University of Calgary

Spotlight on Sustainability: David Lertzman teaches future business leaders about social values

UToday HomeMarch 7, 2013

David Lertzman, assistant professor of Environmental Management and Sustainable Development in the Haskayne School of Business, left, with the president of the Achuar Nation of Ecuador. Photo by Jerónimo ZúñigaDavid Lertzman, assistant professor of Environmental Management and Sustainable Development in the Haskayne School of Business, left, with the president of the Achuar Nation of Ecuador. Photo by Jerónimo ZúñigaDavid Lertzman, assistant professor of Environmental Management and Sustainable Development at Haskayne, says he’s “a bit of an exotic species” at a business school.

In fact, when he was first approached about teaching at Haskayne in 2000, he had to be convinced his work with Indigenous peoples, ecological sustainability and community development would be relevant to business.

He had researched Clayoquot Sound, examining traditional ecological knowledge and western science in ecosystem-based management for the forest industry in B.C., expertise that seemed on the periphery of the marketing, finance and other courses offered at Haskayne.

Lertzman remembers being told his work with Aboriginal Peoples would soon become “core to resource industries in Alberta.”

And it has.

Growing concern about ecosystems and the services they provide, more discussion about the “social licence” to operate, plus increased global financial uncertainties have all combined to create a much more complicated arena for resource-based companies and business in general.

David Lertzman and Haskayne students on a Wilderness Retreat, where undergraduate and graduate students are given the opportunity to see themselves in the bigger picture, clarify their core values and reflect on the kind of leader they want to be.David Lertzman and Haskayne students on a Wilderness Retreat, where undergraduate and graduate students are given the opportunity to see themselves in the bigger picture, clarify their core values and reflect on the kind of leader they want to be. Photo by Sarah Lertzman“The business environment of the 21st century is not the business environment of the 20th century,” he says. “It is ecologically uncertain, socially complex, financially unpredictable and ethically challenging, placing demands on the core of a leader’s character well beyond the typical technical capabilities and management acumen we expect of leaders.”

To better equip tomorrow’s leaders, Lertzman’s courses — including the Haskayne Wilderness Retreat and Applied Leadership — offer undergraduate and graduate students opportunities to learn about responsible leadership for sustainable development.

“In the Wilderness Retreat, business students have an opportunity for strategic reflection to get a sense of humanity’s place on the planet, see themselves in the bigger picture, clarify their core values and the kind of leader they want to be.”

In Lertzman’s Applied Leadership initiative, students “put their values into practice working on projects in service for the public good,” he says. “They learn that being in business and being a leader is more than just about getting the big bucks, it’s also about service and giving back.”

Helping students develop skills to work cross-culturally with Aboriginal people while developing a better understanding of, and respect for ecosystems, Lertzman says they will become more effective leaders.

“You could have someone who is a really gifted engineer running several drilling platforms somewhere in the jungle or some other ecologically vulnerable, socially risky, technically difficult situation,” he says. “They need the skills to be responsible, effective decision makers in these complex operating environments.”

Spotlight on Sustainability is an ongoing series profiling the work of students, faculty and staff. To submit story ideas please contact the Office of Sustainability.

 

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