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Adapting risk assessments for a complex future
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Sweden; Sustainable Finance Lab SWEDEN, Sweden.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Sweden; Sustainable Finance Lab SWEDEN, Sweden.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1617-4067
Number of Authors: 22022 (English)In: One Earth, ISSN 2590-3330, E-ISSN 2590-3322, Vol. 5, no 1, p. 35-43Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Human activities have progressively eroded the biosphere basis for our societies and introduced various risks. To navigate these risks, or potential undesirable outcomes of the future, we need tools and an understanding of how to assess risk in a complex world. Risk assessments are a powerful tool to address sustain ability challenges. However, two issues currently hamper their ability to deal with sustainability risks: the limited sustainability science engagement with the multifaceted nature of risk and the lack of integration of social-ecological, complex, and resilience thinking into risk assessment. In this Perspective, we review and synthesize the wide range of risk definitions and uses and juxtapose them with knowledge on complex adaptive social-ecological systems. Through this synthesis, we highlight the strengths of each risk approach and outline five challenges that, if overcome, could turn risk assessments into a much-needed multifaceted toolbox for dealing with the certain uncertainty of a complex future.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2022. Vol. 5, no 1, p. 35-43
Keywords [en]
risk, risk assessments, resilience, sustainability, uncertainty, complex systems, social-ecological systems
National Category
Earth and Related Environmental Sciences Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-202253DOI: 10.1016/j.oneear.2021.12.004ISI: 000747829500009OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-202253DiVA, id: diva2:1639878
Available from: 2022-02-22 Created: 2022-02-22 Last updated: 2024-04-25Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Sustainability Risk: A social-ecological systems perspective
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Sustainability Risk: A social-ecological systems perspective
2024 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Today’s world is characterised by new levels of complexity; however our societies remain deeply embedded in and dependent on a functioning biosphere. A biosphere that is increasingly being degraded by human activities. In this complex and intertwined world, acute shocks as well as chronic pressures of unsustainable activities have therefore become a prevalent feature. Together these shocks and chronic pressures create a complex risk landscape that we need to navigate with inter- and transdisciplinary solutions. However, the study of risk and the risk assessment tools in use, are siloed into scholarly disciplines and mismatched with the complexity at hand. In this thesis I tackle this mismatch, by using a social-ecological systems perspective and a variety of methodological approaches. Together the four papers of the thesis develop the interdisciplinary concept of sustainability risk and start to operationalise it through the application to national food systems and corporate sustainability risk assessment. Paper I introduces the concept of sustainability risk that I use and develop through-out the thesis. The paper also summarises some of the key definitions of risk within different disciplines and proposes five key dimensions that need to be adapted and developed in order for the existing risk assessment methods to fully capture risks in a complex world. Papers II-IV all represent applications of the concept of sustainability risk to different contexts. Paper II addresses national food supply risks and highlights how diverse risks to national self-sufficiency can come from low self-sufficiency (resulting in risk from trade disruptions) and low production diversity (resulting in risk from production shocks). Paper III addresses the data limitations we encounter when attempting to assess corporate sustainability risk and aims to overcome some of these limitations by developing fifteen novel reporting variables. These variables also contribute to the ongoing efforts to standardise corporate sustainability reporting. Paper IV builds on Paper III and develops an initial framework for assessing the risks to long-term natural resource production emanating from the impacts of corporate activities, thus broadening the conceptualisation of what risk is and how we assess it in the corporate sphere. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, 2024. p. 51
Keywords
Sustainability risk, systemic risk, complex systems, social-ecological systems, corporate sustainability reporting, food security, resilience
National Category
Environmental Sciences Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-228761 (URN)978-91-8014-815-3 (ISBN)978-91-8014-816-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2024-06-14, hörsal 4, hus 2, Albano, Albanovägen 18 and online via Zoom, public link is available at the department website, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2024-05-22 Created: 2024-04-25 Last updated: 2024-05-13Bibliographically approved

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Wassénius, EmmyCrona, Beatrice I.

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