Applying the principles of sustainability to business management

Sustainability and business

La Trobe logo‘Climate change will, directly or indirectly, dominate the future that awaits our students’ says Dr. Sue O’Keefe, Associate Head of the Regional School of Business at the Albury-Wodonga campus. ‘It will have a profound influence on their working lives, their lives as citizens, and their private lives’. Sue also notes that in coming years Australia expects a rapid growth in so-called ‘Green Collar’ jobs. According to CSIRO, if Australia is to become carbon-neutral by 2050 it will need 2.7 million new jobs. ‘Our students must prepare now if they are to participate in this new ‘green’ workforce.  Sustainability is an immediate challenge for them now’, says Dr O’Keefe.

To help students meet this challenge, the School recently introduced at its Albury-Wodonga campus a sequence of subjects on sustainability. This major is available to students taking the Bachelor of Business degree on that campus. The initiative was developed by staff in consultation with a reference group of industry experts including Dr Tim Clune, Manager of Sustainability and Environment for North East Water, Dr Peter Box, consultant, and Dr Michael Crawford, Department of Primary Industry.

The first subject - Climate, Sustainability and Society – drew on the advice of these experts and is taught by a cross-disciplinary team of lecturers from the Faculties of Science, Technology & Engineering, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Law and Management. This approach is necessary according to Dr O’Keefe. “Problems of sustainability cannot be solved by simply taking a narrow disciplinary approach. Collaboration between scientists, economists and social science experts, is necessary to put together the bigger picture of how climate is changing, and how this is affecting the economy and society”. She supports the view that students interested in public policy or business approaches to sustainability must know some science. Similarly science students should see the wider economic and social context.

Dr Clune explains. ‘A broader appreciation of the issues and new ways of thinking will be critical in delivering sustainable business solutions today and in the future. La Trobe students will be well placed to fill that gap. The challenges and understanding that come from working across disciplines encourages students to appreciate issues from a new perspective.’

In 2009 Climate, Sustainability and Society was taught for the first time at both Bendigo and Albury-Wodonga. Highlights included a series of three public lectures given by prominent public intellectuals in the field of sustainability - Dr Barrie Pittock, Professor Lin Crase and Professor Clive Hamilton. The public response to the lectures was very positive. Students report that they value the opportunity to learn a little about other disciplines, one student noting ‘I can now see how everything is connected and that you can’t solve complex problems with a single approach’.

Starting in 2010 other subjects in the major will become available to teach students about business (resource economics, environmental law, governance, and environmental marketing) as well as social and scientific issues. Graduates who complete the major can claim to have a well-rounded set of skills enabling them to meet, as Dr Clune says, ‘the complex sustainability challenges facing business.’


Climate Sustainability and Society is now taught at Albury-Wodonga, Bendigo and Melbourne campuses.

Students seeking more information about the Sustainability Major at the Albury/Wodonga campus should contact:

Ms Susan Smith
T: +61 2 6024 9838