Business Faculty Receive Grant from HSBC Bank USA

By Kyle Hornyak, June 14, 2018
The grant will fund a study of sustainability practices among small and mid-sized businesses.
A modern building with purple and yellow flowers in the foreground

The Park Center for Business and Sustainable Enterprise at Ithaca College.

(Photo by Giovanni Santacroce/Ithaca College)

To help small businesses across New York State implement sustainability initiatives, two Ithaca College School of Business faculty members, with a grant from HSBC, are exploring what motivates small businesses to adopt sustainability practices. The study, “Sustainability in Small Businesses: Developing a Model of Success,” is the first of its kind and is a collaboration between HSBC and IC’s Narges Kasiri, associate professor of management, and Hormoz Movassaghi, professor of finance and international business.

Sustainability has gained traction throughout the U.S., with an increasing number of businesses adopting best practices including retrofitting existing structures and constructing new “green” buildings, using renewable energy, conserving water and recycling. While many large, multinational companies have been public about their sustainability commitments and the resulting cost savings, more small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) are now considering their sustainability efforts when reviewing their annual operating plans.   

“SMEs are responsible for most of the pollution on earth; they are collectively culpable for approximately 60 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions and an alarming 70 percent of total pollution,” said Movassaghi. “This study will demonstrate the most successful sustainability solutions New York SMEs have experienced and will uncover the most significant barriers SMEs encountered in adopting such solutions.”

“I wanted to better understand why a particular town implements [sustainability initiatives], while others do not... There are different motivations and drivers, and if you can realize what’s motivating a business [to be sustainable], you can implement practices.”

Narges Kasiri, Associate Professor of Management

After relocating to Ithaca, Kasiri, who previously taught in other college towns throughout the U.S., was struck by the small city’s sheer number of organic shops, hybrid cars and renewable energy initiatives.

“I wanted to better understand why a particular town implements [sustainability initiatives], while others do not,” said Kasiri. “Is it the culture of the town to incentivize these businesses? Are there state policies in place? Are people driven by personal feelings, such as being motivated by their family life, or education? There are different motivations and drivers, and if you can realize what’s motivating a business [to be sustainable], you can implement practices.”

Kelly W. Fisher, U.S. head of corporate sustainability for HSBC, said “HSBC has existed for 153 years to help make the financial lives of our customers, clients and communities better by connecting them to the resources they need to be successful.”

How we do business is as important as what we do,” she said. “I believe this study can provide great value and insights to our small and mid-size business clients.”

From Research to Recommendations

Kasiri and Movassaghi, along with assistant professor of management John Vongas and three student researchers, are currently immersed in the first phase of data collection, followed by surveys and data analysis in the later phases. They will present their findings to HSBC and at local, national and international conferences, and will disseminate sustainability guidelines to small businesses across New York State. 

Daniel Ruthman ’17, MBA ’18, is one of the student researchers assisting in the study. Kasiri selected Ruthman, who was a key player in launching “IC Sustainability Week” in 2017, based on his demonstrated interest in sustainability initiatives. He hopes the experience will help him in his career.

“Being able to design, collect, analyze and report on research studies such as this is essential in today’s analytically driven world,” Ruthman said. “As someone that plans to go into management or eventually open their own business, being able to do this kind of work will allow me to understand markets more effectively and be able to collect data more efficiently.”

Faculty and students sitting around a table

The study of sustainability practices will be completed by a group of Ithaca College faculty and students.

(Photo provided)

Sarah Lamoreux ’18, an applied psychology major, was approached by Kasiri to assist in the study. Lamoureux accepted the role, understanding that it presented an excellent opportunity for research experience.

“I am considering pursuing a Ph.D. in industrial/organizational psychology, so having experience with business management research is perfect for that,” said Lamoreux. “Regardless of where I end up, I know that my experience working on a team with people in disciplines different from my own will greatly benefit me in the future.”

Once the data collection, surveys and analysis is completed in the fall of 2018, the team will create an inventory of common actionable measures that the study will have identified as successful, as well as those that businesses viewed as the key obstacles.

Kasiri stresses that the findings from their study will not only contribute to the existing public information, but will also make a real impact on business owners and communities throughout New York. The results will help develop guidelines for businesses to adopt sustainability practices and for policymakers to encourage sustainability efforts by small businesses.

Participate in the study

If you are an SME with fewer than 250 employees and would like to participate in this study, you can take the survey here.