Sustainability: Putting the heart first

“Baby beluga in the deep blue sea

Swim so wild and you swim so free

Heaven above and the sea below”

– Raffi, Baby Beluga


For those of us who grew up in British Columbia, the beauty and majesty of nature is in our bones. For those who hail from cities large and small, where nature isn’t so close, it doesn’t take long to fall in love with the beauty at our door step. A walk on the beach, or in the mountains often fill us with wonder, or a sense of serenity and may invite us to see that we are not the center of everything. Paul Bramadat, Director of the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society at the University of Victoria talked about his experiences when encountering the mountains, ocean and sky of British Columbia. He said:

There are moments where I stop, get off my bike, and stand there, and think not just ‘my goodness am I ever lucky’, but ‘what is happening here? How am I being – in some sense – reconfigured, challenged to see myself not simply as a consumer of this image, and of this moment, but rather as something that is transformed, transfixed by that experience?

Sometimes I think that when I’m in the presence of these reconfiguring or transfixing moments, it’s actually challenging my ego, because the thing about a sublime experience, or reverential naturalism, is that it changes your sense of yourself being at the centre of everything[2].

These experiences are far removed from those we have in the workplace where schedules, return on investment, productivity and the like are the driving forces. Sustainability is interpreted as balancing economic, social and environmental factors in business. Business for a long time has given priority to financial and efficiency issues. The question is: how do we bring our love of nature and people into the equation. This is not an easy question to answer. Reason, numbers and practicality are paramount not just in business but in our science and culture. Einstein alluded to this when he said: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift[3]”. In a society where reason and practicality is held in such high regard, a shift in thinking and priorities is required but difficult to achieve. You often hear that without profits we can’t look after the environment or care for people. But this statement puts material things ahead of what we know to be precious. How do we reverse this way of thinking to put what we know to be dear first so that we as a society believe and act with the view that we need thriving natural environments, communities and families in order to make profits? In simple terms how do we put the heart first in business?

Throughout 2018, City University is hosting senior business, community, and environmental leaders to lecture and engage in a dialogue once a month about how we can put the heart first in business as a way to move towards sustainability.

Tom Culham teaches TRANSFORMATION THROUGH ETHICAL LEADERSHIP, A certificate program designed for Executive and Middle Management Leadership, offered through CityU’s Continuing Education programs. You can learn more about the next series beginning February 28, 2018 HERE. The program is taught over 5 consecutive Wednesdays 9am – 1pm, Feb 28 – Mar 28. Download a program flyer HERE.

Tom Culham, Ph.D., Program Director School of Management City University in Canada Co-Chair, Contemplative Inquiry and Holistic Education, Special Interest Group of the Comparative International Education Society. Representative at Large Research, Management, Spirituality and Religion Special Interest Group of the Academy of Management.

[1] Raffi, (1990). Baby Beluga, MCA.

[2] Bramadat, P., (2018). CBC Radio Interview with Mary Hynes Tapestry January 7. Downloaded January 8 from

[3] Calaprice, A. (2011, p. 477). The ultimate quotable Einstein. Princeton: Princeton University Press.