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


Professor Matthew Hornsey
Professor in Management



Belinda Wade


Dr Belinda Wade
Lecturer in Strategy



Engage with us


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

  • Dr Belinda Wade - corporate strategic adaptation and decarbonisation 
  • Professor Matthew Hornsey - examines the psychological factors underpinning pro-environmental behaviours and climate scepticism 

Academic Researchers 

  • Professor Neal Ashkanasy - pro-environmental behaviour; sustainable office design; emotions and sustainability
  • Associate Professor Remi Ayoko -  the impact of workspace configuration on employee’s sustainable behaviour
  • Dr Noreen Breakey - advancing the design and management of tourism experiences that inspire visitors as agents of sustainability
  • Dr Guangwu Chen - carbon accounting and mitigation analysis
  • Professor Peter Clarkson - economic implications and disclosure of corporate environmental and social performance
  • Professor Sara Dolnicar - sustainable tourism, experimental research in environmental sustainability, nudging for environmental sustainability, food waste, environmental volunteering and public acceptance of water alternatives
  • Dr Vincent Emodi - energy economics, climate policy and new energy technology commercialisation
  • Dr David Fechner - measures to increase offerings and orderings of sustainable foods in restaurants and hotels
  • Dr Cassandra France - brand management and sustainability positioning
  • Dr Cle-Anne Gabriel - renewable energy, post-growth and sustainable business models
  • Dr Claudia Gonzalez - Marketing and sustainability, digital marketing and brand management and consumer culture.
  • Associate Professor Kathy Herbohn - economic implications of sustainability reporting, with an emphasis on carbon
  • Professor Matthew Hornsey - examines the psychological factors underpinning pro-environmental behaviours and climate scepticism
  • Dr Karen Hughes - interpretation, wildlife tourism, designing experiences that prompt visitors to increase their everyday environmental behaviour
  • Professor Paula Jarzabkowski -  reconfiguring the insurance sector to cope with rising climate-induced risk
  • Associate Professor Jacquelyn Humphrey - environmental and social factors in financial markets
  • Dr Stephen Jones - government climate policies 
  • Dr Yiqiong Li - Drivers of Environmental behaviour in the workplace
  • Associate Professor Judith Mair - environmental and social impacts and legacies of festivals and events
  • Dr Cristyn Meath - organisational vulnerability to natural capital decline, organisational values, corporate reporting for sustainability
  • Dr Katie Meissner - community consultation in environmental decision-making
  • Dr Mucha Mkono - Wildlife tourism, environmentalism, and ethical consumption in the tourism sector
  • Dr Miriam Moeller - sustainable global mobility designs
  • Dr Suman Neupane-Joshi - climate finance. 
  • Dr Lance Newey - wellbeing governance in business and society, polarity leveraging for leading complexity, social entrepreneurship
  • Dr Sam Pearson - psychological factors underpinning progress towards net-zero
  • Dr Anna Phelan - ecological economics, sustainable livelihoods, ocean plastic pollution
  • Dr Kate Power - sustainability discourse in performing arts organisations
  • Dr Saphira Rekker - corporate environmental performance measurement
  • Dr Russell Richards - socio-ecological modelling and assessment, systems theory
  • Professor Brent Ritchie - crisis and disaster management in services, aviation carbon offsetting
  • Professor Lisa Ruhanen – leveraging the socio-economic opportunities of tourism for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; embedding sustainability in tourism policy, planning and governance
  • Dr Ya-Yen Sun - environmental and economic impact of tourism, tourism carbon footprinting
  • Dr Jie Wang - Organisational crisis management and business disaster resilience in tourism and hospitality
  • Associate Professor Frank Zhang - corporate social responsibility, corporate philanthropy, and corporate sustainability from a capital market perspective. 


PhD Students

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

Sustainability in the Australian healthcare sector: The healthcare sector is particularly impacted by and impacts sustainability.
BSI researcher: Dr Belinda Wade

Climate change and pollution place pressure on our health systems through areas such as increased disease distribution, hotter temperatures and mental health pressures, however, the operation of major healthcare facilities are potentially contributing to these problems through their management choices. The aim of this research is to assess to what degree healthcare institutions in Australia operate sustainably. There will be a particular focus on hospitals. Each hospital included in the study will be measured against internationally agreed criteria that have been developed for businesses.

Rapid Switch Australia: The primary purpose of Rapid Switch initiative is to sustain and accelerate the global transition to a zero-carbon economy.
BSI researchers: Dr Saphira Rekker and Dr Belinda Wade 

Spearheaded by the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton, Rapid Switch is a cross-disciplinary, multi-country initiative seeking to deepen our knowledge of the most critical barriers and bottlenecks confronting the transition and to develop strategies to avoid or overcome them. Aligned with the wider project scope this collaboration between the UQ Business School and the Dow Centre, provides a much-needed interdisciplinary approach focusing on the how the business and finance sectors, can contribute to the Rapid Switch.

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 by physical (natural), market, economic, legal and social uncertainty.

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

'Tis the season: Raise a glass and sip sustainably by supporting Australian wineries

While Australia’s way of life has undergone a seismic shift in 2020, some traditions appear unchanged: Friday knock-off wines (over Zoom, if not in person), Christmas drinks with family and friends and champagne toasts come New Year’s Eve.

