Write a formal report to an organisation about the implications of a major sustainability issues for them and their stakeholders. This report is somewhat inspired by the adage “think globally, act locally”. The fact is that everyone will be affected by major sustainability issues in the coming decades. Every business, council and community group will need to consider the implications for their organisation and how they should respond. But unfortunately many organisations have limited knowledge of these issues and so the first purpose of the report is to inform the organisation about the issue – globally, nationally and locally. The second purpose is to identify implications for the organisation and possible responses.
You should first choose an organisation for which you are writing the report. This must be a real organisation, even though the request for the report is hypothetical. Possible types of organisations include community based organisations, local councils, government departments, businesses, corporations and industry lobby groups. You may choose an organisation with which you are currently associated, perhaps your employer. To some extent the choice of organisation is not critical since every organisation will be impacted in some way, but you should choose an organisation with which you either have some familiarity or for which there is adequate information available regarding their activities. You do not need to contact or visit the organisation provided that you have sufficient information about their activities.
You must then choose one major sustainability issue from the following list:
Population, carrying capacity and food
Peak oil (or peak fossil fuels)
Limits to growth (focusing on economic disruption)
If you wish to consider a different sustainability issue or a variation from those listed above, please contact the course leader.
You must provide a description and discussion of the chosen issue including the underlying driving factors. You should discuss the likely impacts and societal responses, with a minimum time horizon of 20 years. Your discussions should provide perspectives from the global, national and local levels. Remember that your target audience is the chosen organisation and so this section must be written in appropriate (largely non-technical) language but supported by credible references.
You must then focus on the local implications of this issue, in order to identify risks and opportunities for the chosen organisation over a similar time-frame. For example, a business may not be able to continue some activities or products, but on the other hand, there may be opportunities for different approaches. Similarly, a community organisation may need to adapt its programs to meet different kinds of local needs in the future.
Your report must make at least seven clear recommendations for action by the organisation, with at least two in each of three time frames (short term – 1 to 5 years, medium term – 5 to 10 years, and long term – beyond 10 years). Recommendations might concern changes to the organisation’s activities, including particular projects or campaigns that it should undertake, changes to operations etc. Short term recommendations are likely to be fairly specific whereas long term recommendations are likely to be quite general.
The aims of this report include testing your knowledge and skills in the following areas:
Collecting information by independent observation and research
Using evidence to support your descriptions and analysis
Understanding and identifying the relationships between theory, reading and practice
Relating individual circumstances to themes and objectives of the course as a whole
Organising diverse data and analysis into a coherent report.
All modules should be studied prior to completing this assessment. In particular, modules 3 and 4 provide important theoretical material, modules 8 and 11 provide material regarding potential responses, and module 12 provides some perspectives on the future. Note also the following regarding specific topics:
Population, carrying capacity and food begins in module 2, with Australian perspectives covered in module 5 and global issues in module 7
Climate change is primarily covered in module 6
Peak oil (or peak fossil fuels) is primarily covered in module 7, with some relevant material in module 9
Limits to growth begins in module 2, has some coverage in modules 7 and 9 and more in module 10.
In each case you should carefully examine the Recommended and Additional Resources sections of the relevant modules in order to identify potentially useful sources for your report. Remember that you must not reference the module eBooks but you may find the references very useful.
Take note of the general format requirements here. This is a formal report which must follow a very specific format as follows (in order):
A title page that includes an appropriate title, the name of the author, the name of the person and/or organisation for whom the report is prepared, and the date of the report.
An Executive Summary, which should appear on a page of its own, be no longer than 500 words and which briefly summarises the key findings of the report, including the key recommendations (it is recommended that you write the Executive Summary last). The Executive Summary is normally written in the past tense, e.g. “This report has examined …”.
A Table of Contents that will include the Executive Summary (even though it appears before the table) and all other sections and sub-sections, including the List of References and any Appendices (it is strongly recommended that you use the automatic Table of Contents facility of your word processor).
