Sustainability Research Institute

The Sustainability Research Institute

The Sustainability Research Institute is home to a team of over 30 academic staff, 25 research staff and 45 research students conducting inter-disciplinary research on the different dimensions of sustainability. Research within SRI is based largely on the environmental social sciences and draws upon aspects of geography, sociology, politics, planning, economics, management, development studies and science and technology studies. Our broader activities combine social and natural sciences in leading-edge, interdisciplinary research through a series of major international projects and centres.

SRI was formally established in December 2004 with a launch led by its first Director, Professor Sally Macgill who was a leading authority on environmental risk management. Its roots were developed from the Leeds Environment Centre and later the Leeds Institute for Environmental Science and Management that initiated delivering environmental science and environmental management degree programmes from 1995. The Centre was formalised as the School of Environment in 1999 with the institute becoming the social science element of the School. The period from 1998 to 2004 saw the rapid expansion of the academic staff base of Sustainability research staff from across a wide range of disciplines. Undergraduate programmes initially consisted of the BA Environmental Management and BSc Environmental Science with the initiation of Masters programmes from 2002 in the form of MAs in Sustainable Business and Ecological Economics. Extra programmes were developed bringing new staff into SRI until the new highly successful suite of MSc Sustainability were formed in 2007 and the undergraduate programmes expanding into the BA Environment and Business in 2002 and the BSc Sustainability and Environmental Management in 2013.

Since its formal creation, SRI has attracted significant research funding from the ESRC, NERC, EPSRC, the EU and a variety of other funding bodies. In partnership with the LSE, it obtained in 2008 a £5.5 million of ESRC funding for the new Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy. It is home to two RCUK Research Fellows and one ESRC early career inter-disciplinary research fellow and it has ESRC recognition for its post-graduate research programme. SRI was returned to the recent Research Assessment Exercise as part of the broader School submission to the Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences panel, but with a request to be cross referred to the Geography and Environment panel. In recent years our research has focused on two cross-cutting themes:

  • The first theme is on governance and sustainability. Our work on this theme has three main aspects. The first concerns the concept of environmental governance and the nature and influence of the institutions that combine to shape the sustainability of different forms of social and economic behaviour; the second relates to the changing nature of environmental policy, planning and regulation and the emergence of new forms of private or voluntary environmental governance; and the third is concerned with the wide range of factors that govern the prospects for, and the environmental impacts of, new technologies and different patterns of production and consumption.
  • The second theme is on adapting to environmental change. Our work on this theme also has three main aspects: the first concerns the factors that shape the impacts of climate change and the vulnerability and adaptability of different areas, sectors and social groups; the second involves the development and application of integrated models of the interactions between socio-economic and natural systems within the fields of ecological and environmental economics; and the third concentrates on the role that participatory, adaptive environmental management can play in enabling different actors to respond to environmental change.

We explore a wide range of issues including climate change, energy, transport, water, resource use, land use, conservation, cities and communities, business and lifestyles. We specialise in participatory, action-oriented research that brings together government, business, NGOs and local communities to enhance the relevance, quality and practical influence of our research. Our research is organised across four interdisciplinary research groups: