Environmental Sustainability in Immigrant Households

A three-year study funded by the Leverhulme Trust exploring how the knowledge and practices of immigrants from the Global South contribute to building just and sustainable cities in the Global North.

Two hands holding a leafy stem

[Start date 15 January 2021]

Analyses of the intersecting challenges of environmental degradation and immigration have paid little attention to the cultural dimensions of environmental problems and policy solutions at a time when many ‘first world’ cities are becoming more heterogeneous. Little is known about how culturally-specific notions of sustainability, premised on the need to reduce the impacts of Western over-consumption, are understood by immigrants with non-Western world views and lifestyles. This knowledge gap is problematic not only because the success of sustainability agendas depends on maximum societal uptake, but also because misalignment of cultural norms and practices may contribute to a lack of social cohesion in diverse cities seeking to be more inclusive.

Our project will investigate how Global South (GS) to Global North (GN) migration and the drive for urban sustainability intersect at household level in Manchester, a city-region that has both increasing immigration and ethnic diversity and aspirations to become a leading green city in Europe.

Taking a mixed-methods, co-produced approach to research we will look at how immigrants from Pakistan and Somalia, two of the largest and fastest-growing groups in Manchester, perceive the green agenda and engage in 'environmentally significant' practices in daily life. We will also investigate ways that immigrants’ engagement in sustainability practices contribute to building social cohesion and community resilience.

This will be the first in-depth study of the intersections of immigration and household sustainability in the UK.

Project objectives

  1. To identify the cultural norms, economic opportunity structures and policy prescriptions that intersect to shape the environmentally-significant household practices of GS to GN immigrants.
  2. Compare and critically consider how axes of social difference (in particular gender, class and generation) intersect with ethno-cultural and religious backgrounds in the ways that individuals perceive, respond to and are differentially-positioned in relation to the ‘green agenda’.
  3. Build a theoretical framework for social scientific studies of the cultural politics of household sustainability in urban GN contexts, and demonstrate the analytical purchase of this framework through situated analysis of data generated with immigrants and British-born residents.
  4. Use this knowledge to broaden the conceptions of sustainability that inform socio-environmental policies and research, and to engage in dialogue with key policymakers to consider how immigrant knowledges and practices contribute to just and sustainable urban environments.
  5. Develop methodological approaches for integrating attention to culture, ethnicity and country of origin into future research on household sustainability in diverse contexts.

Read the project proposal here.

Related outputs from pilot research

MacGregor, S., Walker, C., & Katz-Gerro, T. (2019) It’s What I’ve Always Done: Continuity and Change in the Household Sustainability Practices of Somali Immigrants in the UK, Geoforum, 107, 143-153.

MacGregor, S., Walker, C., Katz-Gerro, T, Abdisamad, S. & Abdulrahman, S. (2019) Challenging Assumptions, Enabling Inclusivity: A report on research about environmental sustainability with Somali residents of Moss Side. Online:

download a copy of this report in English (PDF, 5.1mb).

download a copy of this report in Somali (PDF, 5.1mb).

Research team