The cost-of-living crisis is a global issue. The Covid pandemic, rising food and energy prices, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine combine to present a huge challenge for governments, organisations, and of course individuals.
The problem is particularly acute for the poorest in the world. Recent analysis by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) points to a 10% increase in food prices leading to a 5% decrease in the incomes of the poorest families – roughly equivalent to the amount those families would normally spend on healthcare.
At the same time, the ever-present threat of climate change continues to grow, again disproportionally affecting the poorest regions in the world. The devasting floods in Pakistan were yet another acute example of the affects of man-made changes to the global climate.
As a business school, a key part of our mission is to try and help address these complex global issues. It is simply not enough to be an observer and commentator – I passionately believe that business education must take an active role through both research and teaching. If we are not helping to make the world a better and safer place, what value are we providing? Working to develop and help find practical solutions needs to be at the heart of what we do.
A good example of our contribution in helping to tackle climate change is the work, with other academic institutions, advising what businesses and cities must do to stay within ‘safe and just’ environmental limits. This is for carbon, water, nutrients, land, and other natural resources. The research is the subject of a new set of recommendations from Earth Commission experts. The Earth Commission aims to establish scientific guardrails for the Earth’s life support systems,
This research is a great illustration of the importance of working in an interdisciplinary way. This is vital if business schools are going to make a real difference. Business does not sit in isolation and schools need to stop teaching or researching it that way. In particular, business need to collaborate closely with science. At Exeter, the business school is now part of the Faculty of Environment, Science and Economy. It allows us to collaborate both in teaching and research across disciplines.
In teaching, we are launching in 2023 a Master of Public Health in collaboration with the University of Exeter Medical School. Recent research bringing science into business decision making includes work with colleagues at Lancaster University looking at how a market-led approach could help governments and businesses to be properly informed about their exposure to future climate risks. The research team examined how expert ‘prediction markets’ can help overcome the structural problems and shortfalls in forward-looking climate-risk information – something that will become more vital as the demand for long-range climate information increases.
Collaboration between academia and business should be intrinsically important to all business schools. So it is with immense pride that the University of Exeter is leading a project to help postgraduate and early career researchers to develop an improved awareness of the benefits and opportunities of collaborating with business. Led by Exeter, it will be run by a partnership of universities with support from the Chartered Association of Business Schools. We will be working with business schools across the UK to create a support programme for researchers, building further bridges between academic work and the needs of business.
While we face serious issues globally, I am heartened by the opportunities when business schools work with different academic fields, businesses, and public bodies. It is a powerful combination, and the more we can collaborate the easier it will be to find solutions and make a positive difference.
Working with others is a priority for us, and I am always happy to discuss and explore partnerships with like minded others. Please do get in touch.
Professor Alexandra Gerbasi is Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the University of Exeter Business School.