We’re proud that our research contributes to the development of policy and directly influences the strategies, practices, and priorities of a range of public, private, and community organisations.

In our innovative research work aimed at understanding and facilitating changes in consumption practices, we actively engage with individual households, large and small firms, social movements, and social enterprises, using innovative methods of research.

Mat Paterson / Director, SCI

The Sustainable Consumption Institute (SCI) research makes a difference by gathering evidence and critically analysing the problems and potential solutions surrounding efforts to move towards more socially just and environmentally sustainable societies.

Our engagement in policy debates has been invited by governments, businesses, and NGOs and has been recognised through numerous prestigious awards.


  • Mat Paterson received the 'Distinguished Scholar Award’ from the International Studies Association’s Environmental Studies Section.
  • Alan Warde received the Distinguished Service to British Sociology Award 2019 from the British Sociological Association at its Annual Conference in Glasgow on 24 April 2019.
  • Sherilyn MacGregor received a Highly Commended Award at the University’s Making a Difference Awards Ceremony 2019 in the public & community engagement category for ‘A Rubbish Night at the Museum’.
  • Ali Browne & Claire Hoolohan received a Highly Commended Award at the University’s Making a Difference Awards Ceremony 2019 in the outstanding contribution to society category for ‘Change Points for the Nexus at Home’.
  • Mike Hodson, Frank Geels & Andy McMeekin were awarded the Best Paper Prize by the journal Sustainability for their paper 'Reconfiguring Urban Sustainability Transitions, Analysing Multiplicity'.
  • Helen Holmes was awarded the Sociology University of Manchester Public Engagement Prize (Staff winner) in 2018 for her impact event ‘The Make do and Mend Expo’.
  • Helen Holmes was commended in the University of Manchester Making a Difference Awards in 2018 for her impact event ‘The Make Do and Mend Expo’.
  • Sherilyn MacGregor was awarded 1st Runner-up in the 2020 Social Movement Studies Jeff Juris Memorial Prize for Best Article Using Ethnographic Methods.

External recognition

  • Tally Katz-Gerro, Helen Holmes, and Catherine Walker were all part of the local organising committee for the European Sociological Association Annual Conference 2019 to be held in Manchester.
  • Alan Warde is an Editor of the journal Sociology, the editorship for which is currently held by Manchester Sociology.
  • Helen Holmes is a Co-editor of the journal Sociology, the editorship of which is currently held by Manchester Sociology.
  • Sherilyn MacGregor is on the Academic Board of the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society at Ludwig Maximillians University, Munich.
  • Alan Warde was elected to the Executive Committee of the European Sociological Association, 2019-2021.
  • Alan Warde received a PhD, causa honoris, Honorary Doctorate, from the University of Uppsala.
  • Dan Welch co-founded and is an editor of the academic journal Consumption and Society.
  • Helen Holmes is a co-editor of the journal Sage Journal Sociology.
  • Tally Katz-Gerro is an editor of the journal Poetics: Journal of Empirical Research on Culture, the Media, and the Arts.
  • Sherilyn MacGregor is an editor of the journal Environmental Politics.
  • Mat Paterson is a co-editor of the Review of International Studies.
  • Sherilyn MacGregor is a Member of the Advisory Group of the Just Transition Care Initiative, which is jointly promoted by the Zennström Professor of Climate Change Leadership at Uppsala University and the UNRISD’s Just Transition Research Collaborative.
  • Mat Paterson has been invited to become a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
  • Helen Holmes has been appointed as Challenge Lead for the Inclusive and prosperous futures of the Sustainable Futures platform.
  • Maria Sharmina is currently on secondment as Senior Academic Advisor role on the Net Zero Foresight project, aiming to inform the government’s net zero policies, particularly non-technological decarbonisation options.
  • Helen Holmes has been appointed as the Humanities representative on the Strategic Board of the Advanced Materials Beacon.

Knowledge exchange

One of our key objectives is developing research that advances critical understanding of sustainability issues, and using these insights to inform innovation, policy, and public debates. Throughout our history, we have consistently:

  • engaged with businesses regarding their sustainability challenges;
  • made contributions to international policy bodies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the European Environment Agency (EEA);
  • provided evidence to governments;
  • worked on government department advisory boards.

We believe that businesses, governments, and civil society organisations have a significant role to play in sustainable consumption and production, and in setting the benchmark for how society adopts and transitions toward more sustainable practices.

Policy engagement

Since 2018, SCI researchers have presented expert evidence to public policy processes including The National Food Strategy, the Waste and Resources Strategy for England, and the Greater Manchester Local Industrial Strategy.

SCI research has directly shaped the development of a range of policy initiatives at all levels of government as well as civil society, for example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the UK Women’s Budget Group Commission on a Gender Equal Economy.

SCI researchers have sought to produce work that combines the academic excellence of our research agenda with wider societal and policy relevance, which we term ‘meaningful impact’.

Tangibly, this has involved a wide-ranging programme of knowledge exchange with public, private, and non-governmental organisations.

SCI researchers have contributed to reports internationally, nationally, and regionally.

This includes, for example, reports for the IPCC and the European Environment Agency, for the Women’s Environment Network, for Oxfam America, for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Greater Manchester Housing Action and Greater Manchester Tenants Union, and in conjunction with Ethical Consumer magazine and Zero Waste Europe.

Contributing to shaping policy agendas is a key aim of SCI knowledge exchange.

Indicatively, this can be illustrated through workshops with policymakers nationally, policy consultations regionally, and with NGOs.

One key example is our government-commissioned report on the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for sustainable provision of food, mobility, and other needs in the UK.

This report fed into the strategy to capture practice changes for targets such as net zero and the circular economy.

We developed a more strategic partnership with Defra through a seconded Fellowship.

This Fellowship has been extended during the reported period, in part because of the success of an approach to systemic policy making, developed under the leadership of Boons, which is now being rolled out across Defra and which is attracting attention from other governmental departments.

Meaningful impact is also generated through the multi-year collaboration with industry that is built into several of our projects: the work on plastic and the new Circular Economy Centre on critical metals (Met4Tech) are examples of such structural engagement.

These projects deliver new products and services of participating firms.

The above is a result of our practical commitment to knowledge exchange through co-producing knowledge with collaborators in a wide range of settings, including policy arenas, with local community groups on environmental sustainability and waste reduction, and with local primary and secondary schools.

SCI researchers’ work has been featured in national, regional, and local broadcast and print media and a range of policy-focused blogs, including for the UK Energy Research Centre, Policy@Manchester, and articles for non-academic publications, such as The Conversation.


Anna-Maria Koehnke is a doctoral researcher investigating how the quality of work can and should be determined with the aim of establishing a framework called a ‘work index of wellbeing.’

As part of this she is currently building a website that uses this framework to provide information on working conditions and the quality of work more broadly, educate about work inequalities, and spark conversation between working people and policymakers to re-center work in discussions of socio-economic crises.

Once launched, the interactive website can be used by working people (i.e., the general public) but also by policymakers and researchers in the field of work.

This website is accessible to all, regardless of whether they engage in formal employment or other non-commodified types of work, and includes the following elements.

  • Interactive model of Dimensions of Work with information on working conditions
  • Self-assessment tool for evaluating one’s quality of work
  • List of support organisations, resources, and means of taking action
  • Collection of academic resources on work
  • Collection of (pop)cultural resources on work
  • Blog publishing articles by working people (including a prize draw)
  • Publication of excerpts from expert interviews

Find out more