Research delivers core message on conservation

Conservation can be achieved only if sustainability is embraced as core to organisational cultures, according to research published in the journal Conservation Biology. 

Charles Darwin University Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods’ (RIEL) Professor Stephen Garnett said the research indicated that despite two decades of growing awareness, conservation and equity were rarely promoted as central institutional concerns.

“Although there is plenty of work going into corporate responsibility, the shift towards making that responsibility core to organisational operations has been minimal,” Professor Garnett said.

The team looked into the extent to which the related concepts of sustainability, conservation, response to climate change, poverty alleviation, and gender equity had been incorporated into organisational culture.

“We compared mission statements published from 1990 to 2000 with those published in 2014 for 150 organisations, including conservation non-governmental organisations (NGOs), aid NGOs, government development agencies, resource extraction companies, and retailers,” he said.

“We wanted to assess if there has been a shift since global agreements on sustainability were signed at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, where there was wide-ranging agreement for action to achieve sustainable development worldwide.”

Professor Garnett said that the absence of aspirations about climate change or gender equity in mission statements was particularly marked.

“While there was evidence of a shift in some industry sectors, such as mining companies, others such as retailers remained focused on the sale and consumption of goods with little mention of corporate responsibility,” he said.

The team also analysed the 2014 home web pages of each organisation and was encouraged that many organisations wanted viewers to know they cared about a sustainable society.

“It was good to see that at least some mining companies were proud of their environmental record or that conservation organisations aimed to support poor communities living in high-quality environments,” Professor Garnett said.

But the team also found big gaps.

“Sustainability and biodiversity conservation will not be achieved unless their importance is more widely apparent in core communication products of organisations,” he said.

“Aid agencies and retail companies promoted goals beyond alleviation of crises and profit maximisation, respectively. But we were surprised how few organisations in any group emphasised what they were doing to alleviate climate change.” 

The research led by Professor Garnett was in collaboration with Northern Institute senior researcher Dr Kerstin Zander, RIEL researchers Professor Michael Lawes, and The Nature Conservancy researchers Kristen Bigland and Robyn James.

The research is entitled: “Portrayal of sustainability principles in the mission statements and on home pages of the world’s largest organizations”. For further information visit http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12617/abstract

Source: CDU enews
Issue 11 - 7 December 2015