Winter Knowledge Exchange Recap

On a hoodie-warm St. Paddy’s morning, the Net Impact team were hard at work during their second Knowledge Exchange of the 2017-18 academic year.

With help from six volunteers from the MBA/MsCM full and part-time cohort, Saturday’s Knowledge Exchange tackled business challenges of three purpose-driven startups from the Social Venture Zone.

Maybe it was the cozy couches and ping pong table workstations at the SVZ, the first brush with spring weather or the promise of pints to come, but there was a vibe during the session that put everyone at ease.

This session had only half the participants of December’s, but felt every bit as gratifying. There was an intimacy to the smaller groups that made the process seem remarkably cohesive.

Most agreed it was refreshing to take a break from the school grind and put their business acumen to good use in a more socially conscious context. Plus, it was great just to catch up with everyone over sushi.  

Here are some takeaways from each of the three venture groups.

GH90: Global health industry job board

Mike, Nikita V, Nataly, Ashwin and Julian got to work with founder Hayley Mundeva to identify and segment customers based on needs, before creating a month-by-month rollout marketing plan.

Mike: “This is a product that is needed as there are many people interested in working in this important sector which brings the knowledge and expertise of health professionals to developing nations, but the act of finding a job is difficult and the resources fragmented. GH90 fixes this fragmentation by bringing job seekers together with employers.”

ParentUp: Mobile app that provides support for teenage mothers in the Philippines

Founder Liza Ong sat down with Erina, Paramjit, Kumar and Alec to develop a self-sustaining revenue structure following the launch of the pilot project. They created a six-month implementation plan that focused on broadening grant opportunities, strengthening partnerships with local communities, and specializing services to cater to a broader target audience.

Erina: “We were enthusiastic to work with a company that is dedicated to making a real impact for young women in the Philippines, and we are excited to hear about the success of her pilot project.”

L’uomo Strano: Non-gendered clothing line

Damla, Ronesh, Krishna, Tao, Hendra and Keeghan teamed up with Mic Carter to turn his passion project into a sustainable business.

Through a combination of business model and marketing solutions, the team developed a detailed first-year implementation strategy to digitally promote the brand story and identify an effective cost/revenue structure and target market.

Mic: “Saturday was an extremely generative experience for me, and I walked away with a series of “aha” moments and strategies to encourage a greater sense of professionalism and ease when it comes to the next few years [of my company].”

Net Impact Conference 2017-Atlanta

Atlanta, it was real.

From October 25-29, Mike Strong, Damla Ozyoruk, Erina Shirai, Keeghan Sinanan and faculty advisor Kim Bates represented the TRSM chapter at the 2017 Net Impact Path to Purpose conference in the Georgia capital.

Chapters from all six continents descended on the ATL for three days of keynote speakers, workshops and tours geared to give us the tools and the motivation to call others to action for sustainable-driven purpose.

Here were the TRSM team’s highlights:

  • Derreck Kayongo’s speech: We had the privilege of hearing from a former Ugandan refugee who fled to Kenya to escape Idi Amin’s military coup. He founded Global Soaps, an organization that repurposes discarded hotel soaps and distributes them to populations in need. One of the best soundbites from his inspiring tale: ‘This is what a refugee looks like when you give him rights’. He never stopped moving, even when he stopped running.
  • Cliff Bar’s 5 pillars: CEO Gary Erickson makes sure that his company is focused on sustaining their business, brand, people, community and planet. It was refreshing to see a familiar brand refuse to rest on their laurels and reveal their strategy for constant sustainable impact.
  • Connecting with Schulich and Rotman: It wasn’t lost on any of the three Toronto Net Impact chapters that it took us all flying halfway across the continent to finally meet. And a weekend full of memories lit a fire under all of us to collaborate on some intriguing ideas in the upcoming year.
  • Atlanta Civil Rights Museum: It was hard to pick a standout exhibit from the museum’s incredible and refreshingly contemporary homage to both the Unites States civil rights movement and the broader worldwide human rights journey. We were all floored by the sit-in immersion station though. We were made to strap on a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, shut our eyes and lay our hands on a table. What followed next was a harrowing minute of barking dogs and aggressive racist threats through our headphones, with vibrations in our seats to match. We were given a small taste of what blacks experienced during the restaurant sit-ins to protest segregation in the 1960’s. An unforgettable sensory experience.

Atlanta is a special place. A Southern heartland with a teeming diverse undercurrent .There’s no better example of this than their addictive Southern fusion cuisine (Deep fried soft shell crab in a pineapple with Thai peanut sauce?!?? Shrimp and grits shots?!????).

