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An interview with Frederik Dahlmann

We're aspiring to do better for our local surroundings, for our people and for our planet through teaching and research. We spoke to Frederik Dahlmann, Assistant Professor of Global Energy at WBS, who is currently engaged in corporate sustainability research and teaching at Warwick.

November 2015

Corporate sustainability lightbulb

How does your research and teaching at Warwick relate to sustainability?

I would argue it is core and central to what I'm doing. In fact, I would describe it as my main focus for both teaching and research.

What sustainability research and teaching are you involved in at Warwick?

My teaching focuses on the issues and challenges of the energy industry. I teach 'Sustainability and the Low-Carbon Economy' on our Global Energy MBA and 'Sustainability and Business Ethics' for the Full Time MBA. I also teach an undergraduate IATL elective module 'Achieving Sustainability: Potentials and Barriers' and 'Design for the Environment' on WMG’s MSc course.

My research is all about the impact sustainability can and should have on corporate identity and operations. I’m currently researching the reduction of corporate carbon emissions – and the use of incentives, targets, learning and other managerial practices. I’m also investigating the relationship between EU climate change and market liberalisation policies, corporate sustainability from an organisational science perspective and impact investment and the energy-food-water nexus. I’m developing new business models for the UK home heating sector (involved in iStute project), and a future business model for European airlines in the context of oil price volatility and proposed carbon pricing (as part of a PhD supervision).

I’ve also been closely involved in developing bids for the ESRC Nexus Network as well as for a Leverhulme grant, together with members of Warwick’s Food Global Research Priority (GRP), and I regularly attend seminars of the Energy GRP. For the last three years I have been one of the co-organisers of Warwick’s involvement in the EIT's Climate KIC Journey, an entrepreneurial summer school for PG students looking to address climate change through innovative business ideas.

Frederik DahlmannAre you collaborating with any other departments or organisations?

My contributions to modules across the faculties, Climate KIC and also my own modules at WBS draw on topics, presentations and insights from different academics across the University and beyond. I very much enjoyed working together on the grant proposals with the Food GRP which was all about sharing across the disciplines. By contrast, achieving this in my research remains very challenging, not least because of different expectations in terms of journal publications needed to pass probation.

What do you hope to achieve in your teaching and research?

I hope to raise awareness of the underlying trends and facts by developing analysis, mental models, insights and then actionable responses and best practices to help companies. I’m also keen to instil a sense of ownership and positive attitude towards addressing sustainability. I want organisations to see it as an opportunity for creativity, innovation and progress.

What does this mean for the future of research and teaching in this field?

My hope is that both my teaching and research contribute to significant impact and change with regard to the way in which particularly companies and economies are managed. It is unlikely that these changes will be large enough to create a major breakthrough and reversal of many of the trends we see, but I believe it is important to see this as part of the fragmented effects of piecemeal work. Most important of all, our research and teaching needs to inspire our audiences to search for new and better ways of living and working.

What can the subjects of your research do to improve sustainability in the area you’re researching?

Purchasing decisions are probably the single biggest factor driving how companies respond and so, at a basic level, these need to change to achieve a more sustainable future. But the public also has a role to play – people can actively vote by buying consciously, and where there are no alternatives, get involved in demanding information and improvements.

If you could change one thing that would improve the sustainability agenda, what would it be?

It would probably be an increase in awareness and education, so the more this can be raised globally, the greater the chances of a generally more sustainable environment. From there on it's the cumulative effects of individuals, organisations and institutions considering sustainability in their actions and behaviours. There is no silver bullet I'm afraid.

Image: Sustainability image lightbulb at sunset by Intel Free Press (via Flickr)