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Improving Earth Systems Governance through “Purpose Ecosystems”


The aim of this project is to investigate the role and agency of purpose ecosystems in contributing to Earth System Governance.

The private sector has long been seen to play a critical role in addressing the challenges of the Anthropocene and providing potential solutions to address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) through techniques such as sustainability reporting. Recently, a myriad of intermediaries, initiatives and organisations are emerging that aim to drive wider systems change by advocating and advising the private sector to reconsider and broaden their fundamental ‘raison d’être’. In this project, we conceptualise this emerging network as the “Purpose Ecosystem”.

A Purpose Ecosystem creates favourable framings, incentives, systems and infrastructures to support the development of purpose-driven businesses that fundamentally integrate social and environmental objectives into organisational purpose; connects and brings together purpose-driven actors from multiple areas; and, educates new and potential businesses to be social and environmental innovators or ‘’change-makers’’.

Specifically, in this project we explore which roles the emerging Purpose Ecosystem plays in Earth System Governance, and specifically in endorsing and accelerating action aligned with achieving the UN SDGs. We also highlight a number of risks, barriers and caveats to be considered in their overall assessment and propose important questions for further research.

Methodologically the project engages with purpose ecosystem actors in Australia and the UK through semi-structured interviews and two transdisciplinary workshops in Melbourne and Warwick. The project aims to publish its results in a high-level journal, provide feedback to its stakeholder community, and identify opportunities for future funding.

The project is funded through the Warwick Monash Alliance Research Catalyst Fund.

Project partners:

Monash University:

Associate Professor Wendy Stubbs, School of Social Sciences

Associate Professor Megan Farrelly, School of Social Sciences

Professor Rob Raven, Monash Sustainable Development Institute

Warwick University:

Associate Professor Fred Dahlmann, Warwick Business School

Professor Dave Griggs, Institute of Global Sustainable Development

Professor João Porto De Albuquerque, Institute of Global Sustainable Development

Dr Keith Hyams, Social Sciences (Politics and International Development)

University of Technology, Sydney:

Dr Melissa Edwards, UTS Business School

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