The TRSM team left Atlanta with a stash of fond memories. It was truly a magic city.

Socially Sustainable Business

Socially Sustainable Business

Sustainable business, or green business, is an enterprise that has minimal negative impact on the global or local environment, community, society, or economy—a business that strives to meet the triple bottom line. Often, sustainable businesses have progressive environmental and human rights policies. In general, business is described as green if it matches the following four criteria:

1. It incorporates principles of sustainability into each of its business decisions.

2. It supplies environmentally friendly products or services that replaces demand for non-green products and/or services.

3. It is greener than traditional competition.

4. It has made an enduring commitment to environmental principles in its business operations.

A sustainable business is any organization that participates in environmentally friendly or green activities to ensure that all processes, products, and manufacturing activities adequately address current environmental concerns while maintaining a profit. In other words, it is a business that “meets the needs of the present world without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs. It is the process of assessing how to design products that will take advantage of the current environmental situation and how well a company’s products perform with renewable resources.

The Brundtland Report emphasized that sustainability is a three-legged stool of people, planet, and profit. Sustainable businesses with the supply chain try to balance all three through the triple-bottom- line concept—using sustainable development and sustainable distribution to affect the environment, business growth, and the society.

A sustainable business must meet customer needs while, at the same time, treating the environment well. To succeed in such an approach, where stakeholder balancing and joint solutions are key, requires a structural approach. One philosophy, that include many different tools and methods, is the concept of Sustainable Enterprise Excellence.

For a business to be truly sustainable, it must sustain not only the necessary environmental resources, but also social resources—including employees, customers (the community), and its reputation.

Centre of Urban Energy (CUE) at Ryerson University

Centre of Urban Energy (CUE) at Ryerson University

Net Impact Ryerson (NIR) is thrilled to talk this week about a pioneering feat achieved by the Centre of Urban Energy (CUE) at Ryerson University. CUE, in collaboration with Toronto Hydro and a Scarborough-based energy storage enterprise eCAMION, built the first of its kind (in the world) pole-top energy storage unit. Read on to find out how this invention has made an impact on the environment as well as provide a sustainable means to commercialization. Read More

Also, the upcoming year’s planning of events are in progress. To be a part of the NIR community, please email VP of Membership, Nikhel Solanki at

Any feedback/suggestions on future events are welcome. Please free to reach to our NIR team at

Flavours of Fair Trade

Flavours of Fair Trade

Every month, Fairtrade Canada puts the spotlight on one or more Fairtrade certified product categories. For the month of March, they encourage all consumers to look at the ‘Fairtrade mark’ when shopping for groceries. Present on a variety of products from coconut milk to quinoa, implementing a small change such as looking for the mark before picking the products can go a long way in helping farmers achieve what is due to them.

All across Canada, students at universities and colleges are implementing several measures to make their campuses more ethical by using Fair Trade in some form. Mcgill University recently was named Fair Trade Campus of the Year. This makes them No. 1 among the 21 designated fair trade campuses across Canada. McGill had received their Fairtrade status in 2013, and began to offer a number of Fair Trade items – such as bananas, sugar and cotton t-shirts. The looming question is – what is so special about Fair Trade? The answer lies in how the products are made. These products aim to build meaningful long-term trading relationships with farmers and artisans not only by paying a better price for products, but also by ensuring safe labour practices and ecological and sustainable measures of production. An average Fair Trade farmer cultivates 1.4 hectares of land in 74 countries in the world.

Starbucks claims that their coffee is ethically sourced. However, some statistics show that only 8.4% of its coffee is Fair Trade. People are worried about certain myths, like if Fair Trade products are more expensive; or if farmers would not be motivated to produce quality products with Fair trade. The marginal price hike is justified as the way Fairtrade works, the producer organisation (such as a coffee co-operative) receives the Fairtrade price at the point where they sell to the next person in the supply chain (usually an exporter or importer). This is intended to ensure farmers can cover their costs no matter how low the world price for their commodity falls. So paying that extra buck is going towards making someone’s livelihood better. Many supermarket chains are now sourcing Fair trade products and this trend is only forecasted to increase.

So the next time you pick up that bag of coffee grounds, you know what to look for.