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Avoiding a different kind of pandemic - why business need a Plastic Stewardship Plan

The chaos caused by the coronavirus outbreak forced the hand of Australian businesses and organisations to create and action rigorous COVID Safe plans, allowing them to continue operating while mitigating risk to the community. Now, a researcher from The University of Queensland (UQ) Business School warns that without a similar coordinated approach to the global plastic waste issue, this crisis will continue to escalate.

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UQ researchers awarded grant to help lead small to medium business recovery in Indonesia

Dr Heather Stewart and a team of researchers from the UQ Business School and Universitas Indonesia have been awarded a $20,000 grant under the Small, Rapid Research (SRR) scheme.

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Indonesia’s coastal communities shoulder the impacts of ocean plastic

UQ Business School researcher Dr Anna Phelan said the social and economic costs of plastic waste were often borne by coastal communities with limited waste management rather than by producers and manufacturers.

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How hotels can operate in sustainable ways, save money

Tourism has emerged as one of the hardest-hit industries during the coronavirus pandemic, yet, its income is paramount to the survival of most countries. Now is the perfect time to build in strategies that ensure environmental and economic sustainability as hotels, airlines and destinations look at how to rebuild for a more resilient future.

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How travellers respond to crises and disasters and what tourism can do to minimise cancellations

How travellers respond to crises

Gabby Walters is an expert in crisis and disaster recovery marketing. In this “Good Tourism” Insight, Dr Walters shares some of what she knows about traveller concerns during and after a disruptive event and what travel & tourism stakeholders can do to mitigate losses and bounce back strongly.

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Tackling Marine Plastic Pollution at Woodford Folk Festival

Ocean plastic pollution was one of the hot topics tackled by a University of Queensland academic at the recent six-day Woodford Folk Festival, which attracted over 130 000 people.

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The real cost of remote work: impacts for managers, the environment and staff wellbeing

Our recent webinar held with the Future of Health and the Service Innovation Alliance Interdisciplinary Research Themes explored findings from new research on the unprecedented restriction of movement due to Covid-19 from the perspective of business and the environment.

Virtual Reality conferences to minimise the environmental impact of travel

In June 2020, AIBE collaborated with UQ Business, IT and civil engineering researchers, and international research organisation GRONEN to deliver two sessions in virtual reality at a conference for business and management academics.

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Applying circular economy principles to water usage in Australia workshop

The Business Sustainability Initiative at the University of Queensland in partnership with the Centre for Circular Economy at the University of Exeter would like to invite you to a workshop on applying circular economy principles to water usage in Australia.

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2019 Business Sustainability Initiative's inaugural colloquium

Published July 2019 by Dr Belinda Wade

Sustainability researchers from across Australia met in Brisbane for the UQ Business Sustainability Initiative’s inaugural colloquium from the 18-20th July 2019. Following a summer characterised by extreme weather events, from floods in northern Queensland to soaring temperatures in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, the scene was set for research discussions on sustainability. 

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Research in the media

How does ESG information affect investors’ decisions?

Research can (and should) support corporate decarbonization 

Using lots of plastic packaging during the coronavirus crisis? You’re not alone - The Conversation

Recovery, rebuilding and resilience: How bushfire-affected businesses can emerge stronger - SmartCompany

The future of sustainability for your business: How your business can adopt a circular economy - The UK Newspaper

Constructing a Sustainable Future Through Infrastructure Choices - Entrepreneur

Reflect, Review and Renew: The Three "Rs" of Maximising Corporate Investment in Sustainability - Entrepreneur

Success is Good, But Don't Forget to Embrace Sustainability - Entrepreneur

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

A new balanced approach to leadership
Dr Lance Newey

The Future is Green: How businesses can build resilience and gain a competitive edge 
Dr Belinda Wade

Rock solid approach to sustainable business practices 


Industry report - Circular Economy and the Water Sector of South East Queensland

Download the report

Sustainability in tourism 

By Professor Sara Dolnicar

Professor Sara Dolnicar explains her research about sustainability in the tourism sector in four videos, To clean or not to cleanMore fun equals less wasteReusable cotton or single use paperWho doesn't love a free drink

Watch all videos here

Understanding (and reducing) inaction on climate change

Published July 2020 by Professor Matthew Hornsey

Despite well-publicised consensus among climate scientists, many people remain sceptical that climate change is occurring, or alternatively, that climate change is caused by humans. Changing the behaviour of climate sceptics presents complex challenges when trying to address the threat of climate change. This research describes and synthesizes research on the reasons for public scepticism about climate change and translates these reasons into concrete and doable recommendations that policy makers and communicators can put into practice.

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Establishing political priority for regulatory interventions in waste management in Australia

Published July 2020 by Stephen Jones

Australia’s rising volume of waste per capita and dependence on offshore waste processing have brought the inadequacies of our recycling infrastructure to the public’s attention. Despite overwhelming public support for improvements to Australia’s recycling system, reliance on state-based voluntary agreements rather than overarching Commonwealth regulation has hampered efforts to achieve change.

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Webinar Recordings

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