School of Earth and Environment

William Young Professor William Young

Professor of Sustainability and Business

Telephone number: +44(0) 113 34 31640
Email address:
Room: 9.106
PA details: Mollie Van der Gucht +44(0) 113 34 34058

Affiliation: Sustainability Research Institute

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I am a sustainability behavioural scientist. My research is focused on consumer and organisational behaviour around sustainability issues working with companies, consumer organisations and government. I develop real world experiments to test behaviour change interventions and then measure the resulting behavioural and sustainability impacts.

Some highlights include:

  1. Helping Asda's customers to reduce their food waste, which was awarded Green Gowns 'Highly Commended'.
  2. Working with national sales data to look at mainstream purchase behaviour on green labelled products through ESRC Consumer Data Research Centre.

My leadership roles are:

  1. Co-Director of the Sustainability Research Institute that conducts World-leading research to solve sustainability issues. It has 35 academic and 45 research staff along with 80 PhD students.
  2. Co-organiser of the annual Corporate Responsibility Research Conference along with Kedge Business School in France.
  3. Leader of the Discovery Theme on 'Creating Sustainable Futures' at the University of Leeds. This provides students the opportunity to experience sustainability within and outside their programmes. It has over 110 modules from across the University and hands on opportunities with the Sustainability Service. This work has won the EAUC Green Gown award for Learning and Skills.


BSc (Hons) (Environmental Biology), Unversity of Greenwich.

MSc (Environmental Science with Environmental Management), Brunel University.

PhD (Sustainable Business), University of Huddersfield.


Research Interests

Understanding, measuring and changing behaviour on sustainability issues by:

  1. Consumers.
  2. Householders.
  3. Employees.
  4. Organisations

Teaching Interests

  • SOEE1390 Introduction to Business, Environment and Corporate Responsibility: module leader.
  • BA Environment & Business and MSc Sustainability projects and dissertations supervision.
  • Past programme external examiner roles:
    • Open University, Queens University Belfast and Liverpool John Moores University.

Project details

Project title

I am always interested in supervising PhD students who want to study behaviour change and sustainability.


Current PhD students:

  • Rachel Hollis (with Prof Chris Rayner and Prof Wändi Bruine de Bruin): Changing the behaviours, habits and practice around the use of household surface cleaning products to reduce associated environmental and health problems.

  • Georgiana Weatherill:â—¦Determining the success of and motives behind the delivery of Sustainable Development within FE sector.

  • Xinjie Zou (with Dr Matt Davies):â—¦Pro-environmental behaviour of employees in Chinese firms.

Completed PhD students:

  • Jo Ganatsiou (2007):
    • Uncertainty in incineration and landfill risk assessments.

  • Kim Nam Kyu (2007):
    • The impacts of Environmental Supply Chain Management on SMEs in Korea.

  • Bradley Parrish (2007):
    • Sustainable Entrepreneurship: Principles of Design.

  • Karla Utting (2008):
    • Assessing the Sustainability Impacts of Ethical and Fair Trade Coffee.

  • Louise Ellis (2008):
    • The Role of Multinational Corporations in UK Sustainable Development Policy.

  • Anna Scott (2009):
    • Understanding recycling behaviour in households.

  • Lucie Middlemiss (2009):
    • Investigating the role of community institutions in promoting individual sustainability.

  • Hannah McDowall (with Prof Ruth Pearson in the School Politics and International Studies) (2010):
    • Shifting patterns of governance in Fair Trade Handicrafts value chains: the position of African women producers.

  • Claire Marsh (2011):
    • The NHS and Sustainable Development.

  • Kendra Wasiluk (2012):
    • Sustainable value creation: Building the business case for sustainable enterprise in the Australian commercial building sector.

  • Andrea Liesen (2012):
    • Financial market efficiency towards corporate GHG emissions.

  • Breeda Comyns (2013):
    • The changing quality and quantity of sustainable reports: A case study of the oil and gas industry.

  • Thomas Long (2013):
    • Climate change policy complexity and impact on supply chains.

  • Georgios Zampas (2013):
    • Educating children to educate their parents-Information, knowledge and experience diffusion within the family for sustainable lifestyles. An evaluation of Eco-Schools programme.

  • Sarah Bradbury (2015):
    • How the organisation, structure, and processes of Grassroots Associations could be strengthened to enable them to more successfully contribute to environmental sustainability in the United Kingdom.

  • Neil Richardson (2016):
    • Sustainability at music festivals.

PhD examiner experience:

  • External PhD examiner experience at University of Hong Kong, Aarhus University, Manchester Metropolitian University, Milan Polytechnic, Queens University Belfast, Aston University, Sheffield Hallam University as well as internal examiner at the University of Leeds.



