22 April 2021 Blogs, Academic, Faculty, Librarian

Research Business and Ecological Sustainability in 5 Steps

From choosing a topic and narrowing it down, to selecting insightful and credible resources, ProQuest One Business can help

Imagine a student in business school is assigned to research a key social issue in their Corporate Social Responsibility course. They will need to give a short presentation to the class in the style of a business analyst.

But first, there is the daunting challenge of selecting a topic – and finding credible, relevant resources.

ProQuest One Business is designed to make this process simpler and more engaging. From general reference works to more niche content like case studies, journal articles and news reports, the database helps students discover insights and information that spark their interest, then delve deeper in how theories and ideas related to business and management might be applied to the real world.

Choose a topic

When it comes to selecting a topic, it can be hard to know where to begin.

A teacher might suggest starting with searching ProQuest One Business for a reference work like Corporate Social Responsibility: A Research Handbook1, edited by Kathryn Haynes, et al, which provides an overview of different topics on the subject. These include human rights, taxation and social justice, corporate philanthropy and the environment and sustainability.

For a student interested in climate change, the latter might spark their interest. They can then narrow their focus to the set of chapters by specialists on corporate responsibility and the environment. Exposure to different approaches and perspectives can help refine the subject matter for the presentation.

In Chapter 11, Dr. Helen Borland, Senior Lecturer in Business Sustainability at Aston Business School, makes the case for integrating environmental science into business education. Borland argues this interdisciplinary approach to research and teaching would deepen understanding of ecological sustainability and the factors that threaten it. This would encourage the development of strategies based on knowledge of natural ecosystems to consider environmental impact, and a definition of sustainability in business and management that is inclusive of all species.

From this, the student decides to further explore how other business educators talk about introducing environmental science into business practice.

Discover related resources

The student next conducts a search using the terms “organizational practices” and “ecological sustainability” and narrows the scope to scholarly journals.

One of the top results is the article “Developing Organizational Practices of Ecological Sustainability: A Learning Perspective”2 by Tara Fenwick, a Professor of Education at the University of British Columbia, and Head of the Educational Studies department.

Fenwick examines literature from ecology, ecological learning and corporate social responsibility to focus on three questions: 1) How are practices of social responsibility and ecological sustainability developed and maintained in organizations? 2) What learning is involved in developing practices of ecological sustainability in organizations? 3) How might this learning be fostered by organizational leaders? She then cites examples drawn from studies of small business to explore successful strategies of developing ecologically sustainable practices.

This article proves to be a boon to the student. Not only does it provide another perspective on integrating environmental science into business education, but the case examples can be used to zero in on actual businesses and how they are putting these principles into practice. Plus, the bibliography offers a wealth of information for additional resources.

Put ideas into practice

The student decides to explore more real-world examples from the last couple of years. Using the broader search terms “environmental science” and “business,” the student narrows the inquiry to “news” and “most recent” in order to focus on the latest developments in this area to explore how educators and businesses are acting on these ideas.

The results yield a NASDAQ news release with the title “Corporations and Government Need More Environmental Science Graduates.”3 The article details a STEM career webinar at Husson University featuring three professionals in the environment sciences. They were slated to discuss their work with various organizations in areas such as wastewater management, drinking water safety and natural resource management.

The session was designed to encourage science students to consider career possibilities in an era of increasing concern about climate change and corporate responsibility, and where knowledge and education in environmental science is critical.

The news release confirmed interest in higher education to merge studies in science with business, but from the perspective of the science department. The student next seeks a source that looks at the topic from a business point of view.

Add applications in the real world

    A few items below is another news story4 about the American global media, marketing and corporate communications holding company, Omnicom, and its cultural consultancy leg, sparks & honey.

    This story announced the addition of new members with expertise in environmental science to its advisory board. According to the document, these advisors include “three seasoned leaders with varied experience across technology, organizational development, corporate learning, education, earth science and the future of food.”

    Digger deeper, a new search on “’sparks & honey’ and climate” turns up an article from the fashion industry publication, Women’s Wear Daily5. This article explains the kind of consulting sparks and honey has done with corporations like P&G to help them plan more sustainable and socially minded business strategies in with their beauty products.

    Explore different kinds of content

    Because part of the assignment is to include different types of content in researching this project, the student decides to find a video source that highlights another case example of a consultancy company that relies on knowledge in the environmental sciences to help corporations be more ecologically sustainable.

    A search for “case study” and “environmental science” in the Audio and Video category turns up the title “Environmental Solutions Video Case Study: Eleanor Jones - Managing Director”6 from the Acadia International Executive Insight Series.

    Jones is the owner of Environmental Solutions, a consultancy based in Kingston, Jamaica. With an academic background in geography, Jones started Environmental Solutions on Earth Day in 1991 to focus on “harmonizing development with the environment.”  When she started her company, Jones was a pioneer in environmental consultancy.

    The video focuses on her work with a major resort development that was coming into the country and provides a robust, real world example of integrating science and business in corporate social responsibility.

    Armed with this content -- from multiple perspectives and sources -- the student can think critically about the topic, draw their own conclusions and develop a presentation that inspires their classmates and prepares them for real-world assignments in their internships and in their career after graduation. 

    Learn more about ProQuest's Global Challenges initiative.


    All resources are available from the ProQuest One Business database:

    1. Corporate Social Responsibility: A Research Handbook, edited by Kathryn Haynes, et al., Taylor & Francis Group, 2012. 
    2. Fenwick, T. (2007). Developing organizational practices of ecological sustainability: A learning perspective. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 28(7), 632-645.
    3. Corporations and Government Need More Environmental Science Graduates: Husson University STEM Career Webinar Focused on Career Opportunities in Growing Environmental Science Field. (2020, Nov 19). NASDAQ OMX's News Release Distribution Channel.
    4. sparks & honey Welcomes New Advisory Board Members, Experts In Environmental Science, Alternative Proteins & Future of Work: These Three New Experts Will Inform Upcoming Research & Help The Consultancy Address The Biggest Challenges Facing Corporations and Society in 2021. (2021, Mar 18). NASDAQ OMX's News Release Distribution Channel.
    5. Responsible BEAUTY. Women's Wear Daily. (2020). WWD, 1-12.
    6. Environmental Solutions Video Case Study: Eleanor Jones - Managing Director (Acadia International Executive Insight Series). 2019, Jan 01.[Video/DVD]