Business Sustainability Initiative

Business Sustainability Initiative: Building Resilience And Adapting To Change

The Business Sustainability Initiative leads the way in a rapidly changing business landscape, championing environmentally and socially conscious business practices and designing strategies for a sustainable future.

The initiative is headed by UQ researchers who are international leaders in their fields, with a depth of knowledge spanning corporate sustainability, social impact and entrepreneurship, capital markets and tourism.

Industry and government partnerships play a key role in the Business Sustainability Initiative, with a vast array of funded projects underway engaging stakeholders of all levels from the public through to small business and large enterprises.

The projects aim to understand and advance the adaption of business ecosystems and the transformations necessary to accelerate the path to a sustainable future.

Contact the Business Sustainability Initiative

If you would like more information or to explore opportunities with the Business Sustainability Initiative please contact: 

Jacquelyn Humphrey

 

Associate Professor Jacquelyn Humphrey
Associate Professor in Finance 
j.humphrey@business.uq.edu.au

 

 

Belinda Wade

 

Dr Belinda Wade
Lecturer in Strategy
b.wade@business.uq.edu.au

 

 

Our Experts

UQ Business School experts have a wealth of knowledge and industry experience focused on the analysis of and actionable strategies to understand and advance business and sectorial transformations for a sustainable future.

Business Sustainability Initiative
LeadersBusiness Sustainability Initiative

Academic Researchers 

Associates

Our Research

Corporate sustainability – decarbonisation, climate change and natural resources

Researchers within the Business Sustainability Initiative specialise in adaptation and organisational resilience to the effects of climate change, the use and valuation of natural resources and the impact on local livelihoods.

Key research areas are in:

  • Examining dynamic capabilities for decarbonisation
  • Corporate adaptation
  • Investigating how businesses can support progress towards achieving the Sustainable  Development Goals
  • Applying systems theory to corporate sustainability questions.

With resource scarcity and climatic change defining future trends, the Business Sustainability Initiative provides thought and practice leadership on these key issues for achieving a sustainable future.

Capital markets – social and environmental performance and measurement

Researchers within the Business Sustainability Initiative are specialists in the interaction between environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and capital markets.

Financial market participants are increasingly demanding information on ESG and ESG factors are becoming critically important in decision-making by investors, firms and governments. Key research areas are the economic implications of ESG, firm disclosure of ESG issues, measurement of ESG performance and how investors respond to firms’ ESG decisions.

Social - social impact and entrepreneurship

Business Sustainability Initiative researchers specialise in social impact and entrepreneurship. The Unit has a theoretical and practical impact on communities by connecting evidence-based social solutions with profitable business models.

Research is also currently underway which seeks to break new ground regarding how to build communities for sustainable well-being, as well as how to manage sustainable and scalable social enterprises. Researchers are actively engaged in conducting social entrepreneurship training programs for disadvantaged communities both locally and abroad.

Tourism – climate impacts

Researchers within the Business Sustainability Initiative focus on assessing the impact of tourism development on climate, resilience and adaptation capacity of tourism firms to climate-related challenges.

With tourist arrivals and climate change mutually influencing each other, the Business Sustainability Initiative provides leadership on key issues for governance. These areas of governance suggestions include examining the economic and environmental trade-offs of tourism development and providing cost-benefit analyses of climate mitigation policies for national and regional governments.
Research initiatives focus on enhancing tourism firms’ resilience and adaptation capacity to nature-related risks from an individual and organisational perspective. Researchers also specialise in assessing the risk attitudes of customers and firms’ strategies to effectively respond to and recover from crises and disasters.

Our Projects

Consumer preferences for voluntary carbon mitigation in the aviation sector. (ARC Discovery - $186,400 in funding, 2015-2018)
BSI researcher: Professor Brent Ritchie

The demand for aviation is rapidly growing, creating carbon emissions. However, little is known about consumer preferences for aviation carbon offsets and how they evolve over time. This lack of information hinders the expansion of voluntary schemes at a crucial period in history. 

This research will investigate consumers’ offset preferences and their willingness to pay for aviation carbon mitigation using a time-series methodology. The project will inform government policies and help industry to develop carbon offset programs which are more likely to be supported by consumers. It will also profile carbon offsetting groups to support communication activities to increase the size and value of offsets.

