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Research Spotlight: Dr. Jane Lister

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“Marine shipping is integral to our economic prosperity as well as our well-being.”
– Dr. Jane Lister

Dr. Jane Lister is a Research Professor and Associate Director of the Centre for Transportation Studies at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia (UBC). She holds a PhD in resource management from UBC, an MBA from the Sauder School of Business, and an honours degree in economics and environmental studies from the University of Toronto.

Dr. Lister has over 15 years of applied experience in corporate sustainability. Her research focuses on corporate social responsibility and environmental governance. Her current role is as Research Director of the international research network: Green Shipping: Governance and Innovation for a Sustainable Maritime Supply Chain. This is a research partnership focused on the green shipping trend, which calls for greater environmental accountability and reduction of the air, land and water impacts associated with the maritime supply chain.


Tell us about a project you are currently working on.

My team and I are currently conducting research on governing environmental improvements in the maritime supply chain. It is a six-year project that brings together academic and non-academic partners from around the world. We have established an international research network consisting of seventeen universities and seventeen government, industry and non-governmental organization partners. UBC holds the grant and serves as the central hub of the network and the Copenhagen Business School is the European hub of the network.

The Directors of the study include:

David Gillen, University of British Columbia – Co-Director & Principal Investigator

Henrik Sornn-Friese, Copenhagen Business School – Co-Director

Peter Hall, Simon Fraser University – Co-Director

It’s a major initiative. We are investigating how the marine shipping industry can go beyond smaller incremental improvements, like adopting more sustainable types of paint on the hulls of ships, to critical transformative changes like zero emission vessels in ports. Because there are so many partners involved in this study from so many different jurisdictions including North America, Europe and Asia, there is a great opportunity for us to do comparative analyses that uncover which nations are leading and lagging when it comes to governing environmental improvements in the maritime supply chain.

What are the objectives of the study?

This study has five objectives:

  1. Understand the drivers and effectiveness of green shipping governance initiatives.
  2. Identify green shipping management challenges and best practice opportunities.
  3. Evaluate new business models to spur green shipping innovation.
  4. Communicate research results, not just to academic audiences through traditional peer-reviewed publications, but also importantly, to non-academics by preparing policy briefs and holding workshops.
  5. Provide student training and mentorship opportunities.

The overall goal of the study is to investigate and recommend opportunities to better govern environmental improvements in the maritime supply chain.

What is the key message of the study?

We know how to ship cheaply, the challenge now is to understand the role of all organizations involved in the maritime supply chain and to learn how to mobilize those organizations to ship in an environmentally sustainable way.

When can we expect this project to be complete?

We are at the end of the project’s first year of six. Our team has a meeting in Copenhagen at the beginning of May 2018 to develop a detailed, collaborative research plan going forward. By the end of our second year, April 2019, we will start to have results. From that time, we anticipate that the study will have ongoing results right through to the end of the project in 2023.

How do you anticipate your research being applied?

We expect to produce research that helps generate a greater understanding of:

  1. The environmental impacts of shipping; and,
  2. The root causes of those impacts.

We will then provide recommendations to move forward with governing improvements by:

  1. Examining the approaches taken around the world to reduce the environmental impacts of shipping; and
  2. Comparing how different jurisdictions are responding to their governance structures to discover what is working and what is not.

How was this research funded?

We received a major grant from the Government of Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) in Ottawa called the Partnership Grant. It’s a $2.5 million, six-year grant, the largest SSHRC provides for the social sciences. It’s meant to look at global issues reaching beyond Canada, be multi-disciplinary, cut across disciplines within academia and mobilize knowledge beyond academia.

We are also hoping to raise additional funds from participating organizations in the partnership whether that’s through in-kind contributions, providing data, expertise or by hiring student interns.

What do you wish everyone knew about your research?

Our six-year grant will enable our international partnership to:

  • Identify key sustainability challenges and opportunities;
  • Develop governance and innovation measures and instruments; and,
  • Educate students on methods to address these sustainability issues, whether they are undergraduate, graduate, post-graduate, or executive learners.

What do you wish everyone knew about commercial marine shipping?

Commercial marine shipping is a major contributor to the global economy, 90% of global trade goes by ocean vessel. It’s hard to see anything around us that hasn’t come off of a ship. Marine shipping is integral to our economic prosperity as well as our well-being. Maintaining the competitiveness of this industry is critical. Unfortunately, it does have environmental and social impacts. It’s critical that we understand what those impacts are and manage them effectively.

What inspires you to do this work?

It’s a very interesting time in the history of this sector. It’s a surprising sector. Commercial marine shipping is deeply connected to our economy. It is the transmission belt of globalization. There are over 50,000 vessels on the ocean at any time, yet it’s so hidden and poorly understood. I think it’s a very exciting time in the sector where we’re going to see big changes that are critical for development, economic prosperity and environmental sustainability.

Where can we learn more?

A further description of the study, as well as of the project’s publications and upcoming events will be made available through the Centre for Transportation Studies’ website.

More about Dr. Jane Lister:

Dr. Lister is the author of three books on corporate social responsibility and governance including Eco-Business (with Peter Dauvergne). She has also published articles in peer-reviewed journals such as Global Environmental Change and Organization and Environment.

#clearfacts #shippingmatters

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