  • ESRC Consumer Data Research Centre(2014-19):
    • Obtaining datasets and providing services and infrastructure to academics and other partners across the country, with a particular focus on consumer data. Alongside this will be a programme of research in consumer data analytics, together with plans for a major new MRetail programme.
    • Co-investigator for ESRC.
    • Led by Prof Mark Birkin (Geography at University of Leeds) with Faculties of Environment and Business at University of Leeds and jointly with UCL.

  • Evaluating factors behind low household recycling rates in Leeds (2016-17):
    • To evaluate the impact of interventions that aimed to improve the recycling rates of Harehills, Headingley and Middleton areas of Leeds.
    • In collaboration with Leeds City Council and Sustainability Service at University of Leeds.

  • Corporate Responsibility Research Conference:
    • Chair of organising committee (2005-7, 2011 & 2014) & organising committee member (2005-present).


  • Asda Sustainability behaviour change intervention KTP (2013-16):
    • To develop methodologies/tools based on scientific evidence and business data that promote sustainable customer behaviour relating to product purchase and usage and thereby enhance competitiveness. This work was awarded Green Gown 'Highly Commended' award in the Research and Development category
    • Principle investigator for ESRC, Innovate UK and Asda.

  • Building Up Resilience in Supply Chains Network (2013-14):
    • Co-investigator for White Rose Network on identifying problems and solutions for companies and stakeholders to adapt to the environmental and social impacts of climate change on global food supply chains.
    • In collaboration with York and Sheffield Universities.

  • City-scale Domestic Retrofit Schemes: Learning from the Early-Adopters (2013):
    • City-wide survey of residents in Kirklees Council area in West Yorkshire to identify any behaviour changes as a result of free household insulation as part of the Kirklees Warm Zone scheme.
    • Co-investigator for Ashden Trust in collaboration with the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP).

  • M&S University of Leeds Partnership 'Environment' lead (2012-14):
    • Development and delivery of research projects.
    • Joint presentation with Richard Gillies (Head of Plan A) see YouTube video.
    • Support for M&S Nerc KE Fellow (Dr Claire Quinn).

  • WUN Greening Organizations & Work (GROW) Network (2010-12):
    • Co-investigator with Professor Chris Clegg et al (Leeds University Business School) on developing knowledge and capacity on how to change employee behaviour towards sustainability. International network involving University of Western Australia and Nanjing University.

  • Developing an environmental management system and eco-labelling scheme for UK carpet industry (2010-13):
    • Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Carpet Foundation Co-Investigator with Dr Ningtao Mao (Leeds) on developing an Environmental Management System and Accreditation Scheme for the benefit of the UK wool-rich carpet manufacturing industry through a scientifically validated Life Cycle Assessment.

  • Climate change policy complexity and impact on business supply chains (2009-2012):
    • Research project with Thomas Long (Leeds) and Dr Samarthia Thankappan (University of York) to develop potential government and business policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in SMEs in supply chains.
    • Part of the White Rose Studentship Network on Enabling Supply Chain Adaptation to Climate Change and a Resource Poor Future.

  • Sustainability as a vehicle for competitive advantage: ecological redevelopment, strategic marketing & the university campus (2006-8):
    • Co-Investigator for ESRC Research Seminars with Dr Steve Quilley and Professor Andy Dobson (Keele University).

  • Trade-offs in decision-making for sustainable technologies (2003-6):
    • Principle investigator for Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Sustainable Technologies Programme project.
    • In collaboration with Sheffield and Robert Gordon Universities.
    • This study aims to investigate decision-making around sustainable technologies with a view to understanding such decisions at an individual level.

  • Does the ISO14000 series and specifically ISO14031 work? (2004-5)
    • Principle investigator for British Standards Institute.
    • The aim of this research is to assess if the ISO14000 series is really delivering the needs and expectations of society and users.

  • The supermarket industry and sustainable development (2002-4):
    • Book entitled 'Sold out - the true cost of supermarket shopping' published by Fusion Press in 2004.

  • Sustainable entrepreneurship (2003-2013):
    • The aim of this project is to articulate to a wider practitioner and academic audience the value and importance of moving the sustainable business agenda beyond the notion of eco and socio efficiency.

  • Ethical & Fair Trade (2000-2):
    • Book entitled: 'Ethical Shopping - Where To Shop, What To Buy And What To Do To Make A Difference', published by Vision Paperbacks in 2002 with Richard Welford.

  • Sustainable Households (1998-2000):
    • UK principle project manager on European Commission funded project 'Strategies Towards the Sustainable Household (SusHouse).
    • Liased and organised stakeholder workshops with over 150 stakeholders from industry, government, environmental groups, consumer groups and academia.