Capturing coral reef and related ecosystem services project (Global Environment Facility, the World Bank and University of Queensland, 2014-2018)
BSI researchers:  Dr Anna Phelan, Dr Russell Richards and Dr Carl Smith

This project focuses on strengthening coastal management through enterprise-based solutions focused on sustainable livelihoods that protect and enhance coastal ecosystem services. Key contributions included:

  • Ecosystem-based Business Development approach to support small-scale fisheries
  • Sustainable tourism and value-added products in low-resource coastal communities
  • EcoBiz Challenge sustainable business plan competition
  • Waste-to-Enterprise community led waste management program. 

The economic implications of decarbonisation and climate change
BSI researchers: Professor Peter Clarkson and Associate Professor Kathleen Herbohn

Entities are exposed to carbon risks and opportunities stemming from the business, reputational and physical implications of climatic change. Current research initiatives focus on understanding these carbon risks and opportunities through the lens of debt and equity markets. Researchers are progressing projects examining:

  • The impact of carbon risk on the cost of debt capital and factors that mitigate carbon-related costs
  • The extent to which capital markets value the screening and monitoring activities of lenders
  • The alignment between the rhetoric of the Big 4 Banks in Australia regarding their commitment to reducing the carbon risk exposure within the loan portfolios and the capital markets assessment of their activities.

Additional research initiatives involve a consideration of the extent to firms' business strategies mitigate the valuation penalty assigned to carbon emissions within equity markets.

Encouraging voluntary purchasing of carbon offsets (ARC Linkage - $160,000 in funding, 2016-2019)
BSI researcher: Professor Brent Ritchie

Climate change is one of the most critical challenges societies collectively face today as well as the future. Voluntary carbon offsetting offers a solution that avoids politically costly mandatory offset schemes. Currently, fewer than 10% of air travellers purchase carbon offsets voluntarily, presenting significant untapped growth potential.

This project will:

  • Profile consumers interested in voluntarily purchasing carbon offsets
  • Identify motivational sub-segments among them
  • Develop and experimentally test carbon offset offers for domestic flights targeted at these segments.

Findings will generalise beyond carbon offsetting for air traffic.

Small islands initiative for a plastic-free ocean (Global Change Institute Flagship Grant -  UQ GCI Flagship project - $120,000 in funding, September 2018 – Sept. 2020)
BSI researcher: Dr Anna Phelan and Dr Carl Smith.

This topical project focuses on reducing ocean plastic pollution in remote coastal communities in Indonesia. In partnership with the Indonesian Institute of Science, the project applies participatory diagnosis tools within a transdisciplinary systems approach to identify opportunities in community-based waste management strategies.  It also aims to influence relevant policies for cleaner environmental outcomes.

The intended output of this project is to understand the roles of communities, key organizations and industries that are involved in different local and regional-scale waste management practices, their respective knowledge/belief systems, and potential roles in support of effective multi-level plastic waste management.

The impact of environmental and social information on investor choices
BSI researcher: Associate Professor Jacquelyn Humphrey

Traditional finance models assume that investors only consider risk and return in decision-making. This project is an experiment in investor decision-making, in which investment choices are linked to payments to social and environmental not-for-profit organizations. The outcome of this project will inform the debate on whether social and environmental considerations have an impact on how individuals make investment choices.

Sustainable resource extraction
BSI researchers: Dr Belinda Wade and Cristyn Meath

This project examines the strategy, innovation and processes of a local Helidon sandstone extraction company Rock Trade Industries. The company has reached 95% utilisation of extracted resources up from an industry standard of 25% - a noteworthy case study as we move to an increasingly resource-constrained future. A teaching case has been produced on Rock Trade Industries, with research continuing to further understand the process of innovation and the valuation of natural resources.

 

Challenges for adaptive governance in multilevel systems
BSI researcher: Dr Stephen Jones

This research focuses on the question of whether adaptive governance provides a framework for governments in multi-level systems developing and implementing waste policy. The project investigates linkages in socio-economic systems toward sustainable outcomes. It has been the attractiveness of the principles of good governance, namely legitimacy, accountability, inclusiveness and fairness that have been fundamentally linked to the pursuit of ecologically sustainable outcomes and the application of adaptive governance to an expanding range of policy areas. 

This project examines the rapidly evolving challenges in establishing sustainable practices through waste management policy.  The project applies an inventory of adaptive governance methods using the Australian experience with a waste policy as a means of analysing the challenges governments could face in a multilevel context.

