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Climate change, China on the bill at international business sustainability conference

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World-leading researchers in business and economic sustainability recently gathered at the Monash University Prato Centre to discuss some of the most pressing issues facing industry, including climate change, trade, financial regulation, supply chains and role of China in sustainable growth.

More than 40 international researchers from Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, India, the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany attended the invitation-only 5th annual Monash Business and Sustainability Network Workshop on Sustainable Development.

The Monash Business and Sustainability Network is an interdisciplinary collaboration that draws upon the extensive expertise in sustainable business found at Monash Business School and the wider Monash University campuses. The event is hosted by Monash Business School and the Centre for Development Economics and Sustainability (CDES), and features presentations from business and economics streams of research.

An important theme of the conference was how businesses and governments could respond to climate change.  In a case study of a large Australian energy company, former Monash Business School PhD researcher Kirti Mishra described how despite mixed policy messages around climate change, the company has within 10 years adapted from its business-as-usual approach to directly respond to climate change concerns from customers.

 

   Kirti Mishra 

Now at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Lucknow, Dr Mishra said the company decided to view climate change as a disruptive technology and assessed it as an innovation challenge. “It is investing in innovative technology, looking at battery storage and (moving into) the electric vehicle market, which is very different from its traditional market of electrical generation and retail,” she said.

Monash University researcher Anke Leroux discussed the construction of optimal portfolios in water supplies and looked at how to minimize cost and risk. “It makes sense to create optimal portfolios that minimize cost and risk,” she said.

“We found that ‘risk-catching’ exists in water sectors. Instead of making up a shortfall in water through desalination, you can make up shortfall in water sources by using other naturally occurring water sources, such as using rainwater or storm water.” 

Monash Business School researcher Luisa Unda looked at the performance of board members on not-for-profit credit unions, finding that those who received remuneration contributed to a higher governance performance.

 Luisa Unda

Several papers presented at the conference also assessed how the design of sustainable supply chains for a circular economy, which encompasses long-time design, maintenance, re-use and recycling. 

In a session exploring economic development policy, Dr Sambit Bhattacharyya from the University of Sussex used a technique of night-time luminance pioneered at Monash Business School to present compelling evidence that communities in sub-Saharan Africa experienced rapidly diminishing returns from intensive mining carried out of multi-national companies.

Major discussion also included the role of China as the US appears to move away from globalisation under President Donald Trump.

 Ian Coxhead

Professor Ian Coxhead, department chair in Agricultural and Applied Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told the conference that China would be key to both global and regional growth. But he said economic threats emanating from China included issues such as short-term debt, an ageing population, environmental challenges and questions over its institutional accountability and stability.

And with the demise of the multilateral Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, the bigger issue for development in Asia was the threat to global trade rules. “The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (a proposed trade deal between south-east Asian countries) is not a substitute for the TPP,” he said.

Monash Business School’s Deputy Dean, Research and Chair of the Monash Business and Sustainability Network, Professor Gary Magee, said the conference provided an important opportunity for the School’s globally-focused research to connect with international researchers and industry.

 Gary Magee

“Over the past five years we’ve been holding this workshop, it’s had some very tangible outcomes,” he said. “There have been the traditional outcomes in terms of publications, but also a series of research grants developed with industry, particularly in the area of sustainable procurement. And it has created international networks and opportunities for our researchers.”