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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership Working Papers

Working papers are circulated for discussion purposes only. Their contents should be considered preliminary and are not to be quoted without the authors' permission. All views expressed are those of the author.

The future of sustainable business: Reflections from 30 sustainability leaders

December 2018 – In a period of urgent environmental and social challenges, it's clear that business as usual cannot deliver the required response at the pace and scale required to achieve a positive impact. This working paper highlights the challenges and opportunities faced by businesses during periods of change, outlining the leadership required to deliver positive actions.

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Soil health: Evidence review

July 2017 – Many leading food and beverage sector organisations have demonstrated progress in managing natural capital impacts in their direct operations, including greenhouse gas emissions and waste. Many recognise, however, that the largest impacts occur in their upstream value chains, particularly on farms where raw materials are produced. A key natural capital resource is soil, and managing soil health is one way in which businesses may be able to reduce their negative land use impacts.

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The commercial logic to measuring natural capital

June 2017 – The launch of the Natural Capital Protocol has led businesses to become more aware of their impacts and dependencies upon the natural environment. However, a need has been identified to link to commercial drivers to these impacts and dependencies across businesses. Simple metrics and key performance indicators that relate these two could be a next step to embedding natural capital into business operations and strategies. This working paper sets out the outcomes of a small piece of qualitative research. It explores the use of different metrics for standard business processes by sustainability professionals and their relationship to natural capital measures.

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Healthy ecosystem metric framework

May 2017 – Investors and companies want to demonstrate their positive impacts on natural capital and show they are reversing the trend of natural environment degradation. The challenge is to identify metrics that are relevant for businesses’ decision-making processes, whilst being simple and practical for investors to use. This working paper outlines the concept for such metrics as developed by members of the Natural Capital Impact Group. It explores how the metric can be categorised as impacts upon the quality and quantity of soil, water and biodiversity. The paper explains the simple methodology that can be applied for business to calculate their impacts consistently and comparably, focusing particularly on the biodiversity component of this metric (soil and water components will be described in separate papers).

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How businesses measure their impacts on nature

May 2017 – Opportunities exist for investors and companies to demonstrate positive impacts and show they are reversing the trend of natural capital degradation. This working paper explores the challenges with identifying metrics that are relevant for businesses’ decision-making processes, whilst being simple and practical for investors to use. It is concluded that there is a lack of comprehensive, commonly accepted metrics that can be used by business and investors to consistently demonstrate their impact upon natural capital. CISL are working with a group of investors and multinational companies to explore and develop these metrics in response to this gap. This working paper represents the first output from CISL led research.

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Biodiversity and ecosystem services in environmental profit & loss accounts

October 2016 – This paper is a unique collaboration between the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), Kering, a world leader in apparel and accessories, and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment working with the Natural Capital Project. This paper explores how improved biodiversity metrics and methodologies can be developed, tested and then deployed to help businesses factor biodiversity into their decision-making processes.

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Justice in the transition to a low carbon economy

June 2016 – The third of three working papers exploring the meaning of a 'just transition' to a low carbon economy. The transition requires the involvement of a range of actors for whom both the outcome and the process of achieving a low carbon economy must be fair. The concept of justice takes a central place in the interactions among policymakers, businesses and civil society. In this report we consider how a justice approach could inform sustainability leaders in policymaking and business circles.

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The nature of transitions: Implications for the transition to a low carbon economy

June 2016 – The second of three working papers exploring the meaning of a 'just transition' to a low carbon economy. Here, an overview of theoretical approaches relevant to transitions is presented. Through the mapping of key interdisciplinary approaches on the topic, the paper aims to assist the management of transition processes, the assessment of its outcomes, as well as deliberative decision-making regarding the future of on-going transitions.

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The multiple meanings of justice in the context of the transition to a low carbon economy

June 2016 – The first of three working papers exploring the meaning of a 'just transition' to a low carbon economy. This paper reviews the meanings of justice. It begins by summarising major moral interpretations of justice, and then turns to consider the main theoretical elements of justice: equitable distribution, recognition (eg of others' needs and rights), equal participation and equal capabilities.

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Climate change: Implications for superannuation funds in Australia

January 2016 – New study from our Master of Studies in Sustainability Leadership, supported by asset manager Colonial First State Global Asset Management, highlights member interest in superannuation fund climate exposure.

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Should investment in Africa consider sustainability?

August 2015 – A comparison between South African and Chinese business experiences. This exploratory working paper considers how foreign investment by Chinese companies could be used to promote strategic leadership around sustainability in South Africa.

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