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Born to manage sustainably

Maxime Lakat

BCom student, Desautels Faculty of Management

Headshot of Maxime Lakat

When I finished high school, I applied only to McGill. You might think that was risky, but I knew McGill was the perfect choice for me due to its strong reputation in sustainability. I’m now a BCom student majoring in Managing for Sustainability, one of the few programs worldwide entirely dedicated to sustainable business.

After completing my first year of studies, I decided to create the Desautels Sustainability Network (DSN), a re-visioning of past initiatives to inspire greener and more socially responsible business practices. With my former Co-President, Loïc Eloy, we gathered a team of students and established an ambitious plan to make McGill one of the world’s leading universities for training visionary leaders in sustainable business.

Our DSN team identified and responded to two challenges to the growth of leaders in sustainable development at McGill: 1) a business culture that does not always see sustainability as both an opportunity and a responsibility, and 2) a silo effect that limits communication between McGill faculties, Montreal universities, their students, and respective student groups.

These challenges cannot be solved quickly, but the DSN has taken significant strides towards addressing them over the last two years. We have brought together over 2,000 event participants, 300 alumni, 100 industry leaders, and 60 youth organizations, helping to establish a nationwide network dedicated to sustainable business practices.

Part of the DSN team works on mainstreaming sustainability principles throughout the Faculty’s curricula so that any business student, regardless of their major, can learn to apply them. One of our most recent achievements is the creation of the first sustainable finance course at McGill. This work comes from the realization that the root of the problem is education, and collaborating with faculty to change what is being taught is the only way to have a truly systemic approach.

With the DSN team and two other student organizations at Concordia University and HEC Montréal, I helped co-create the first Montreal Youth Summit on Sustainable Business in 2020. This was Canada’s largest youth summit of its kind, gathering 500 participants and 45 speakers over two days. The purpose of the event was to inspire youth, educate the public and create connections between different sustainability ecosystems.

In addition to my work with the DSN, I am also the Founder and Chair of the Canadian Business Youth Council for Sustainable Development which includes Canada’s 10 most active student organizations dedicated to sustainable business (including the DSN). Our most recent initiative is the “Our Future, Our Business” manifesto, Canada’s largest youth-led movement to change the way we do and teach business. It was co-created by over 60 youth organizations from coast to coast.

Recently, I was named one of Corporate Knights’ Top 30 Under 30 for my work as a leader in sustainability. The DSN team also received the Catalyst Award for Connectivity, Governance & Administration from the McGill Office of Sustainability in 2019.

Being able to work with such a brilliant team at McGill and learning so much practical knowledge about systemic change has kept me motivated to continue leading the DSN as its Co-President for a third consecutive year. With other fellow McGill students, I also co-founded the Montreal Social Value Fund, Quebec’s first student-led impact investing group.