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Business School to Co-Lead Global Environmental Sustainability Research Project

29 Nov 2012

British Petroleum (BP) drills for oil in the North Sea, BHP Billiton mines the Amazon rainforest, and the government of New South Wales builds a motorway across Sydney. As diverse as these projects might seem, they all share a common responsibility for the environment.

But, are the world's government and its corporate giants capable of identifying the environmental sustainability and biodiversity conservation issues associated with their projects? Are the investors, planners, engineers and site managers capable of measuring the challenges, devising the solutions and judging the outcomes?

Importantly, is it possible to formulate a set of environmental policies, measures, guidelines or simple dos and don'ts that apply equally in the North Sea, the Amazon, Sydney and everywhere in between?

The University of Sydney Business School's Professor Steve Elliot and Oregon State University's Director of OSU Policy Analysis Laboratory Dr Sally L Duncan believe it is and they are backed by the United States National Science Foundation (NSF).

Their multi-disciplinary research project titled 'How Will Businesses Speak Biodiversity?' has been approved for support by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), an NSF initiative that encourages multi-disciplinary responses to global socio-environmental issues.

"It is said, the world has problems while universities have disciplines," said Dr. Elliot. "We need to look at big picture solutions and engage in cross-disciplinary research to resolve such complex global issues."

"Environmental sustainability is of prime concern to business leaders but often implementing effective conservation policies is difficult because of the lack of a universal framework," he continued. "We aim to integrate relevant ecosystem services data and strategic planning technology in the business world to address emerging challenges regarding corporate social and ecological responsibility."

Dr Elliot emphasised the need for businesses and policymakers to come together to implement effective conservation decisions in a world where ecosystem services are likely to become a category of corporate performance metrics in the near future.

The 20-member global project core team comprises members from corporate, government, social advocacy as well as academic research backgrounds. With additional specialist teams including experts from relevant fields, the project will draw upon multiple resources to synthesize a set of guidelines for the evaluation and implementation of conservation strategies as a set of business processes.

"The University Sydney of Business School places a high value on collaborative inter-disciplinary research that informs business practice, policy and regulation both nationally and internationally," said the School's Dean, Professor Geoffrey Garrett.

"The project's aims are aligned directly with the Business School's thematic research priorities," Dr Elliot concluded. "I believe this project is an opportunity for the Business School to demonstrate international research leadership in an area of global significance."

For more information about this project, contact Professor Steve Elliot.

For information about the Business School's other research activities, see