Making connections to enact change

Professor John Thwaites AM wins an outstanding leadership in engagement award for his work as a leader and convenor.

Carefully nurtured partnerships and an entrepreneurial mindset are critical to the success of many initiatives at the Monash Sustainable Development Institute and ClimateWorks Australia. John Thwaites AM is awarded for his leadership in creating and enabling collaboration and connections that lead to sustained impact.

Congratulations to John Thwaites AM, who received the Award for Outstanding Leadership in Engagement last night at the Engagement Australia Excellence Awards. The award recognises the notable contributions John has made to engagement – going above and beyond to create sustained and impactful partnerships for Monash University.

A champion for the role of universities in society, John has been a firm and lifelong advocate for the importance of science and research in decision making, as well as the important role of universities as convenors of cross-sector dialogue and as thought leaders in their communities. He has tirelessly shared his experience, his voice, and his connections in the service of facilitating better connections and more productive partnerships between universities and other sectors.

Just one of his many leadership roles, John was appointed inaugural chair of ClimateWorks Australia in 2008 by The Myer Foundation and Monash University, and has led the board and actively supported the organisation’s strategic growth agenda with philanthropic and industry partners since its establishment. John has helped to spearhead numerous projects, reports, workshops and initiatives that has helped ClimateWorks become one of the foremost independent, research-based, non-profit organisations committed to catalysing reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in Australia.

A phenomenal builder of networks and personal connections across all sectors, John puts an incredible amount of effort into building and maintaining ongoing relationships with a huge range of people across all sectors. John’s ability to establish long-term collaborative partnerships has led to the ongoing success of many projects at Monash Sustainable Development Institute and ClimateWorks Australia.

For example, the Australian Industry Energy Transitions Initiative (ETI) was formed by ClimateWorks and Climate-KIC, in collaboration with the global Energy Transitions Commission. The initiative brings together key industry and finance companies to accelerate action towards achieving net-zero emissions in supply chains by 2050 across critical sectors known as ‘hard-to-abate’ given their high emissions and relatively higher abatement costs. Now 16 industry and business partners, representing almost one quarter of the ASX100 market value, are working together on opportunities and pathways towards net zero.

Similarly, John has cultivated a special relationship between Monash University and world renowned economist Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director of UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). This relationship has led to John becoming one of six co-chairs of the Leadership Council of the SDSN. He also plays a significant role in the Asia-Pacific region, chairing the Australia-NZ-Pacific SDSN Network and collaborating on regional projects with SDSN networks across the ASEAN region, including the ASEAN Green Future project which just released its phase 1 reports.

Accepting the award last night, John said:

“Universities have a big role to play in developing solutions to global challenges like climate change and sustainable development. But they can’t do it on their own. We are much more likely to have real impact if we develop solutions in partnership with governments, business and the community.

Monash has supported MSDI and ClimateWorks Australia to successfully use this collaboration model over the last decade to bridge the gap between research and action.”

Professor John Thwaites AM has dedicated over three decades to public policy and sustainability, encompassing climate change, water, environment, infrastructure and social equity. Following his political career, including as Deputy Premier of Victoria, John was appointed as a Vice-Chancellor’s Professorial Fellow at Monash University and Chair of Monash Sustainable Development Institute. For 15 years, he has championed impact-focused projects with industry, philanthropic and government partners; and translated research into policy and practice to address sustainable development challenges. He has provided extensive leadership within local, national and international networks working towards realising the ‘2030 Agenda’ through the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The Engagement Australia Excellence Awards identify and celebrate the transformative engagement activities undertaken by universities that demonstrate far-reaching impact and innovation in Australia and New Zealand.

Find out more about projects that leverage engagement and collaboration for impact: