Office building, windows with pink light

Professional obligations in an age of climate change

Co-presented with the Sydney Environment Institute
Are our ethical codes and standards doing enough to slow down climate change? This panel will consider these and other profound questions facing all professionals in the age of global warming.


The radical threat posed by global warming poses a profound challenge to every vocation. At the core of every profession, from engineering to accountancy to law to journalism, is the idea of providing expertise in service to the public good. Professionals must act ethically, in accordance with relevant codes and standards. But with the whole system under challenge from the possible collapse of the natural systems that support life on earth, are these ethics be sufficient?

Is it possible to be an ethical professional while also providing advice that supports fossil fuel companies? How are professional standards and codes of ethics shifting in response to the catastrophic threat posed by climate change? How have certain professionals been implicated in perpetuating and legitimising environmentally destructive acts?

This outstanding panel will consider these and other profound questions facing all professionals in the age of global warming.

Part four of the Living in a Warming World series convened by Dr Frances Flanagan and Michelle St Anne.

This event was held on Monday 24 September at the University of Sydney.


  • Anna Krien, award-winning Melbourne-based journalist, essayist, fiction writer and poet. Her book Night Games: Sex, Power & Sport, won the 2014 William Hill Sports Book of the Year in the UK, and is being developed into a television mini-series. Other publications include Into the Woods: The Battle for Tasmania’s Forests, Booze Territory, Quarterly Essay 66: The Long Goodbye: Coal, Coral and Australia’s Climate Deadlock and Quarterly Essay 45 Us and Them: On the Importance of Animals. Anna is currently working on a novel, which is due to be published early 2019.
  • David Ritter, Chief Executive Officer of Greenpeace Australia Pacific.  He has been with Greenpeace for nine years, campaigning to secure an earth capable of nurturing life in all its amazing diversity. He is an affiliate of both the Sydney Environment Institute and the Sydney Democracy Network.
  • Sarah Barker, Special Counsel in the Corporate Group at international law firm MinterEllison where she helps corporations and institutional investors manage dynamic environmental, social and governance risks through a corporate governance lens.  She has nearly twenty years’ experience in corporate law, with particular expertise in corporate governance, misleading or deceptive conduct, competition (antitrust) and consumer protection.
  • Professor Christopher Wright (chair), Professor of Organisational Studies and a member of the Discipline of Strategy, Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Sydney Business School. His research explores organizational and societal responses to climate change, with particular reference to how managers and business organizations interpret and respond to the climate crisis. He has published on this topic in relation to issues of corporate citizenship, emotionology, organizational justification and compromise, risk, identity and future imaginings. He is the author of the book Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction (Cambridge Uni Press, 2015).

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