Sustainability Science: Bridging the world how it is with the world how it ought to be

In our understanding, sustainability science emerged due to a growing number of sustainability challenges (see UN Sustainable Development Goals) and has its roots in normative ethics. Sustainability science examines both conceptually and empirically the connection between the world as it is and the world as it ought to be. This implies that sustainability scientists are concerned with understanding the system ("the world as it is"), clarifying and describing what is considered desirable ("the world as it should be"), and the possible paths between them ("the connection"). This is based on the idea that the world can be viewed through a lens of systems knowledge, target knowledge and transformative knowledge. Hence, sustainability scientists find themselves in the role of change agents, understanding the system of human and nature connections, investigating which conditions in systems are sustainable, and how to design possible transformations of sustainable development.

Alternative paradigms: Exploring, investigating and evaluating

Apart from seeking a better understanding of sustainability challenges, sustainability science research explores, investigates and evaluates potential alternative paradigms that can replace the existing ones. Alternative paradigms can come from any branch of science as well as from society. A current example of a potential alternative paradigm from science is the "donut economy" by Kate Raworth (2017), which attempts to reconcile the currently dominant economic system with global justice while remaining within planetary boundaries.

Sustainability research at Leuphana

Due to the interrelationships of effects on society as a whole, drafts for possible transformations of sustainable development must be developed and implemented in collaboration, i.e. by applied inter- and transdisciplinary research approaches. Sustainability research is based on a collaboration of scientists with political decision-makers, farmers, local entrepreneurs and many other actors who are faced with special challenges that can only be successfully met based on innovative, theoretically and methodologically sound sustainability research.

Sustainability research at Leuphana contributes to the solution of sustainability problems at local, regional and international level. Joint international projects are conducted, for example, in cooperation with Arizona State University, or solutions are worked on at the regional level through transdisciplinary research in the Lüneburg region, e.g. Zukunftsstadt 2030. Further, research projects focusing on different temporal developments from short to long term, e.g. creating future scenarios. Our sustainability research projects are located in the following areas:

  1. Sustainable Chemistry: Material Resources and Material Flows
  2. Sustainability Management and Economy
  3. Sustainability Governance, Law, Politics
  4. Social-Ecological Systems; Biodiversity and Nature Conservation, Ecosystem Functions and Services
  5. Individual and Collective Learning and Behavior
  6. Transdisciplinary Sustainability Research, Methods and Ethics

An overview of the research projects carried out can be found in our database here.

Cooperations and networks

Leuphana maintains research relations and scientific networks with other renowned research institutions worldwide in the field of sustainability research.