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14 November 2022

'Outstanding' thesis award for former PhD student

A King’s alumna has received a prestigious award for her PhD dissertation.


Dr Onna Malou van den Broek has been announced as one of the 2022 King’s Outstanding Thesis Prize winners in recognition of her research, which explored how sustainability affects the relationships between private firms and transnational public governance institutions.

Nominees for the annual prize are recommended by external examiners and are then judged by a panel of academics at King’s.

Dr van den Broek said: “I am very honoured to receive this prize. Doing a PhD is a long journey, so it is great when your hard work gets recognized. However, I also know of all the great research that is being done by King’s PhD students which equally matters.

“My acknowledgment section is three pages long, but first and foremost I would like to thank my supervisors Adam Chalmers and Robyn Klingler-Vidra as well as all the different mentors that helped me along the way.”

Dr van den Broek, who studied in the Department of Political Economy, said that she chose the subject of her thesis because, although much is known about the urgency of sustainability challenges, very little is known about the relationship between international business, politics and sustainability.

“This is important because we need political rules to make business more socially and ecologically sustainable world-wide,” she said.

Research carried out by Dr van den Broek drew on interviews with industry representatives , political actors and civil society, event-observations, policy documents and existing databases.

My PhD journey was hard but truly amazing as well. Make sure you set yourself up for success, there are many tools out there to support you

Onna Malou van den Broek

Through her work, Dr van den Broek showed that both political and industry actors have subjective and flexible interests. Particularly, she empirically traced how divergent interests result in contrasting understandings of what the concepts around corporate sustainability mean.

The thesis also explained how different ideas about corporate sustainability across and between political and industry actors are constantly refined, reframed, and reinterpreted through auto-communication and social interactions.

The research has resulted in four publications in leading management and political science journals, including Journal of Management Studies and Regulation & Governance.

Since completing her PhD, Dr van den Broek has taken up a position as postdoctoral fellow at the Copenhagen Business School and is now an assistant professor at the University of Exeter Business School.

Offering her advice to current and aspiring PhD students, she said: “My PhD journey was hard but truly amazing as well. Make sure you set yourself up for success, there are many tools out there to support you. For example, with my colleague Fabian we developed a free online tool to help you with the "how" part of doing a PhD.”

In this story

Dr Robyn Klingler-Vidra

Reader in Entrepreneurship & Sustainability

Adam Fagan.

Vice President (Education & Student Success)