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Research is the key to a sustainable future

Strategic thinker, change agent and clean technology pioneer, Professor John Cole, believes research is the key to a sustainable future.

Professor John Cole 

 Professor John Cole

As the Director of the Australian Centre for Sustainable Business and Development at USQ, Prof Cole links business, government and industry with researchers who are committed to proving the business case for sustainability.

“Through research you can make a difference. Everyone has a responsibility to do our bit for the world around us and we do that in different ways.

“I believe passionately in what I am doing - we are talking about the future of the planet, the future of our communities and the future of people themselves.”

An early proponent of triple bottom line, Prof Cole is also committed to “mainstreaming” the need for a light eco footprint.

“Sustainability can’t happen at the moment without change. There are currently economic distortions in markets that favour unsustainable practices and government policies that impact human consumption, like fuel subsidies.

“But sooner or later there will be crunch points – resource depletion, climate change – how we are living now is unsustainable.

“This kind of thinking requires lots of evidence, technology and information to support changes that have to be made.”

While the completion of a PhD is the perfect springboard to a successful academic career, Prof Cole used knowledge and skills acquired through his studies to carve a diverse and fulfilling career outside academia.

Initially, in the 1980s he worked as a policy advisor and speech writer for former Federal National Party leader Ian Sinclair, before joining some venture capitalists in a waste technology start-up company. From there Prof Cole worked in a variety of roles in the private and public sector, including CEO of the Queensland Keep Australia Beautiful Council and head of the Queensland Office of Clean Energy.

“I completed my PhD when I was 26 and it has given me a platform and reference point throughout my career. It taught me to work with facts and bring rigour to my thinking. It taught me discipline, how to write better and use skills of analysis.

“A PhD takes you into the world of specialists and you can come out and use that specialisation in a wealth of different ways. It taught me to be adaptable and not to cling too hard to anything because your research can also prove you wrong.

“A PhD is not an end in itself. Research is a means to an end.”

Prof Cole is also passionate about engaging people at all levels in sustainable development.

“I am interested in how we communicate climate change - how we can use research to help us engage people with sustainability and valuing our resources more effectively.

“I’ve always had a disposition to be involved in new and exciting things and that is what bought me to USQ. It was a new frontier and an opportunity to ‘walk the talk’ in what I think needed to happen.”

Please refer to Prof Cole’s LinkedIn profile for a full summary of his work history, including board memberships and education.