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Leaders from business and academia co-design research to tackle critical global challenges

last modified Oct 12, 2016 12:23 PM
A study led by the University of Cambridge and published in the journal, Sustainability Science, shows how collaboration between business and academia can identify the most urgent research priorities to ensure the sustainability of food, energy, water and the environment.

The study is part of the work of the Nexus Network, an extensive network of researchers and stakeholders coordinated by the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), the University of Sussex, the University of East Anglia, the University of Sheffield and the University of Exeter, and supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The study was carried out over five months and involved researchers collecting over 700 questions from business practitioners, academics, policy-makers and members of the public. Over 50 per cent of these questions were submitted by businesses from a range of sectors, including retail, utilities, manufacturing and consumer goods. These questions were then reviewed by an expert group of businesses and researchers, who narrowed this list down to 40 questions that reflect key challenges for corporate sustainability.

Several themes emerged from this study, highlighting the issues that require more research and better engagement between the academic and business communities. These included research around development of pragmatic yet credible tools that allow businesses to incorporate the interactions between food, energy and water demands in a changing environment into their decision-making; the role of social considerations and livelihoods in business decision-making in relation to sustainable management; identification of the most effective levers for behaviour change; and understanding incentives or circumstances that allow individuals and businesses to take a leadership stance on these issues.

It will be the role of multidisciplinary groups of researchers and business practitioners to devise the projects that will deliver the solutions to these pressing issues around food, energy, water and the environment.

Read more about the article.

Reference to the paper: DOI: 10.1007/s11625-016-0402-4

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Gemma Cranston

Dr Gemma Cranston, Director, Natural Capital

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