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No business is an island

Deakin Business School (DBS) has focused its research into themes to maximise its real-world impact for the future. Here, we introduce one of our four themes - Business and Society.

In the 21st century, leading a business is more than simply providing goods and services, managing profits, and creating wealth – it also comes with important responsibilities toward people, natural resources, and societies.

Director of DBS’s Business and Society theme, Associate Professor Jo Ingold, says there’s a symbiotic relationship between business and society.

‘No business is an island. Businesses have an impact on society, for example in employment and climate change, while society impacts businesses in areas such as consumer behaviour and workplace diversity,’ she explains.

Addressing environmental, economic, social and cultural issues, the Business and Society theme focuses on three key sub-themes: responsible business, inclusive business, and resilient business.

‘While responsible business examines social, cultural, environmental and economic responsibility, inclusive business focuses on how business can better reflect diverse societies and drive societal change through inclusive action. Finally, resilient business explores how businesses, and the communities they support, can be more resilient to both natural and human-made disasters,’ says Assoc. Prof. Ingold.

A deep history of collaboration 

Co-director Dr Anne Kershaw says the theme provides the outside world with a ‘front door’ to DBS’s teaching, research, partnerships, staff and students.

‘Deakin has a deep history of collaboration with government, industry and communities. We want our research priorities to be led by the challenges faced by our partners. We aim to co-produce projects which will have a direct impact on stakeholders and create lasting change both within Australia and beyond. We also want our curriculum to be able to respond to societal and business needs and to prepare Deakin students for future challenges,’ she says.

Research that’s making a difference

Through four research clusters, DBS’s Business and Society theme is building on a strong track record of engagement and impact in the areas such as refugee employment and advocacy, disaster recovery, leadership, and sustainable consumption. 

Supporting people from refugee backgrounds

Centre for Refugee Education, Advocacy, Training and Education (CREATE) works closely with government and non-government organisations, and supporters to assist the integration of people from refugee backgrounds into the workplace and vocational and higher education.

Widely recognised and awarded for its achievements, CREATE provides online resources, scholarships and career clinics to help identify career pathways, build networks, source employment opportunities, and prepare job applications. 

With the support of philanthropic funding, CREATE is providing career clinics to 450 candidates over a three-year period and has secured additional funding to provide graduate employment clinics to another 50 candidates. 

In 2020, more than 60% of career clinic participants found paid employment, with 70 candidates also accessing vocational and tertiary education. 

Building disaster resilience and recovery

Over the past decade, the economic cost of natural disasters in Australia has averaged $20 billion per year – a cost predicted to double by 2050. Whether they’re natural or man-made, disasters have a profound impact on the socio-economic welfare of the global village.

The Centre for Disaster Resilience and Recovery (CDRR) provides high-quality research and policy input into disaster-related issues, including socio-economic analysis of disasters, and economic and business strategies for effective disaster response.

Exploring the consequences of disasters across key industries, the CDRR collaborates with a wide range of organisations including the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre, Emergency Management Australia, Queensland Reconstruction Authority, Emergency Management Victoria, South Australian Department of Environment, Land and Water, and Western Australian Office of Bushfire Risk Management.

The centre’s work has contributed to a diverse scope of projects that include exploring the effects of disasters on Australia’s economic sectors over the past 40 years, the impact of major natural disasters on individual incomes, the economic, political, and demographic factors underlying the spread of COVID-19, the effect of lockdowns on Australia’s labour force, and the 2020 CSIRO Report on Climate Change and Disaster Resilience.

Developing leadership capabilities

With organisations facing escalating challenges in an uncertain and volatile world, the newly-established Leadership Futures Hub is set to provide cutting-edge research and resources to help leaders from all industry sectors build their capabilities and problem-solving skills.

The hub’s five strategic pillars will address contemporary leadership challenges: responding to crises, managing increasingly diverse workforces, socially-responsible leadership, and maintaining and improving workforce wellbeing and mental health.

Hub members have extensive experience working on projects with organisations such as Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, Victoria Police, WorkSafe Victoria, and Eastern Health, with Dr Lee Martin also recently recognised for her work on cultural diversity in the workplace.

Addressing consumption challenges

Consumption underpins many of the world’s challenges, from CO2 emissions to obesity to maintaining online privacy. Unfortunately, proposed solutions too often place the onus on individual consumers.

The Better Consumption Lab adopts a different approach. Working with progressive organisations, the lab provides consumer and service insights aimed at improving businesses’ offerings to consumers. The lab consequently looks for win-win-win solutions that benefit business, consumers, and society more generally.

Aligning with the Business and Society sub-theme of responsible business, the lab focuses particularly on addressing consumption challenges that relate to health and wellbeing, sustainability, and justice.

Currently, the lab is working with a number of organisations, including AusNet (identifying attractive value propositions for renewable technologies), Hycel (exploring ways to enhance support for the development and use of hydrogen technology), and Ritchies Supa IGA (exploring alternative ways of encouraging fruit and vegetable purchasing within supermarkets).

Focusing on Sustainable Development Goals

In addition to the work of the four research clusters, projects by individual DBS researchers also contribute to the Business and Society theme.

Dr Ameeta Jain is a DBS researcher recognised for her work with corporate social responsibility, regional resilience, and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Working with DBS academics Prof. Alex Newman and Dr Harsh Suri, she’s undertaking a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade-funded study that will foster industry-university partnerships to create high-quality, SDGs-focused student internships. 

The aim of the study is to advance graduate employment outcomes post-COVID-19 and catalyse partnerships for achieving the 2030 Agenda.

‘Over the next few months we will identify the critical areas to address while attempting to resolve challenges faced by students in India and Australia in securing internships. We aim to map out the strategies for developing SDGs-focused internships and identifying the roadblocks,’ explains Dr Jain.

One of the project partners is the Indian Institute of Technology (Mumbai) which is also holding a competition to encourage both Australian and Indian students to think beyond corporate life and offer solution suggestions for major social problems.

Building on a vision – open to new ideas

Assoc. Prof. Ingold says DBS’s vision concentrates on careers of the future, innovative and personalised education, and research that impacts communities.

‘Focusing on the relationship between business and society is key to delivering on this vision. A multidisciplinary approach to the themes of responsible, inclusive, and resilient business will ensure that DBS delivers impactful research, teaching and industry engagement.’

While Dr Kershaw and Assoc. Prof. Ingold acknowledge that Business and Society is a huge theme, they are looking forward to working with a wide range of stakeholders.

‘The current question for us is where we draw the boundaries and we don’t want these to be exclusive or artificial. We are still evolving and invite anyone within, or outside, Deakin who identifies with our aims and vision to get in touch with us. We are open to ideas about how we better connect with external partners to foster evidence-based change.’

For more information about DBS’s teaching, research and partnerships under the Business and Society theme, please contact Associate Professor Jo Ingold j.ingold@deakin.edu.au or Dr Anne Kershaw anne.kershaw@deakin.edu.au