Sustainability certification for SMEs

The ethics and efficacy of sustainability certification in Tasmania: Through the double lenses of Art and Accounting

Degree type


Closing date

10 October 2022



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

Recent years have seen the business community acknowledge and seek to appropriately respond to existential threats such as climate change, social inequality, and the like. Initially embodied in corporate reporting practices such as ESG reporting, what was once limited to large corporate entities is now being adopted by SMEs. The reporting burden on these smaller businesses is significant, however, and represents a barrier to entry for many. To at least a degree, the rise in related certification processes is aimed at short-handing this reporting burden, servicing both customers and businesses in offering transparency and validation of good practice. The impact of such offerings, both on businesses and the broader communities that they serve, is often framed as an unqualified good. Without contextual research, however, such assumptions remain unsubstantiated and potentially problematic.

This research project explores the reporting mechanisms (including certification) available to Tasmanian SMEs to help them adapt to the shifting social expectations for sustainability practices. It will triangulate a path through the self-identified needs of Tasmanian businesses, the behavioural shifts (or their lack) implied by available corporate products, and their relation to the empirical reality of our current environmental and social crises, expressed through the values of the Tasmanian community. By drawing out both the benefits and potential failings of the various corporate approaches and products on offer, this research will provide a clearer view of the ethics, ideologies, and embodied practices at play. It is further hoped that this study will not just assess the ethics and efficacy of current offerings, but also has the potential to point towards new and unanticipated solutions, through an arts-based response.

Tasmania’s unique position - a state with 100% renewable energy and a small and comparatively polarised socio/political population - means that a reasonably extensive study of Tasmanian businesses and community values can serve as the basis for this project. The approach is interdisciplinary, drawing together disciplinary knowledge and methods from across business and accounting, communications, humanities and the arts.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Leanne Morrison


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,854 per annum (2022 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • Applicants must be able to undertake the project on-campus

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Evidence of capacity to write academic papers within Scopus or Web of Science indexed journals
  • Advanced knowledge of qualitative research methods
  • Some experience in Arts-based research methodologies, or Art practice
  • A willingness to live in Tasmania (including relocation)

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Related industry or academic experience (preferably)

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select the project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Dr Leanne Morrison, to discuss your suitability and the projects requirements; and
  3. Submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including contact details of two referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email.

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