Unlocking financial innovation to enable economic development and sustainability in agribusiness: Meet new professor Tommaso Ferretti
Professor Tommaso Ferretti joined the Telfer School of Management in summer 2022. He’s an assistant professor in management whose research focuses on international strategy, sustainability innovation and global governance.
Ferretti previously worked as a consultant at the International Trade Centre of the United Nations in Switzerland, with whom he still collaborates as a special policy adviser. We interviewed him to learn more about his research interests.
Why did you choose to study management?
I was moved by the desire to connect management research to the study of socio-economic development. Before starting my PhD, I spent years in the field for the United Nations supporting the competitiveness and sustainability of developing countries’ organizations. That made me realize how little attention is paid to the perspective and role of small enterprises and farmers. My aim is to highlight how the managerial practices and strategies of those actors are central to achieving global goals of economic, social, and environmental progress.
How does your PhD training inform your current research program?
My PhD training informs my current research program in so many ways. Thanks to the PhD, I familiarized myself with seminal theories providing lenses to better understand the world around us. I also gained the methodological toolkit to conduct complex research projects to investigate the problems I care about. Finally, the most important aspect of the PhD is that it exposed me to a constant intellectual exchange with scholars, fellow students and practitioners sharing my passions, which accelerated my learning and sparked new ideas.
In particular, I am deeply grateful to my PhD supervisor, Professor Paola Perez-Aleman, and my doctoral advisers, Professors Patrick Cohendet and Arvind Karunakaran, who shaped the researcher I am today.
Do you have any new research highlights to share?
The most exciting highlight concerns a research project investigating how impact investing enables the sustainability strategies of enterprises from developing countries in sectors such as coffee, chocolate, and forestry. Those enterprises are essential for so many reasons. For example, they are central to food security and biodiversity, vital to the conservation of natural resources and an essential source of job creation. Despite such centrality, the dominant view is that rural enterprises only grow and become more sustainable if they receive support from foreign multinational corporations.
My research shows something different. Rural enterprises independently seek strategies to counteract the negative effects of climate change, increase their revenues and improve the livelihoods of their members, but are often limited by the lack of financial resources. Impact investments that pair financial returns and measurable sustainability outcomes help enterprises to overcome such a lack of financing and unleash their contribution to sustainability.
How can your research have an impact on business communities in Canada?
I believe my research can impact all Canadian actors in the agribusiness sector who seek to make their supply chains more sustainable. For example, let’s think about coffee roasters and retailers or supermarket chains. My findings provide important insights into how they can leverage new forms of financing and partnerships with suppliers and relevant stakeholders to increase the economic, social, and environmental performance of their supply chains.
Equally important, my research can inspire Canadian policymakers to design trade-related policies that aim at promoting the sustainability of Canadian firms participating in global trade through either foreign direct investments or offshoring strategies.