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Bridging Science and Social Science Approaches to Environmental Issues

Science and social science have different approaches to studying environmental issues, yet each can benefit from the other's. Throughout my career I have devoted at least one of my main research lines to work at this science-social science interface. In this one-hour talk, I will briefly overview some of my efforts, then turn to a specific project for an upcoming Organization Studies special issue, "Overcoming Shortcomings of Measuring Organizational Sustainability: Assessing and Driving Societal Impact". Our paper's abstract for submission to this SI is below. 


Paper Abstract: Hybridizing a Sustainability Tool with Stakeholder Input: An LCA of Two Remediation Products

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is the centerpiece of ISO 14040/44 certification as well as the UN’s Environmental Program. Nevertheless, like all sustainability methods, LCA faces challenging drawbacks, including loose coupling and misalignment due to practice opacity. LCA experts have attempted to address these issues by incorporating decision maker preferences into LCAs or using Social LCA rather than LCA. Stakeholder and institutions theory in organization studies suggests ways to more directly incorporate stakeholder inputs and local context directly, and even systematically, into such analysis. In this study we rely on a stakeholder co-design engagement approach and capture local environmental and economic logics in order to hybridize LCA as a sustainability tool. In Study 1 we construct an LCA of two novel wetland materials, tested in an optimal wetland design. In Study 2 we run a stakeholder experiment with regional community members to capture their preferred design and environmental, economic and social concerns with the design and the applied novel materials, in particular preferences from stakeholders adhering to a more balanced environmental and economic local logic. We then use this Study 2 information to modify the LCA from Study 1. A comparison of lifecycle impact of the original and modified design and inputs demonstrates the superiority of the modified design over the original and reveals different patterns of lifecycle impacts of the two novel materials. This research contributes to lifecycle analysis, stakeholder and institutional theories, as well as to work on communities.


Speaker Bio

P. Devereaux (Dev) Jennings is the T.A. Graham Professor of Business, the recent Canadian Center for CSR Coordinator at the Alberta School of Business, and one of the informal coordinators of the Interpretive Data Science (IDeaS) Group. He has published research on a wide variety of organizational topics, ranging from M-form use, hybrid startups in nanotech, and AI ecosystem cultural holes to corporate engagement with environmental regulation and Anthropocene issues. Dev has extensive editorial experience, including work as associate editor at AMR, ASQ, and JBV. He received his Ph.D. and M.A. from Stanford University and his A.B. from Dartmouth College.


The semester’s complete speaker series schedule can be found at: 

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