Net Impact Ryerson and the Ryerson’s Social Ventures Zone’s Third Learning Exchange

Net Impact Ryerson and the Ryerson’s Social Ventures Zone’s Third Learning Exchange

On Friday March 17th, 10 Ted Rogers MBA and MScM students participated in Net Impact’s third Learning Exchange with Ryerson’s Social Ventures Zone. The initiative connects students with entrepreneurs who are looking for advice on how to tackle the next steps of their social ventures.

The three social ventures participating in the exchange were My Grief Now, Source My Garment, and Tees That Feed. Each entrepreneur gave the group an overview of their business and the issues that they were struggling with in driving forward. The students then broke up into smaller learning circles to help each entrepreneur, by passing along business knowledge and providing resources and guidance for further research or assistance.

The students benefited from hands on experience working with a real business, and gaining exposure to the types of issues that these entrepreneurs face. One group advised their entrepreneur on his value proposition, clarifying its purpose within the business model he was working on, and directed him to external resources that would help him continue on his own.

Another group worked on creating a go to market strategy and implementation timeline for a garment manufacturing consultancy, and the third worked on funding strategies for a social enterprise aimed at feeding Canada’s underprivileged youth through sales of branded t-shirts. All three entrepreneurs requested further contact with the student groups, demonstrating the value delivered by the students.

The Boon Of Entrepreneurship To Canada

The Boon Of Entrepreneurship To Canada

As MBA students, we all are aware of the bitter truth that Canadian economy is currently going through its toughest phase. Rather than reading news related to job creation, we hear about job cuts in different companies every single day. In such difficult times, apart from advancing towards Foreign Direct Investments, Canada needs to cater its interest towards entrepreneurship as well. This is one key area which can take this country out of economic crisis by creating more jobs. The following article talks about the importance of entrepreneurship and why entrepreneurs are the key to growing Canadian jobs again.

Click below to read on!

Why Entrepreneurs Are The Key To Growing Canadian Jobs Again

The Purpose Driven Organisation

The Purpose Driven Organisation

What makes some companies wildly successful while others flop? Purpose!

Surviving in today’s economy is tough, but the companies that figure it out have something in common: the pursuit of purpose, alongside the pursuit of profit. A purpose mobilizes people in a way that pursuing profits alone never will. For a company to thrive, it needs to infuse its purpose in all that it does.  An organization without purpose manages people and resources, while an organization with purpose mobilizes people and resources. Purpose is a key ingredient for a strong, sustainable, scalable organizational culture. It’s an unseen-yet-ever-present element that drives an organization. It can be a strategic starting point, a product differentiator, and an organic attractor of users and customers. Here’s how a few organizations have used purpose to achieve great results, and what other organizations can learn from their success.

  • Be Authentic, No Matter What

To be a purpose driven organisation, it’s important for a company to think about why they are in the business they are in. When a company demonstrates an authentic purpose, consumers feel a connection to the products and company. They will choose the authentically purposeful company’s products, even if it’s not the cheapest offering.

  • Bring In The Right People

You can’t force employees to share your purpose. If they don’t, customers will know. It’s better to hire people with a shared sense of purpose. That gives everyone in the organization a common starting point. Spend some time thinking about the range of values and purposes that fit into your company, and create a process that allows you to gather that data before making a hiring decision. Hiring is difficult; firing is even more difficult.

  • Create Shared Value

Economic value and social value are not mutually exclusive. Today’s sophisticated business leader recognizes the concept of shared value: creating economic value while addressing social needs and challenges. As Michael Porter and Mark Kramer wrote in Harvard Business Review in 2011: “Shared value is not social responsibility, philanthropy, or even sustainability, but a new way to achieve economic success.” There are many ways that today’s purpose-driven companies can incorporate shared value into the core of the business. One example is New York-based Etsy. Among its initiatives as a certified B-Corp, Etsy has collaborated with governments in Rockland, Illinois, as well as in New York to offer free entrepreneurship courses for underemployed and unemployed residents. Though it’s not mandatory, the course also includes assistance in setting up a store on Etsy’s platform. This is shared value at its best; Etsy adds more artists and artisan sellers to its platform while empowering underemployed and unemployed participants with the ability to generate supplemental income—or even a full-time job. With out-of-the-box thinking, any company can move the needle on social challenges while creating economic value.

  • Compose A Clear, Comprehensive Narrative

A compelling narrative eliminates a lot of the ambiguity that accompanies normal business functions—everything from creating a new product to onboarding a new hire. While much has been written about Google’s perk-driven culture, a more significant ingredient of the company’s success is its clear mission: to organize the world’s information, and make it universally accessible and useful. Every product that Google has developed is intended to get it one step closer to fulfilling its purpose.

