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Centre for Building Sustainable Value

Thomas Smith

 Sustainability Research Institute, University of Leeds

Corporate perceptions of biodiversity: institutional context, stakeholders, and the transfer of ecological knowledge


Organisational and management scholars are increasingly interested in business involvement in biodiversity and ecosystems, but empirical work on how businesses understand biodiversity remains limited. Taking the cases of forestry and salmon farming in Chile, this paper examines how social and ecological factors interact to influence corporate perceptions of biodiversity and conservation activities. Using stakeholder theory and social learning, we highlight how ecological and formal institutional contexts frame perceptions, whilst relationships with stakeholders with an interest in biodiversity shape ecological knowledge transfer. In forestry, certification has forced firms to adapt practices and open dialogue with and learn from conservation NGOs and local communities: although tensions remain, biodiversity is on the corporate agenda. In salmon farming, increasingly strict regulations have strengthened ties between producers, suppliers, and the Chilean state. Although producers better understand immediate ecological threats, they know little about their impacts on biodiversity, with conservation remaining a peripheral concern.


Tom Smith is a doctoral student based at the Sustainability Research Institute (SRI), University of Leeds. His research centres on the factors determining business involvement in biodiversity and the challenges that businesses face in seeking to understand and manage their impacts on biodiversity. Tom’s fieldwork focussed on forestry and salmon farming in Chile, drawing on interviews with managers in firms in both sectors and various stakeholders, as well as reviewing corporate sustainability reporting. Tom holds a BSc in History and Government from the London School of Economics and an MA in Governance and Public Policy from the University of Manchester. Previously Tom worked in international social research, managing projects for clients including the World Bank and UN Development Programme.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith

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