With environmental, economic and social crises growing around the world, new kinds of learning, leadership and ways of doing business are needed, a #think public lecture at UTS Business School has heard.
The public lecture and discussion brought science and business together to consider possible solutions and was led by renowned US ecologist Professor Paul Ehrlich, economist and leading business and political commentator Dr John Hewson, UTSProfessor of Sustainable Enterprise Suzanne Benn and UTS Distinguished Professor of Life Sciences Graham Pyke.
Prof Ehrlich told the audience it was impossible to keep growing forever. “What we need is a dramatic transformation and business schools are where such things can start … It’s a huge challenge for environmentalists, ecologists and people in business schools to get together and try and change it.”
Dr John Hewson said the risks of climate a change-induced financial crisis dwarfed all previous crises. But addressing climate change was also a fantastic opportunity for business.
Business had a wonderful opportunity to capitalise on, and drive, the response to climate change. “The essence of the response to climate change is a technological solution … many of these [technologies] we can’t foresee at this time but they would bring with them new businesses, new jobs, new investment,” he said.
'Part of my response ... is to be involved in ... businesses
which demonstrate that you can make a quid out of
responding sensibly to climate change'
“Part of my response personally since the early 1990s is to be involved in a whole host of businesses which demonstrate that you can make a quid out of responding sensibly to climate change.”
These included a household garbage recycling plant that extracts methane gas and turns it into electricity to run the plant and to sell into the grid.
“You can solve a barbaric environmental problem with a technological solution,” he said.
Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at UTS Business School Suzanne Benn said she was starting to see collaborative networks developing and new business models emerging.
Future Earth was one example, along with B-Corps, whose for-profit purpose was social and environmental benefit.
Networks established at UTS Business School in conjunction with partners such as Ernst & Young and the NSW Government included one trying to help accountants and managers understand the business model for energy efficiency. “Thousands of our students now have some awareness of the importance of energy management,” she said.
New models the subject of research included co-housing and the circular economy.
Distinguished Professor Graham Pyke described sustainability as “basically, doing everything we do today so we, our kids, and our grandkids, can enjoy doing the same things today, tomorrow and into the future.
“To achieve that result we need to take an interdiscipinary approach – we need to combine different kinds of science with different kinds of business. This is what we are doing here at UTS.”
He pointed to the university’s research in groundwater, fishery sustainability, biofuels,antiobiotic resistance and his own research on the impact of climate change on pollination. About one third of what we eat requires pollination of some sort, he noted.
Our next Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel, upon his appointment, said science needs business, business needs science, and Australia needs both – that applies also in the context of sustainability, Prof Pyke said.
To learn more, visit Sustainability Central, a joint initiative with The MAHB (The Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere at Stanford University) and the Hub for Sustainable Enterprise at UTS Business School.