The Failure of CSR in a Warming World

Wednesday 16 October 2019
6.00 - 7.30pm

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SSB Lecture Theatre 200, Social Sciences Building, Science Road, University of Sydney



Waste Fighters Society

Join a panel of academic experts & practitioners to discuss how businesses might move beyond inadequate approaches to environmental sustainability

Over the last several decades, a powerful discourse of business sustainability has promoted the vision that we can trust large corporations and the power of the market to lead in the fight to solve the climate crisis. However, despite decades of international negotiation, the promotion of market ‘solutions’ and voluntary corporate commitments to emissions mitigation, there is no tangible sign of the much needed decarbonization of our global economy. Indeed, 2019 marks an all-time high in the global fossil fuel burn, with over half of the world’s cumulative fossil fuel consumption occurring since 1990! As the catastrophic impacts of human-induced climate disruption become more and more apparent, there is an urgent need to challenge conventional understandings of corporate social responsibility and the role of business in environmental and social sustainability. How can we move beyond statements of sustainability intent and ensure businesses positively contribute to environmental and social outcomes? What role should governments play in regulating business activities which endanger human and natural well-being? How can citizens and communities be better involved in ensuring businesses deliver improved social and environmental results beyond simply consuming products and services? Is it possible for businesses to become true stewards of the planet rather than simply servants of shareholder value?

In this panel discussion, a group of academic experts and business practitioners will discuss how businesses might change their approach to environmental and social sustainability in a warming world and what is needed to build genuine business leadership which better engages with citizens, communities and governments at this critical time.


Rachel Mason Nunn, Social Development Specialist 
Dr Tanya Fiedler, University of Sydney Business School
Kate Mackenzie, Independent Researcher & Consultant
Professor Christopher Wright (Chair), University of Sydney Business School


Rachel Mason Nunn is a Social Development Specialist and the host of the Good Will Hunters podcast. She has worked in development in Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, and throughout the Pacific islands, including as a consultant for the World Bank, as well as work in the not-for-profit sector. Rachel has a Masters in Applied Anthropology and Participatory Development from Australian National University, and holds an undergraduate degree in Political, Economic and Social Sciences from University of Sydney. She is passionate about reinventing the role of business and the private sector in international development, by reconceptualising notions of progress, profit, and purpose.

Tanya Fiedler is a lecturer in the Discipline of Accounting. Tanya’s current research interests lie in the ways in which the measurement methods and data of science are translated into accounting information. In this regard, Tanya has a particular interest in accounting for the climate.Tanya completed her PhD at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia in 2016. Tanya’s thesis examined the making of Australia’s first nation-wide carbon market, by means of a longitudinal analysis of archival documents spanning 15 years. Tanya is currently working with multiple partners in industry and the climate science community, to examine how climate models and data can be utilised by the financial services and investment sector to manage climate opportunities and risk. Prior to her academic career, Tanya worked as a consultant for Energetics, a specialist carbon and energy consultancy.

Kate Mackenzie is a former Financial Times journalist who works in Sydney at the intersection of climate change, finance and the corporate sector. She consults on strategy and communications for the European Climate Foundation, and is also a research fellow at the Centre for Policy Development, a Sydney-based nonpartisan think tank and an associate at Climate-KIC Australia.

Christopher Wright is Professor of Organisational Studies at the University of Sydney Business School where he teaches and researches organisational change, management innovation, sustainability and critical understandings of capitalism and political economy. He has published extensively on the history of management, management consultancy, the labour process and the changing nature of human resource management. His current research explores organizational and societal responses to climate change, with a particular focus on how managers and business organizations interpret and respond to the climate crisis.