Earlier this week I participated in a fascinating symposium organised by the Gold Coast Waterways Authority on ‘Resilience, Climate Change and Coastal Communities’. Queensland’s Gold Coast is one of the more vulnerable locations along Australia’s east coast, having experienced a long history of extreme weather events, coastal erosion and loss of life and property. Climate change is likely to take this vulnerability to a whole new level with storms and cyclones of increasing ferocity, flooding, extreme heat and escalating sea-level rise.
Shortly after the election of Donald J. Trump as 45th President of the United States in November last year, Jane Lê and I were asked by the University of Sydney Business School to imagine what the US would look like in 2019, two years into the new Presidency. So we cast caution to the wind and decided to record a ‘What If’ podcast imagining what Jan 2019 might look like in the US with respect to the environment, energy and climate change.
Sustainability has become an increasingly fashionable concept in management education as business schools seek to respond to growing social criticism of business activities. Unfortunately, much of what passes for sustainability teaching involves co-option of the concept of sustainability within existing neoliberal discourse. So, is teaching sustainability in a meaningful way possible in the business school, and if so what might it look like? Recently Daniel Nyberg and I wrote a chapter for a book on Reinventing Management Education that seeks to address this question (you can read a pre-publication version here). What follows is a summary of some of our arguments. Continue reading Teaching sustainability in the business school: Challenging Business As Usual?
As part of the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre ASEAN Forum to commemorate 40 years of Australian engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), on Thursday September 11th, Sydney Ideas will be presenting a public event focusing on issues of sustainability in Southeast Asia .
We find ourselves in an era of what we might call creative self-destruction. We’re destroying ourselves – it’s as simple as that.
Economic growth and exploiting nature’s resources have long gone hand-in-hand, but as repeated warnings from scientists and reports such as the latest from the IPCC tell us, they now constitute the most ill-fated of bedfellows. Climate change, the greatest threat of our time, is perhaps the definitive manifestation of the well-worn links between economic progress and devastation.
As the disconnect between political obfuscation and climate science continues, how might individuals respond to climate change?
One theme that has emerged in my research is how people are beginning to reconsider their jobs and careers based upon a personal realisation of the urgency of the climate crisis. For instance, last week I received an email from a scientist in a US environmental agency, who related the increasingly tough choices she was having to make in her job. She was involved in overseeing fossil fuel developments in coal and gas, something she found increasingly problematic. After much thought she decided to no longer work for organisations facilitating the extraction and use of fossil fuels. As she explained:
…many have pointed out that my position allowed me to protect the environment. But that never sat well with me, especially as it relates to fossil fuels with their broad and wide externalities. After much introspection, and a couple of tears, I realized that an opinion like that is a flat view and it ignores the fact I have enabled interests that are contrary to human existence. It’s the enabling that drives us nuts. To this end, I now flatly refuse any work that deals with fossil fuels interests. It makes life much simpler for me and I suspect it will for others.
In the decade ahead, Australia and the world will face environmental, social and financial challenges of an unprecedented scale. These include tensions between economic growth and environmental degradation, a need to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in response to climate change, and pressure to improve social inclusion and equity in a world of significant poverty and inequity. Businesses are clearly key players when it comes to responding to these challenges, but can businesses look beyond their short-term bottom line and better balance their economic needs with social and environmental priorities?
In focusing on these issues, recently the University of Sydney Business School launched its Balanced Enterprise Research Network (BERN) which explores how business in particular, can better balance economic, environmental and social concerns and improve the well-being of a wide range of stakeholders, including employees, communities and society more generally.
In researching the practice of corporate sustainability, many of the people I interview highlight the problem of trying to promote and live in a more sustainable way. Here, they stress how trying to take public transport, reduce your carbon footprint, choose renewable power, or build a sustainable home, seem to be increasingly difficult and costly, as if our entire economic system is biased against sustainable options. As one manager put it ‘I feel like I’m working upstream all the time.’
In March this year, the Sydney Network on Climate Change and Society in association with the University of Sydney Business School organized a one-day symposium exploring how businesses as social actors have responded to the emerging climate crisis. The symposium featured a keynote address by Professor Andy Hoffman, the Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan, followed by contributions from other influential academic writers on climate change, and insights from a range of business practitioners at the leading edge of corporate environmental sustainability.
‘Sustainability’ has become a pervasive part of social and business discourse. However getting down to specifics on sustainability is a much debated issue.
This is of particular relevance for climate change. In particular, how can we speak of, or imagine ‘sustainability’, given the underlying conflict that emerges between the pursuit of ‘economic progress’ defined in terms of the production and consumption of goods and services, and the ever escalating production of greenhouse gas emissions.