Given the success of these and other organizations, it’s clear that purpose is not a fluffy, new-age term. In the book Corporate Culture And Performance, John Kotter and James Heskett show that over a decade-long period, purposeful, value-driven companies outperform their counterparts in stock price by a factor of 12. In the absence of purpose, a company’s leadership is likely to have greater difficulty in motivating employees and putting the company on the course to success. Customers are likely to have difficulty connecting with the company. With purpose, a company can create positive value that is far greater than the sum of its parts.

In today’s technology driven, rapidly evolving economy, successful companies are built not from the ground up, but from the purpose up.

“Culled from with credits to Sherry Hakimi, founder and CEO of Sparktures, an organizational development company focused on purposeful workplaces that improve individual satisfaction and overall business performance”.

Children of Hope Uganda: Support appeal for creating shared value

Children of Hope Uganda: Support appeal for creating shared value

Lorna Pitcher, Founder and Director of a not-for-profit organization Children of Hope Uganda (COHU) has established a classic example of Michael Porter’s popular concept of creating shared value (CSV). Simply put, excerpts of the article discussed below gives an insight as to how COHU’s income generating activities or IGAs aim to provide a sustainability framework for the communities that COHU has intended to build and nurture, thereby creating an impact on the global society!

In northern Uganda from 1986 to 2006, Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) abducted over 20,000 children and forced them to be child soldiers and sex slaves. One such atrocity was the abduction on October 10, 1996 of 139 girls from St Mary’s College, Aboke. Kony released 109 girls, but kept 30 of the most beautiful girls to be ‘bush wives’ to LRA commanders. Most did not escape for 8 years. COHU has received funding from the Rotary African Women’s Education Fund to send 13 of those 30 young women to university. COHU has also given school fees support to the 18 young children of the “Aboke Girls”, born of rape in LRA captivity.1

As a response to make an impact to the affected community, COHU built the Barlonyo Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) in July, 2010 to train formerly abducted youth in carpentry, bricklaying and tailoring. BTVI was funded at its inception and for 6 years by Danier Leather Co, thanks to the generous compassion of Danier President, Jeffrey Wortsman. COHU built the Barlonyo Early Childhood Development Centre in 2012, with the original intention of providing child care to young mothers taking BTVI tailoring classes, but the enrolment has grown to serve the whole community. A Ryerson University intern from Toronto started the ECDC program under the campus teaching tree in May, 2012 before the double classroom was built in Dec, 2012.

Before starting the Barlonyo schools, from 2007, COHU was paying partial school fees for 165 orphans and vulnerable children, including 10 Barlonyo orphans. Three girls sadly died (2 of AIDS/born HIV+, 1 of malaria). Two of the original beneficiary children are now in medical school.

Since its inception, the Ugandan founder and current Executive Director of COHU, Esther Atoo, has stressed that “We can not create dependency”. The school motto echoes this; “Skills Development for Self-Reliance”. The COHU Canadian Board and the COHU Uganda Board have long agreed that all efforts must be focused on achieving school/project self- sustainability.

To this end, COHU initiated several Income Generating Activities [IGA’s] ie school piggery, tilapia fish farm, goat and poultry rearing, sale of carpentry and tailoring products, school truck hire, oxen plowing/crop farming. The two most successful IGA’s in terms of turning a profit are the new tree nursery and the crafts production.

In July, 2016 COHU was awarded a $15,000 Social Enterprise Demonstration Fund grant from Ryerson University, contingent on COHU raising a matching $15,000., which was funded by the Rotary Club of Kitchener-Conestoga.

Over the years, COHU in Uganda has benefited from the efforts of interns from U of Toronto, U of Toronto Scarborough, York U, Simon Fraser U. Other support in Canada has been given by students from George Brown College, Humber College, Upper Canada College, De La Salle College, and many schools in Toronto District School Board and York Catholic District School Board.

Significant funding is earned through COHU’s social enterprise: the sale on college and school campuses, at church bazaars and charity tables of the crafts made by COHU artisans. These crafts are recycled paper bead jewelry, stuffed animals and baskets.

