Risky business: how should organisations manage chemicals?

An Organisational Perspective on Risk Assessment: Comparing Chemicals Management in Australia and Canada

Industrial chemicals play a vital role in the Australian economy, generating $30 billion a year.

But, these chemicals also pose risks to human health and the environment, making it vitally important that appropriate strategies are developed to minimise any dangers.

With Canada considered a pioneer in its approach to managing chemical risks, this study compares the way in which Australian and Canadian organisations approach the issue.

Led by organisational theorist Professor Cynthia Hardy in partnership with Canadian academic Professor Steve Maguire from McGill University, this Australian Research Council-funded study will compare how chemical risks are managed in Australia and Canada, and the roles of diverse organisations in this process.

The research team believes that sustainable strategies cannot rely solely on regulation to enforce minimal requirements. Instead, effective chemicals management requires collaboration between business, government and non-governmental organisations to ensure proactive responses to dangerous chemicals.


This study will identify strategies to help Australian organisations manage chemical risks more effectively, focusing on how the relationships among different stakeholder organisations can be managed to improve chemical risk management.

The study will also investigate the implications of different institutional contexts for managing chemical risks, which is increasingly important in a globalised world where governments often need to collaborate across national boundaries, and decisions in one country concerning chemical risks have implications for a range of organisations in other countries if, for example, particular products are banned, regulated, or boycotted.


Refereed journal articles

S Maguire & C Hardy, 'Organizing Processes and the Construction of Risk: A Discursive Approach', Academy of Management Journal, 56(1): 231–255, 2013.

C Hardy & S Maguire, 'Organizing Risk: Discourse, Power and Riskification' Academy of Management Review, 41(1):80-108, 2016

Book chapters

S Maguire & C Hardy, 'Risk Work: Three Scenarios from a Study of Industrial Chemicals in Canada', in Riskwork: Essays on the Organizational Life of Risk Management (ed.) M. Power, Oxford University Press, accepted.


'Green Chemistry as Institutional Entrepreneurship', presented at the International Chemical Congress of Pacific Basin Societies, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA, 15-20 December 2015.

'Risk, Discourse and Power: A Foucauldian Framework', presented at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Vancouver, Canada, 9-11 August 2015.

'Risk Narratives, Risk Translations and Change in Institutional Fields', presented at the 31st EGOS Colloquium, Athens Greece, 2-4 July 2015.

'Ecologies of Risk: Synergies, Antagonisms and the Organizing of Risk', presented at the 5th Meeting of the Research Network on Field-Configuring Events: Time, Space and Relations, funded by the German Research Foundation, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany, 20-21 April 2015,

'Risk And Change In Institutional Fields: The Case Of Canadian Chemicals' presented at Riskwork: A Workshop on the Everyday Life of Risk Management, organized by Michael Power London School of Economics and Political Science, 8-9 May 2014.

'Ecologies of Risk: Synergies, Antagonisms and the Social Construction of Risk', presented at the Fifth International Symposium on Process Organization Studies, Chania Crete, Greece, 20-22 June 2013.

'Risk Strategies in Practice:  The Role of Discursive Work', presented at the ICRODSC Workshop on Discourse and Strategy-as-Practice, Sydney, Australia, 29-30 November 2012.

'Organizing Processes and the Construction of Risk: A Discursive Approach', presented at the Workshop on: Contested Science, Politics, and Bisphenol A: Critical Knowledge Translation and the Development of a Collaborative Research Agenda for Environmental Health Risks and Chemicals of Concern organized by the McMaster Institute of Environment & Health at McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada, 28–29 May 2012.


Professor Steve Maguire, McGill University, Montreal, Canada