The Executive Summary and Table of Contents appear on pages numbered using small Roman numeral, i.e. i, ii. The main part of the report begins on a new page with numbering starting from page 1 and comprises numbered sections and sub-sections.
Section 1 is an Introduction section comprising at least three subsections: Authorisation, Limitations, Scope.
Authorisation (normally numbered sub-section 1.1) indicates who has commissioned the report and why (this could be a person or a group, such as a board or committee of management).
Limitations (normally numbered sub-section 1.2) identifies any limitations or hindrances that have affected the production of the report, such as limited access to information that may be private and confidential, or that may be out of date etc.
Scope (normally numbered sub-section 1.3) indicates the breadth of the report’s considerations and may state certain aspects that the report does not cover.
You may include an additional sub-section in the Introduction that discusses your methodology.
The body of the report will include various numbered sections and sub-sections that present your research findings and analysis (it is suggested that you break this into at least two major sections, the first providing details of the chosen issue and the second examining the implications for the organisation).
A Conclusion section (also numbered) will briefly summarise the report’s findings and conclusion(s) leading into the recommendations.
A Recommendations section (also numbered) will present the recommendations in detail, normally numbered for easy reference.
The List of References (section not numbered) follows, beginning on a new page.
Appendices (numbered 1, 2 or A, B etc.) may be included, each starting on a new page, for example to present certain detailed information or analysis that underpins the analysis but was too bulky to include in the main part of the report. Diagrams and graphs can normally be included within the body of the report but if extensive, could be placed in appendices.
You may care to provide a Glossary of terms as one of the appendices. This can save words in your main report.
For more details on the format of a Report you may refer to the ‘Communication Skills Handbook’ (Summers & Smith, 2010, ch. 3). Refer to the chapter on how to use your word processor effectively, which describes how to use Microsoft Word to format the report.
The word count must be between 1500 and 2500 (there is no +/- 10%). The word count includes everything from the Introduction to the Recommendations inclusive, including in-text references and any direct quotes used in those section. It excludes the Executive Summary (which has its own word limit of 500 words), Table of Contents, List of References and any appendices. The word count range is deliberately very broad, allowing ample scope for students to cover the chosen issue in an appropriate level of detail. As noted above, additional material can always be moved into an appendix if necessary, while diagrams and graphs are a useful way of presenting detailed information with little word count. Note that while the penalties for going over the word limit are somewhat limited, assignments that are excessively long will not be read beyond 20% over the word limit (i.e. over 3000 words).
You must not reference the course study eBooks. You are required to reference credible sources for the details of the sustainability issue that you analyse, and where appropriate, for aspects of your recommended actions. Many such references are provided in the study materials, particularly in the reference lists at the end of the relevant module eBooks, which you should read thoroughly. In some cases there are cerain references that are considered almost essential on a particular topic, e.g. if covering climate change, the IPCC Synthesis Report is a key reference. A minimum of ten credible sources must be referenced (credible references include the readings, other reputable books, refereed journal articles and material from credible bodies such as government and research organisations). You must write in your own words with a maximum of 5% of words being direct quotations. All in-text references should contain page numbers where available, especially for books.
Three quarters of the marks (75%) will relate to the specific requiremenst for this assignment:
A clear and concise Executive Summary including a summary of all your recommendations (10%)
An appropriate introduction including authorisation, limitations and scope (5%)
A detailed discussion and analysis of a major sustainability issue, including as appropriate, global, national and local impacts and responses, with a minimum time horizon of 20 years (25%)
A discussion of the implications (including risks) for the organisation (and their stakeholders) arising from this sustainability issue, and identification of opportunities for action (20%)
A clear conclusion leading into at least seven recommendations for action by the organisation, with at least two in each of short, medium and long time frames (15%)
A quarter of the marks (25%) will be more general:
Your approach in developing a well argued case (5%)
Evidence of rigour in your research (5%)
Literary form (5%)
Adherence to submission format requirements and word count (5%)
The marking criteria sheet is provided here (you do not need to submit this).
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