A research paper showing how collaboration between business and academia can identify the most urgent research priorities to ensure the sustainability of food, energy, water and the environment is published in the journal Sustainability Science.
The paper draws on the Nexus Network Nexus2020 activities, led by the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.
Companies both depend upon and impact the environment, sitting within a ‘nexus’ of interdependent pressures over food, energy, water and the environment. Yet their perspectives are often overlooked by the research community which lacks access to their business thinking. Equally, businesses find it challenging to engage with the academic community, and to define researchable questions that would benefit from more detailed analysis.
Nexus2020 engaged over 250 people, including academics and companies such as Asda, EDF Energy, HSBC and Nestlé, to co-produce research priorities that are scientifically feasible and also include outputs that can be practically implemented by the business community.
“The process of co-design engages businesses at the outset to help define the challenges, limitations and ambitions of research agendas. These considerations ultimately have important consequences for the impact and practicality of research outputs,” says lead author Dr Jonathan Green. “Greater investment in the complex but productive relations between the private sector and research community will create deeper and more meaningful collaboration and cooperation”.
The themes that emerged include
- 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
- understanding incentives or circumstances that allow individuals and businesses to take a leadership stance on these issues.
Dr Gemma Cranston, project lead from CISL says “As pressures start to mount, placing enormous demands upon natural resources, we are increasingly asked for support by businesses who want practical approaches that they can apply to address their growing challenges. Co-designing new research is critical to provide business with robust and rigorous approaches that are academically sound but that are also directly applicable to a business context. We have identified priority areas that can guide new research development and look forward to seeing a greater integration of businesses into collaborative research agendas.”
You can read the paper on Sustainability Science website.
Research priorities for managing the impacts and dependencies of business upon food, energy, water and the environment. Green, J.M.H., Cranston, G.R., Sutherland, W.J. et al. Sustain Sci (2016). doi:10.1007/s11625-016-0402-4