Challenging the growth imperative: sustainability, business models and the post-growth agenda
BSI researcher: Dr Cle-Anne Gabriel (@CleAnneGabriel)

Many organisations continue to grow and consume at the expense of the natural environment. The post-growth critique challenges this growth imperative, acknowledging the need to reduce the impact of organisations on nature. Post-growth seeks de-emphasised economic growth (though not necessarily ‘zero growth'), equitable downscaling of production and consumption within ecological means and enhanced societal well-being.

The purpose of this project is to gather ideas and information from business and sustainable development stakeholders and subject matter experts on the contribution that business research and practice might make to the post-growth agenda. The research questions are: Which businesses potentially characterize the strong sustainability ideals of the post-growth agenda? and What might be the key features of a post-growth business model?

‘Sustainability’ in the performing arts
BSI researcher: Dr Kate Power

‘Sustainability’ discourse has become a prominent aspect of 21st century business communication – but little attention has been paid to what this means in and for the performing arts. This research combines linguistic analysis with management studies, to investigate what ‘sustainability’ means to Major Performing Arts Companies (MPACs) in Australia.

First, it seeks to broaden existing business communications research to take better account of the unique practices of not-for-profit organizations. Second, it aims to help MPACs reflect broadly on their own sustainability, with a view to communicating more effectively to both funding bodies and the public the unique value, contributions, and support needs of the performing arts in Australia. Third, this research will contribute to developing discourse-oriented case studies focusing on organizational communication and sustainability in the performing arts sector.

Master of Business - Organisational Sustainability Field of Study

Why Study Organisational Sustainability?Sustainability

Sustainable business management is of crucial importance for success in a future characterised

Transformation will be necessary to meet the risks, realise the opportunities and accelerate the path to a sustainable future defined by earths and society’s safe operating space*. New models of business and a greater understanding of system-wide impacts will be necessary for businesses to thrive in a climate changing, resource-constrained, and interconnected environment.

Whether your interest is in commercial business or social enterprise a comprehensive knowledge of sustainable business concepts is a critical requirement for leaders seeking to develop adaptive and resilient companies.

The UQ Business School is a world leader in providing skills for operating in future markets and exploring new and innovative business models. Within the Organisational Sustainability major students will combine theory with practice to provide them with the knowledge to succeed in an evolving global environment.

*Ref: Rockstrom et al. (2009) & Raworth (2012).

Employment Opportunities 

Graduates of the Organisational Sustainability field of study enjoy careers as consultants, managers and advisers in large organisations and private businesses.

Our graduates work in areas such as sustainability, renewables and clean technology management, energy efficiency, or advise high-impact industries such as the resources and mining sector on social and environmental strategies. Job opportunities also exist in areas such as risk management, as well as in government and international organisations such as the United Nations.

The Organisational Sustainability Major within the Master of Business can cater to students interested in both corporate sustainability and social enterprise.  Following are two example course plans for a full-time student looking to shape their study for either orientation.  The plans are made up of core courses and electives from the Organisational Sustainability list and other relevant courses from within the Master of Business.

Find out more about the Organisational Sustainability Field of Study

Master of Business - Organisational Sustainability Program Plan


International Sustainability ProgramSustainability

The International Sustainable Business Program explores how Australia’s leading organisations practice sustainability.

This program, run with UQ-ICTE, offers a chance to immerse yourself in the sustainable business practices of Australia.

The program explores the impact of climate change on business management and the role new technology, energy resources and the carbon economy will play in the changing business landscape.

Find out how these issues are being solved with Australia’s leading academics who face head-on the challenges of tomorrow.

If you would like more information on the International Sustainable Business Program please contact: 

Dr Belinda Wade
Program Leader
b.wade@business.uq.edu.au

Business Sustainability Initiative: call for papers (PDF, 14.6 KB)

UQ Business School releases its UN PRME Report

New paradigms in a complex world
Dr Lance Newey 

Meet the Business School sustainability researchers

Going green in 2019: sustainability tips for SMEs that won't break the bank
Dr Cle-Anne Gabriel speaks about how small business' can be sustainable

Wave power to solar windows: five energy tech innovations you didn't know existed
Dr Belinda Wade talks about energy technology

Magnifying sustainable change by showcasing Australian corporate success