The challenges of the 21st century such as energy system transformation, climate change, scarcity of resources, demographic change or social justice demand fundamental social transformations. Science can make key contributions to shaping these transformation processes in the sense of sustainable development, both through a better understanding of the underlying structures and dynamics and through its own involvement in concrete transformation projects.

The Robert-Bosch Foundation

The Robert-Bosch-Kolleg "Processes of Sustainability Transformation" is the first of its kind to take a systematic and comprehensive look at transformation processes towards sustainability in research from different disciplines in cooperation with and funded by the Robert-Bosch-Stiftung. The central focus is the question of the conditions for successful transformations: What do we learn from successful processes within different disciplines? What can be learned from failed or stalled processes? How do the dynamics in the different areas play out in time and space?

Graduate research Program ‘Processes of Sustainability Transformation’

funded by the Robert Bosch Foundation

Leuphana University of Lüneburg – together with the Robert Bosch foundation – started in October 2017 an exciting graduate program “Processes of Sustainability Transformation” which was aiming for the development of a rigorous, conceptual, theoretical, and methodological knowledge in the field of sustainability and transformation research, while striving to establish an innovative & tailored research program that supports the professional and personal development of the scholars. This graduate program is coming to an end in August 2021 and while this has been an exciting and challenging journey, we would like to briefly mention some of our main activities and milestones from the past few years.

Our group of 12 interdisciplinary PhDs has been engaged in researching potential drivers and barriers of sustainability transformation processes in the textile and food system. We were interested in learning from successful examples of such processes, but also from failures, whilst exploring the concept of transformation by looking at different disciplines and perspectives from across the academic literature and practice.

A brief summary of our research activities

  •  December 2017 was the official inauguration of the research group in. This two-day event brought together sustainability scientists to discuss cutting-edge approaches in transformation and transformative research. What we aimed was to foster mutual learning processes by presenting and discussing different research projects and approaches and inviting distinguished keynote speakers and international partners to bring in new insights and perspectives.
  •  In June 2018 we had the 1st joint research group retreat. The aim was to define a common vision and build a strategy of how to reach the vision and the overall project goals, while identifying options for collaboration. This was an extraordinary opportunity to discuss theoretical backgrounds and exchange ideas about possible synergies between and beyond the individual research projects.
  •  In March 2019, the research group was invited to the launch of the Future Africa Campus at Pretoria University. This trip brought the perfect opportunity for a research exploration, where the group attended a two-day ‘transdisciplinary research workshop’ bringing expertise on processes of sustainability transformation and inter – and transdisciplinary research. This created a perfect opportunity to schedule different meetings and short-term visits at different research centers, institutes and universities (such as Rhodes University, Stellenbosch, Cape Town University).
  •  In September 2019 we had the 2nd join research group retreat. Our aim was to reflect on the progress of the individual projects and think about how to use some of the outcomes of the group activities until that time.
  •  At the end of 2019 we had the 1st advisory board meeting. The goal was to reflect on the way the graduate program was designed and discuss some preliminary outcomes.
  •  In March 2020 with the global pandemic disrupting our activities we had to rethink the interaction formats and find alternative solutions for all our planned activities. Between May and September 2020, we had a series of bilateral meetings with each advisory board member. These individual discussions proved to be an especially useful way to get to know their perspectives and have more in-depth conversations based about the graduate program and the planned activities.
  •  In January 2021, we had the 2nd joint advisory board meeting, where we discussed some of the insights that came out from the bilateral discussions, what were some of the interesting themes that emerged, and we presented the plan for the graduate program’s final event.
  •  On February 16th and 17th, , we had the final event of our graduate program. This two-day event was a great opportunity for the PhDs to share research results and scientific contributions from their individual work, and to discuss their different experiences as part of the tailored graduate program, involving stakeholders and cooperation partners. Secondly, the event served as the perfect platform for dialog between scientists, practitioners, and other stakeholders to explore and discuss communication and dissemination strategies as well as future opportunities for research.

