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Alumni News

In Search of Greener Pastures

February 10, 2012

RICK FRANK IS THE PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER OF DUFFERIN RESEARCH INC. OPERATING SINCE 2000, THE COMPANY SPECIALIZES IN ONLINE DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS IN A VARIETY OF AREAS, INCLUDING RESEARCH INTO ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES, EMPLOYEE AND CUSTOMER SATISFACTION, AND UNDERSTANDING ONLINE BEHAVIOUR. A 1995 RESEARCH ANALYST GRADUATE, RICK ALSO HOLDS A MASTER’S DEGREE IN MEDIEVAL STUDIES FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO. HE TEACHES ONLINE RESEARCH AT ALGONQUIN COLLEGE.

What does the latest research into environmental business practices tell us?

In general, there is an awareness of the need for more sustainable business practices, both for the sake of public appearances and for cost savings. In most cases business follows public opinion in this area. If there is a perceived value in doing things the 'green' way, then business will make these changes.

Unfortunately, in the attempt to make you buy a specific product, companies engage in a fair amount of greenwashing. This involves the marketing of alleged “green” practices or services with claims that stretch the truth at best, and outright misrepresent, at worst. Marketing tactics include changing the name or label of a product to suggest natural surroundings – an image of a forest on a bottle containing harmful chemicals, for example. Food products can also feature environmentally-friendly looking packaging, although there is no evidence that the company has lowered its carbon footprint. Another example is the term clean coal which has been used in an attempt to rebrand coal as a non-polluting fuel. (The 2009 U.S. documentary Dirty Business examines this issue in-depth).

On the positive side, the general adoption of more environmentally friendly practices is much more common place today in businesses and among the general population, at least in "first world" countries.

What do you think will spur on the adoption of sustainable business practices globally?

Education and legislation. Children are taught environmental awareness early which is good. Everyone needs to learn that sustainability issues are an intrinsic part of our existence, and that our quality of life depends on better practices.

A good example of policy that drives this message forward is the surge in renewable energy research and development in Germany over the past decade. This came about solely because the country was dedicated to paying more for energy from renewable sources. Ontario policies are now seeking to replicate this example.

What prompted you to build a career in online research and why did you come to Sheridan?

 My original plan to get my PhD and teach history did not turn out as expected as there were few job openings at the time. Marketing Research was one of the few areas that offered opportunities to pursue research as a full-time career. Sheridan’s Research Analyst Program was very industry-focused and was one of two such programs offered in Ontario in the 1990s. 

I have been interested in environmental issues for a long time. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, I designed and built an R2000 home that relied heavily on sustainable technology, including solar and biomass heating.

Rick Frank

Rick Frank