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Meet two alumni committed to sustainability

April 12, 2021
Leor Rotchild, Business Management ’00; Tara Mahoney, Masters in Media Production ’09

Leor Rotchild, Business Management ’00, and Tara Mahoney, Masters in Media Production ’09; Photo of leaves: Jotaka

Tara Mahoney, Masters in Media Production ’09

Tara Mahoney,
Masters in Media Production ’09

Fifteen years ago, while working as a divemaster in Thailand, Tara Mahoney, Masters in Media Production ’09, had her first encounter with the effects of climate change. 

“I learned that some of the reefs we were diving at were dying because of ocean warming and acidification,” she recalled. “That's when I started learning about climate change. It's impact on the ocean really broke my heart.”

This experience led her on the path she’s on today. Mahoney is a postdoctoral researcher, media production professional, and former communications fellow at the David Suzuki Foundation. Her main passion is climate change communications.

“The thing about climate change is, it’s all the issues in one—it’s a meta issue. It encompasses racial justice, migration, food security, not to mention emissions, economic justice and jobs.”

Mahoney became interested in media and its role in civic engagement and climate change after completing an internship at Greenpeace in Washington, D.C. During her time with the organization, she witnessed firsthand how media can be used to galvanize the public, and was ultimately inspired to pursue her degree at Toronto Metropolitan University.

“Greenpeace was founded by media producers and journalists, and I always thought that idea was really compelling,” Mahoney said. “I wanted to learn more about media and how it works and Toronto Metropolitan University is the place you go if you want to learn that.”

In 2010, after graduating, Mahoney moved to Vancouver and co-founded Gen Why, a media production non-profit that uses media, events & public art to innovate public engagement. Some projects produced by Gen Why include ‘Bring Your Boomers’, an intergenerational dialogue series and a national campaign called ‘Reimagine CBC’, which invited Canadians to share their ideas about the future of public media.

After a successful few years, Mahoney decided to take a step back from media production and civic engagement and went back to school to pursue a PhD in Communication from Simon Fraser University (SFU).

Mahoney currently works as the research and engagement coordinator at SFU’s Community-Engaged Research initiative. She continues to work on projects related to climate change and exploring solutions that can be achieved by individuals. 

“There are actions that people can take that can have a meaningful impact on a local level,” she said. “Voting is probably the biggest one and reducing food waste also has a greater impact on greenhouse gas emissions as well.”



Leor Rotchild, Business Management ’00

Leor Rotchild
Business Management ’00

‘The role of corporations in achieving sustainability is imperative’

Leor Rotchild, Business Management ’00, is a sustainability leader in Canada, working as the Executive Director of Canadian Business for Social Responsibility (CBSR). The national think tank aims to help businesses and governments build and benefit from a sustainable future.

“The role of corporations in achieving a sustainable future, I think is imperative,” Rotchild said. “I just don't think we'll get there without companies aligned.”

Fortunately, Rotchild says we’re living in a time where companies are losing money each time they fail to prioritize environment and stakeholder issues.

“We've never seen this before where investors, governments and activists are on the same page, so businesses, of course, will respond to the needs and values of society.” 

Rotchild attributes his interest in pursuing work in the sustainability sector to values instilled in him during his upbringing, which emphasized the importance of human rights. One of Rotchild’s most formative life experiences was during an international work exchange program he participated in, while studying at Toronto Metropolitan University.

“I was in Turkey, during a significant earthquake that devastated a large part of that country,” he recalls. “It certainly had an effect on me psychologically and I really felt a lot more like a global citizen coming back from that experience.”

The internship was with AIESEC, an international non-profit that helps youth develop their leadership potential. When he graduated in 2000, he moved to London, England for a new role with the same organization, where he was introduced to the world of sustainability and corporate social responsibility. 

Rotchild eventually returned to Canada and worked for a non-profit focused on addressing the global need for safe drinking water and sanitation, before spending a decade consulting in the energy sector as a corporate social responsibility advisor. In this time, he also co-founded a zero-waste business, which served major festivals and sporting events in the Calgary area, before taking on his current role with CBSR. He also co-hosts Pipelines and Turbines (external link) , a podcast focused on energy and sustainability related issues.