Children of Hope Uganda

10 Years of Supporting Recovery in Northern Uganda

A Proud Record – 2007 to 2017

COHU Canada is proud of funding the accomplishments of the COHU Uganda team over the last 10 years, including:

  • paid school fees for 163 orphans and vulnerable children (two now in medical school)
  • distributed IGA’s to the caregivers of the beneficiary children – oxen, bee hives, livestock, etc.
  • built Barlonyo Technical & Vocational Institute [BTVI] in 2010 – current enrolment 120
  • built Barlonyo Early Childhood Development Centre [ECDC] in 2012– current enrolment 135
  • sponsored 20 formerly abducted young women at university – Rotary African Women’s Education Fund [RAWEF]
  • funded school fees for 18 children of the RAWEF young women
  • collaborated in a major water and sanitation project on Barlonyo campus – Rotary International
  • funded 8 school Income Generating Activities [IGA’s] on Barlonyo campus – piggery, poultry, fishery, block making, goat rearing, tailoring products, carpentry products, tree nursery.

To further contribute to COHU’s cause and partake in its efforts to create a socio-economic sustainable environment, please feel to connect to Lorna Pitcher at or you could also write to Net Impact Ryerson at We look forward to your support!

Ryerson MBA Student Leading the Charge for Electric Vehicles at Ryerson

Ryerson MBA Student Leading the Charge for Electric Vehicles at Ryerson

Frustrated with a lack of Electric Vehicle chargers in parking facilities, a Ryerson MBA student took it upon himself to change that, bringing the first charging station to 300 Victoria Street this summer

Adil Hanif in front of the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University
Adil Hanif in front of the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University

Making the commute from Milton to Toronto on his electric car was not a new experience for Adil Hanif, an MBA student at Ryerson’s Ted Rogers School of Management, until he realized that he could not park anywhere on campus where he could plug his car while in class.

Most electric vehicle owners are familiar with the predicament of having to search for appropriate parking, and then trekking it to their destination. Adil decided to take matters into his own hands, instead working to bring chargers into Ryerson facilities.

Joining Net Impact Ryerson, a student-run chapter of MBA students promoting better business practices, Adil proposed to independently take on a project to facilitate the introduction of electric vehicle chargers to Ryerson parking facilities, starting with 300 Victoria Street, a central location on campus.

He partnered with Ryerson Business Services and Plug n’ Drive, a non-profit organization focusing on accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles for economic and environmental benefit, to gather relevant research, secure funding, and formulate a proposal. Adil’s proposal was approved in full with construction set to start in late March or early April 2014, with facilities available towards summer.

We had a chance to speak with Adil about the project, the experience, and his plans for the future:

What inspired you to pursue the project?

I was inspired by my own frustration, really. Not being able to charge my car on campus was a barrier in my transportation plan from Milton to Toronto. So I took action. I wanted to do something on campus that would have a lasting impact. This charging initiative has the potential to benefit countless generations of students and faculty.

Given the number of stakeholders in this project, how was your experience navigating conversations with the different parties?

Plug n’ Drive were amazing to deal with – their breadth of knowledge was essential in providing the most up to date and accurate data in the industry. Ryerson Business Services were very receptive to the idea from the very beginning. They needed me to conduct the bulk of the research because most of their resources were tied up with the opening of the new Student Learning Centre. Once I presented them with the proposal, they were thrilled and decided to put the plan into action.

Seeing that you own an electric vehicle and have done a significant amount of research on the subject through the duration of this project, what do you see happening in the EV space in the future?

The available data indicates that the EV adoption rate is growing at nearly 300% annually. As more people understand the benefits of this technology, it will no longer remain a “niche” segment of the market. However, there is always the ‘chicken and the egg’ issue. Is more infrastructure needed before widespread adoption? Or will infrastructure be built as more people buy the vehicles?

I am of the belief that infrastructure needs to be in enough visible locations that potential consumers feel comfortable in buying an electric vehicle knowing that they will not be stranded or run out of charge.

Seeing how much enthusiasm you show for the topic, is this a field you will be pursuing in the future?

Next for me? Finishing my degree while continuing to educate all who will listen to the benefits of this technology, as well as other sustainable choices. For example, the provincial government’s microFIT program, which is designed to produce clean solar energy for the grid. This is accomplished by having solar panels installed free-of-charge on the roof of a residence.

I would also like to work in the renewable and sustainable energy sector, but the area is relatively small, despite the rapid growth, and jobs are difficult to secure.

Thanks Adil, you have us listening, and surely others will follow!

About Adil Hanif

Adil Hanif is an MBA student at the Ted Rogers School of Management specializing in the management of technology and innovation. He has a keen interest in renewable and sustainable energy initiatives and how these emerging technologies will shape future business practices. You can reach Adil through LinkedIn at