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Chapter 2: The External Management Environment – The Seekers

To start with…

…refresh your knowledge of the various factors in the external environment that managers should be aware of as part of their job. Figures 2.1 (p. 30) and 2.2 (p. 32) in your textbook describe these in detail, so you should definitely have a closer look at them before sinking your teeth into this case.  Once you’ve done that, check out this story of a recent UNESCO report on tourism and climate change and the omission of a section on the Great Barrier Reef.

So, to summarise…

We have recently seen widespread bleaching events in the Great Barrier Reef, unprecedented in scale and severity.  More than half the reef has been ‘severely bleached’, which means it is at high risk of dying.  These bleaching events come at a sensitive point in time: just before UNESCO released its 2016 report of World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate, and just as campaigning for the Australian Federal Government election is peaking. 

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a global organisation, and focuses on global issues.  Formed in 1945, after two world wars, it strives to promote global peace, interconnection, cooperation and understanding.  It has a list of World Heritage sites of cultural or natural importance to humanity.  The Great Barrier Reef was added to the list in 1981 and has become one of the world’s most important coastal and marine tourism areas. 

The reef means a lot to humanity and to Australia.  Besides being marvellous and inspiring, it is a major focus of tourism in Australia.  Activities including touring, diving, sailing, fishing and cruising, collectively make about 90% of the total jobs in their local communities (64,000 jobs), contributing $5.2bn dollars to the Australian economy.  But tourism is a double-edged sword: yes, it motivates Australia to take good care of the reef, but the infrastructure required for tourism can also damage it.

As you would expect, tourism infrastructure around the reef (like roads, buildings and boats) are restricted by regulations meant to protect it.  But a bigger danger to the reef, and probably the biggest long-term threat to its ecosystems services, biodiversity, heritage values and tourism economy is climate change, including rising sea temperatures, accelerating rates of sea level rise, changing weather patterns and ocean acidification.  As the the water temperature rises, coral reefs around the world are suffering, and the Great Barrier Reef has been assessed as poor and deteriorating.  You would think UNESCO would want to encourage quick action to save the reef!

But UNESCO complied with the request of the Australian Government to drop any mention of Australia and the Great Barrier Reef from its recent report “World Heritage and Tourism in Changing Climate”.  The Australian Government did not want the report to impact on … tourism to the Great Barrier Reef.  Other organisations in Cairns are concerned with reducing tourism, and make their own efforts to address the poor image of the reef.  For example, Tour operator Quicksilver has been providing Reef Health Updates featuring a marine biologist who claims that as the water cools through winter, many of the coral are likely to regain their colour. Regional tourism organisation Tourism Tropical North Queensland has also begun a campaign to showcase undamaged parts of the reef.

On the other hand, the report to UNESCO was developed in collaboration with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) published the full version of the report, which includes relevant sections about the Great Barrier Reef and discusses this whole issue in the media.  Each of these organisations is very concerned with various aspects of the external environment, which gives us a perfect opportunity to study this concept comprehensively.

Some issues to notice and pay particular attention to here are…

  • The effects of the environment on organisation
  • The external environment of the organisation
  • Customer responsiveness
  • Managerial responses

Consider the following questions for discussion…

  1. Figure 2.1 on page 30 describes the organisation through a system view.  How would you describe the elements which are relevant to UNESCO?  To the Australia Government? And the Union of Concerned Scientists?
  2. Figure 2.2 on page 32 of your textbook lists the elements of the organisation’s specific environment, and describes them in detail on pages 39-43.  If you were a manager in UNESCO, the Australia Government, or the Union of Concerned Scientists, to which of these elements would you be particularly attuned these days?  Why?  How would they affect your daily work?
  3. What businesses and organisations are affected by condition of the of the Great Barrier Reef?  Who would be the customers to consider?
  4. How would you, as a manager of a business that is strongly affected by the condition of the Great Barrier Reef, prepare for the predictions of its deterioration?