Key Topics

Derived from the recognition of planetary boundaries and the resulting necessity of fundamental social sustainability transformations, research in the profile topic of sustainability is conducted on the following four focal points:

Sustainability Transformation: Entrepreneurship, Agency and Leadership

At the micro level, sustainability transformation is initiated, shaped and implemented to a large extent by civil society and economic actors (individuals, management, entrepreneurs). In the research area "Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Action" (SEA), sustainability is examined from a psychological and educational perspective. The aim is to enable individuals to actively and informedly participate in sustainability transformation through evidence-based transparent risk communication, health interventions and negotiation strategies. To this end, research is conducted on how sustainability thinking and action develops over the lifespan, including in institutional and informal learning processes, how risks are understood and communicated by different individuals, how education for sustainable development can be effectively designed in different contexts, how sustainable health promotion can be implemented, and what characteristics distinguish multidimensional negotiations for scarce resources. From the perspective of educational science and subject didactics, Education for Sustainable Development is developed in teacher training and beyond in social learning processes. On the other hand, entrepreneurship is researched both on the personal and organisational level as a driver of sustainability transformations of the economy and society. Sustainable entrepreneurship is understood as the creation of innovative, attractive and sustainable offerings that lead to an actor-based, creative disruption of unsustainable organisations and structures in order to replace them with more sustainable ones. This research focus is concerned with both the further development of the stakeholder theory for sustainability and the measurement and control of sustainability performance of organisations (sustainability accounting) as well as the role of organisational innovations, offerings and business models for sustainable development.

Sustainability Transformation: Ecosystems, Biodiversity and Society

Drivers of non-sustainability - developments that exceed planetary boundaries - include biodiversity loss and the overexploitation of ecosystems with their central importance as spatial anchor points of social-ecological systems. The research focus ",RES" works inter- and trans-disciplinarily, among other things with the systemic approach of "leverage points". Research results from different world regions of the global North and South on ecosystem functions and services (including "Biodiversity-Ecosystem Functioning" and "Legacy-Effect" research), the renaturation of ecosystems and the relationship between food security and biodiversity protection, among others, are part of the internationally widely cited work.

Sustainability Transformation: Governance and Law

Sustainability transformation is supported by and takes place at the level of societal macro processes (e.g. macroeconomics; societal value change) and political-societal decision-making institutions (governance, law, politics), among others. The research focus ", Governance, Economics and Law for Sustainability Transformation" (GELS) is strongly evidence-oriented and investigates the sustainability impacts of different governance approaches using innovative, also meta-analytical methods. The research focus asks about the conditions for a sustainable state and community in the making. Designs for fundamental sustainability transformations are being developed in the areas of water and ocean governance, as well as the law and economy of the energy transition and the conservation of biodiversity. Transdisciplinarity plays an important role not only in methodological terms, but is itself the subject of empirical research as an interface between science and politics/society.

Sustainability Transformation: Resources, Material flows and Chemistry

Drivers of non-sustainability - developments that exceed planetary boundaries - include the burden of unsustainable material flows and high energy consumption as well as the depletion of non-renewable resources. The research focus "REM" develops innovative analysis tools and solution approaches for the sustainable design of material and energy flows in close transdisciplinary cooperation with practical actors. This includes the development of (1) new paradigms for inclusive/fairer sustainability education in the field of chemistry, as well as in chemical development ("Benign by Design", "Sustainable Separation" and "Renewable Organic Resources"), (2) integrated information systems for material flow analysis or (3) sustainable product designs ("Cradle to cradle").

Research Projects

An overview of the research projects carried out at the School of Sustainability can be found in our research database.


School of Sustainability



  • Prof. Dr. Jens Newig

Dean of Research

  • Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Stefan Schaltegger