The Financial Risks of Unsustainability: A Research Agenda

21 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2020 Last revised: 8 Jan 2021

See all articles by Beate Sjåfjell

Beate Sjåfjell

University of Oslo - Faculty of Law; College of Europe - European Legal Studies Department

Date Written: June 29, 2020


The financial risks of climate change, understood as the potential for negative impacts from climate change on business profitability or survival, have received a lot of attention. The recommendations of the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure have set the agenda for this discussion. The Task Force report is complemented by another report, also in 2017, from Cicero Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo: Shades of Climate Risk for investors, which is also directly relevant and applicable for decision-makers in the non-financial industry, such as corporate boards.

Although praiseworthy for contributing to awareness-raising of the significance of climate change for business and finance, both initiatives have short-comings when analysed in the context of a research-based sustainability perspective. Even limiting the scope to climate change, important aspects are excluded in the two reports. After briefly discussing these shortcomings in Section 1, I outline in Section 2 the concept of sustainability within which I position the discussion of financial risks. In Section 3, I present what I hope will be the start of a full analysis of the financial risks of unsustainability. In Section 4, I conclude with some reflections on this as a preliminary research agenda, welcoming engagement with other scholars in the area.

Keywords: sustainability, planetary boundaries, social foundation, investors, business, transition risks, policy risks, liability risks, reputation risk, market risk, technology risk, business model risk, system change risk, physical risks, societal risks, global catastrophic risks, societal collapse

Suggested Citation

Sjåfjell, Beate, The Financial Risks of Unsustainability: A Research Agenda (June 29, 2020). University of Oslo Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2020-18, Nordic & European Company Law Working Paper No. 21-05, Available at SSRN:

Beate Sjåfjell (Contact Author)

University of Oslo - Faculty of Law ( email )

PO Box 6706 St Olavsplass
Oslo, 0130


College of Europe - European Legal Studies Department ( email )

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