Sustainability Research Institute

Social and political dimensions of sustainability

Man carrying "People First" sign

This research group within SRI critically examines the relationship between social processes and environmental issues. What distinguishes our work is our focus on how the relationships between social and environmental issues are framed by various schools of thought within the social sciences, and how this can add to an understanding of environmental problems and solutions. We see environmental and social processes as deeply intertwined, but not necessarily complementary. As a result, we offer reflective critiques of sustainable development in our work, with an emphasis on revealing the political and social implications of environmental decision-making.

. We are inspired by a range of approaches from the social sciences and humanities, including discourse theory, political ecology, science, technology and innovation studies, post-colonialism, critical governance studies, sustainability science, and development studies. The substantive areas we investigate are wide-ranging, and include research on: 

  • experiences of fuel poverty in the UK,
  • the regulation of extractive industries in the high Arctic and Uganda,
  • the social and environmental impacts of privately owned nature reserves in Patagonia,
  •  understanding the role of science and expertise in climate adaptation decision-making, 
  • the politics of sustainability standards in climate change or fair trade.

Our research aims to uncover the challenges posed by contemporary environmental governance, and to produce publicly relevant, but critical insights. We engage extensively with organisations, communities and other academics to conduct research, share findings and host seminars.