Dr Anna Dowbiggin, a risk scholar and management and public policy consultant in Canada, finds “Organizational capacity to think and plan beyond normal business cycles of 2-5 years has been stretched by the demands of regulators and stakeholder sentiments. This has given rise to new business practices, as well as massive shifts in business logic.”
My academic work focuses on advancing the core requirements for effective climate risk response planning for organizations. For me, this has largely involved teaching business research methods, critical thinking and sustainable product development. All three areas are germane to climate action as they are deliberate and strategic organizational responses to the risks that climate change has and is manifesting. Organizational capacity to think and plan beyond normal business cycles of 2-5 years has been stretched by the demands of regulators and stakeholder sentiments. This has given rise to new business practices, as well as massive shifts in business logic. I am contributing to these transformations within organizations by teaching young business managers how to think about risk – well beyond conventional ERP and traditional risk modeling.
My short-term goal is to complete my book ‘On Risk’ due out in 2023. The specter of all the manifestations of climate risk are not well understood and the book addresses that. I am an enthusiastic proponent of public scholarship and that work entails bringing core academic ideas before commercial and broader audiences, hence my book. More long term, I am working with several policy groups in Canada and international settings to develop a framework for sustainable product development. Most product ideation methodologies currently taught in business and design schools need radical updating.
Engaging policy makers tends to be a slippery slope, especially in the area of climate mitigation and adaptation issues. Engagement through ‘one-off’ exercises is not particularly effective. What I mean by that, for example, is a short series of webinars or lectures, or special presentations or conference talks by authoritative speakers with expertise in climate mitigation. It’s not enough. My observation is that there needs to be a full-on, omnibus approach with multiple, consistent and longer-term engagement with very clear objectives articulated from the outset. A fine example of policy engagement in Canada on the issue of carbon tax was successfully done by The Ecofiscal Commission. That incredible work is largely credited to the efforts of Dr Chris Ragan, an economist who took on the project in 2014.
Researchers must make a societal impact; I firmly believe that. As academics, we used to call research for research’s sake ‘Pure Research’. Please don’t misunderstand this - I’m not knocking scientific research in the classic fields of physics, chemistry and so on. When it comes to climate research and whatever dimension of it one investigates, the societal impact on biodiversity and human life is so extraordinary, climate research has to include societal impact. In fairness about this, there is already a noticeable trend in climate studies and published work that does recognize the importance of climate research that specifically addresses societal impacts.
Dr Dowbiggin is a risk scholar and management and public policy consultant in Canada. She is the author of Climate Risk and Business: New Challenges for Organizations published by Palgrave Macmillan (2022). Anna teaches in the Business Schools of several Canadian universities including the University of Guelph Humber, York University, and Toronto Metropolitan University.