought ‘If I don’t do it, who will?’”
Aside from the planned meetings during Sustainability Month, SSA holds meetings every week on Wednesdays at 6:30. At those meetings, the group discusses other aspects of sustainable development in business and within GVSU.
For more information, SSA can be found on Instagram @gvsu.ssa and on LakerLink. All students are welcome to join their weekly meetings and share their own insights about sustainability.