For more details about the individual PhD projects, please visit our short video series.

For details about our research group, please contact the program coordinator, Ioana Alexandra Duse at

Some of the latest publications from our research group members can be found here


Beyers F., Leventon J. (2021) Learning spaces in multi-stakeholder initiatives: The German Partnership for Sustainable Textiles as a platform for dialogue and learning? Earth System Governance, Vol.9 (100113),

Albrecht, S., & Wiek, A (2021). Food forests: Their services and sustainability. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 10(3),91–105.

Hanna Weber, David D. Loschelder, Daniel J. Lang & Arnim Wiek (2021): Connecting consumers to producers to foster sustainable consumption in international coffee supply – a marketing intervention study, Journal of Marketing Management,

Weber H and Wiek A (2021) Cooperating With “Open Cards”—The Role of Small Intermediary Businesses in Realizing Sustainable International Coffee Supply. Front. Sustain. Food Syst. 5:663716.

Stefanie Albreacht, Arnim Wiek (2021): Food forests: Their services and sustainability, Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, Vol.10, No. 3,


Felix Beyers, Harald Heinrichs (2020): Global partnerships for a textile transformation? A systematic literature review on inter- and transnational collaborative governance of the textile and clothing industry, Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 261,

Hanna Weber, Karoline Poeggel, Hallie Eakin, Daniel Fischer, Daniel J Lang, Henrik Von Wehrden and Arnim Wiek (2020): What are the ingredients for food systems change towards sustainability? —Insights from the literature, Environmental Research Letters, Vol. 15, Number 11, 

Jorge Gustavo Rodriguez Aboytes, Matthias Barth (2020): Learning Processes in the Early Development of Sustainability Niches: The Case of Sustainable Fashion Entrepreneurs in Mexico, Sustainability, Vol. 12, No. 20,

Jorge Gustavo Rodriguez Aboytes, Matthias Barth (2020): Transformative learning in the field of sustainability: a systemataic literature review (1999-2019), International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 21, No. 5,

Julius Rathgens, Stefan Gröschner, Henrik von Wehrden (2020): Going beyond certificates: A systematic review of alternative trade arrangements in the global food sector, Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 276,

Lisa Keßler, Klaus Kümmerer (2020): Sustainable Chemistry – Path and Goal for a More Sustainable Textile Sector, Sustainable Textile and Fashion Value Chains,

Sadhbh Juarez-Bourke, Ulli Vilsmaier (2020): The Semantics of Transformation: Conceptual Work for Inter- and Transdisciplinary Research based on Paulo Freire’s Approach to Literacy, Journal für Entwicklungspolitik, Vol. 36, No. 3

Stefanie Albrecht, Arnim Wiek (2020): Implementing Sustainable Food Forests – A transfer workshop for stakeholders in Arizona, Sustainable Food Economy Lab, School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona

Stephen A. Matlin, Goverdhan Mehta, Henning Hopf, Alain Krief, Lisa Keßler, Klaus Kümmerer (2020): Material circularity and the role of chemical sciences as a key enabler of a sustainable post-trash age, Sustainable Chemistry and Pharmacy, Vol. 17,


Weber, H., & Wiek, A. (2019). Sustainable International Coffee and Cacao Supply Insights from a Stakeholder Roundtable Discussion. Sustainable Food Economy Lab, School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona.

Hanna Weber, Arnim Wiek, Daniel J. Lang (2019): Sustainability entrepreneurship to address large distances in international food supply, Business Strategy and Development, Vol. 3, Issue 3,


Sadhbh Juarez-Bourke (2018): Performative Methods for Climate Change Communication in Academic Settings: Case Study of the Freiburg Scientific Theatre. In: Leal Filho W., Manolas E., Azug A., Azeiteiro U., McGhie H. (eds) Handbook for Climate Change Communications: Vol. 3, Climate Change Management, Springer, Cham,