Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment
Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment

Core Research Theme 4: Sustainable development and social change: actors, institutions and governance

Mission and aims

To bring about a more sustainable development important changes in production and consumption systems will be required. A basic question is how to produce and consume energy and materials in a more sustainable way and how to realize such transformations. Core 4 seeks to understand the complex society-environment interactions, to identify driving forces for change, to explore the feasibility of development trajectories, and to evaluate and design new societal arrangements for sustainable development. Evaluation and design criteria encompass the efficacy, efficiency, responsiveness, openness, legitimacy and justice of change strategies and arrangements.

Research Clusters

  • Governance for sustainable development (X)
    Understanding the limits to growth regarding inputs with inelastic supply, like energy resources, materials, land and water and outputs in terms of emissions to be constrained to what the system earth can manage; transforming these boundary conditions in requirements for sustainable development; international relations; international and national instruments and multilateral agreements; sustainability partnerships; public-private partnerships; EU and regional frameworks for environmental governance; sovereignty; governance at local, national and international level.
  • Industrial transformation / Sustainable production and consumption / Transitions to sustainability (XI)
    Analysing the metabolism of society as involved in production and consumption; understanding of social and technological change in processes of long-run transitions towards sustainability; effective policies and decision making for sustainable technological development and for sustainable production and consumption.
  • Sustainable use and reuse of energy, material and resources (XII)
    (technological innovations; closing industrial production cycles, LCA, MFA, food-feed-fuel interactions)
  • Sustainable innovation and the transition to a green economy (XVII) 
    Understanding the complex dynamics of sustainable innovation and sustainable societal transformation. Connect Sense research to the emerging scientific field of transition research. Analysing sustainable transformation processes at a meso level making use of dominant models like the multi level framework or the technological innovation system framework. Analysing micro level processes that influence societal transformation and sustainable innovation like strategies of sustainable entrepreneurs, institutional work / institutional entrepreneurship by a variety of actors, e.g. Corporate Political Activities by incumbent actors,.Methods and tools to analyse complex societal dynamics like agent based models, network analysis, patent analysis, history event analysis, and choice experiments.
  • Water and governance (XVIII)