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In the Spotlight: Genevieve Mortimer

Nov 24, 2014
Genevieve is working at the Thünen Institute, Institute of International Forestry and Forest Economics in Germany.

The topic of your research project is "Business Planning for Unintended Consequences: Good Intentions Aren't Enough". You've been working on it for some months now - how is your work progressing? What do you plan to do/cover over the next 6 months?

I changed the focus of my topic in the middle of this year after some inspiration from the CASTLE training session in Sweden.  Since then I feel my progress has been coming along well. At the moment I am writing a theory paper about why business should take unintended consequences of corporate sustainability action seriously. In the next few weeks I hope to finish this and then divert my focus to defining the qualitative research methodology. Within the next 6 months I will be conducting the interviews with business about how they perceive and plan for unintended consequences.   

Why did this exact topic interest you?

During the training session in Sweden I noticed an interesting paradox which existed in the bio-economy (and the broader sustainability debate). On one hand we talk about the importance of bold decision making, innovation and action. But on the other hand, action increases the likelihood of unintended consequences due to the complexity of our world, societies and people. It was the focus of unintended land use change and its interdependency with bioenergy debate which made me think about this idea. After speaking with my professor, I realized it was a paradox which was not being discussed in the corporate sustainability literature.

I like the topic because I feel it opens a new slant on an important debate in corporate sustainability; how business can meaningfully engage and take action in complexity. Engaging with environmental complexity and uncertainty gets right to the heart of the shift towards corporate sustainability. I hope my research can bring some new ideas to the corporate sustainability scholarship.  

What would you like to do after the CASTLE project has finished?

In the future I see myself working as a consultant or within a business implementing systems to improve long-term, sustainable business performance. I want to implement sustainable management practices in business that causes a step change in the promotion of sustainable development.  I will maintain a strong link with the research sector, using my workplace as an action-learning centre, encouraging the sponsorship of innovative research and maintaining a personal active research and publication program. 

What are your thoughts on the CASTLE project so far, and the training courses in particular?

I often feel lucky to have a job where I can work on a topic which I am passionate about with the time to dig deeper. The training has helped to compliment the ‘digging deeper’ process, by providing more general teaching about forestry and sustainability tools. I studied environmental engineering and worked on environmental impacts assessments in the mining industry in Australia so the training to get me up to speed with forestry and forestry specific sustainability challenges was particularly important (and interesting) for me. Of course one of the best parts of the training is to touch base and share ideas within our ESR family. I think all the ESRs agree that we love the diversity of countries and backgrounds which make up the CASTLE team.