Our history

Our research focus has evolved from consumer behaviour to a range of topics, from production to politics and governance to social justice.

1. Tackling climate change

We were established in 2008, with the principal aim of enhancing research and insight into one of the world’s most pressing challenges: climate change.

Despite 20 years of rhetoric regarding the urgent need to address modern consumption patterns, we were among the first major research institutes to place consumption and its unsustainability at the heart of research enquiry.

We sought to utilise the unique strengths of The University of Manchester to bring interdisciplinary insight and clarity to the topic.

2. Defining ‘sustainable consumption’

Since launching, we have made a significant contribution to the emergent field of sustainable consumption - shaping its meaning and challenging orthodox thinking.

In our early years, this included significant contribution to the development of:

  • climate policy
  • environmental economics
  • life-cycle analysis
  • psychology

3. Developing fresh sustainability approaches

However, our recent research has focused on interrogating the fundamental processes of societal change in order to identify how long-term and large-scale transitions to sustainable consumption can be achieved.

This shift responded to the need to ask new questions and challenge conventional understanding of societal organisation and change, alongside the growing realisation that increasingly environmentally-aware citizens and sustainability-motivated businesses could not, alone, overcome the threats posed by climate change.

We have played a critical role in developing fresh approaches in sustainability by gaining greater insight into how:

  • everyday practices are reproduced
  • our patterns of consumption are formed
  • systems are established, organised, innovated, disrupted and undermined

Our research contends that these processes, which shape what people do and how innovation occurs, represent the critical sites through which long-term, large-scale sustainability needs to be tackled.