Sustainability research projects

Presented by the Lund Institute for Sustainability Impact

At LUSEM, we are conducting a lot of relevant research in the area of sustainability. On this webpage, we aim to present some of the research in video format.

The ambition with launching these research films is to highlight what exiting research projects our LUSEM researchers are engaged in. You will see that the projects span over a variety of sustainability topics and explore research questions related to environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainability.

We hope that these films will contribute to strengthen our research collaboration within LUSEM, but also that researchers beyond LUSEM will identify researchers and projects that they want to engage with for research collaboration and joint research applications. We also see these films as a great opportunity for various stakeholders in the private and public sector to learn a bit more about sustainability research conducted at LUSEM. Hopefully, this will result in valuable collaboration between our researchers and external partners. This will promote co-creation, knowledge sharing and capacity building, which the Lund Institute for Sustainability Impact believes are vital for achieving an efficient transformation of our lives, regions and organisations to more sustainable.

Video presentations of current sustainability research projects

Interview: Fredrik NG Andersson on his research

Title of project: Financing Industrial Decarbonization. Managing risk and uncertainties to promote green investments in the energy intensive industries.

What is your project about? Decarbonizing the energy-intensive industries is a challenge. Unlike many other industries, incremental technological change is insufficient to decarbonize ENRI. Instead, large-scale investments in radically new technologies are necessary. Funding these investments is a key problem. Radical technological change are associated with higher technological, political, and economic risks and uncertainties compared to e.g. incremental technological change. Higher risk levels reduces investors’ willingness to fund the necessary investments leading to a lack of funding.

We contribute to the literature by i) identifying which the technological, economic, and political risks are, ii) studying how the identified risks are perceived and managed by firms, investors, and policymakers, and iii) to provide solutions to mitigate the risks and uncertainties and improve the handling of them. 

Which theoretical framework and research methodologies do you adopt? 

We explore the issue from an interdisciplinary perspective. At the core are transition theories, theories of learning and radical change. Empirically we rely on macroeconomic data, surveys and interviews.

How can your project(s) lead to sustainable impact?

Our aim is to provide an enhanced understanding of the key risks and uncertainties that the energy-intensive industries face and provide practical advice how to mitigate these risks and uncertainties. And, thus indirectly contribute to increasing the level of funding available for these industries to invest in new technologies.

Learn more about Fredrik NG Andersson's research in the Lund University Research Portal

Interview: Susanne Arvidsson on her research

Title of project: Studies on how to achieve a sustainability transformation of business industry and financial markets

What is your project about? 

I have the privilege to be involved in several research projects, most of which are related to the ongoing sustainability transformation of business industry and financial markets. These projects adopt environmental, social, as well as economic dimensions of sustainability and are centered around, e.g., sustainable finance, ESG performance, responsible consumption and production, industrial decarbonatization and sustainability reporting.

We are, for example, studying what roles the newly launched and upcoming polices and regulations (e.g. the revised CSRD, the EU Taxonomy, the TCFD framework and transition finance) play in the sustainability transformation of business industry and financial markets. In various ways, the projects aim at enhancing our understanding of how learning and knowledge sharing among, and between, industry, financial market actors, and policymakers can promote the achievement of an efficient implementation of Agenda 2030.

Which theoretical framework and research methodologies do you adopt? 

The projects adopt different theoretical frameworks. Adopted theories include the theories of legitimacy, stakeholder, framing. We also apply mixed methodological approaches including both quantitative and qualitative methods.

Does your projects involve any external partners and if so, how do you collaborate? 

Many of the research projects involve external partners from policy, industry and financial markets. Depending on the project, external partners are engaged in co-creation, knowledge sharing and capacity building.

How can your projects lead to sustainable impact?

One of the projects, aims at improving the value relevance, credibility and comparability related to how organisations’ perform on the different sustainability arenas (e.g., anticorruption, human rights, diversity, emissions, biodiversity, resource efficiency). This will contribute to the acceleration and redirection of financial flows towards organisations that perform well on these sustainability arenas. Another project aims at enhancing our understanding of how learning and knowledge sharing take place among, and between, industry, financial market actors, and policymakers. This will hopefully help us to develop more effective policies, regulations and incentives that can promote the achievement of an efficient implementation of Agenda 2030.

Learn more about Susanne Arvidsson's research in the Lund University Research Portal

Professor Ester Barinaga’s research film will soon be launched.

Interview: Ester Barinaga on her research

Title of projects, what they are about and partners:

I am involved in three different research projects, all related to local complementary currencies as tools to build more sustainable and inclusive cities.

The three projects are:

“Grassroots Financial Innovations for Inclusive Economic Growth”, funded by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I coordinate the project.

The project investigates the governance practices, impacts and diffusion of grassroots innovations, which are developing financial and monetary infrastructures for inclusive economic growth in urban informal settlements in African countries. It is informed by the case of community currencies in the informal settlements of Kenya’s three major cities (Mombasa, Nairobi and Kisumu). Running throughout four years (2019-2023), the project uses a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods, all within a participatory action research approach. The project builds on collaborations with resident associations and community-based organisations in three informal settlements in Kisumu, the Kisumu County Council as well as Jaramogi University, Copenhagen Business School, Lund University and University of Gothenburg. The project brings together monetary and grassroots innovation studies in interdisciplinary research, contributing to the development and diffusion of financial and monetary infrastructures for urban informal settlements, and indicating a novel route for social enterprise and development aid.

“Special Purpose Money: Complementary digital currencies and the sustainable development goals”, funded by Formas. The research collaboration is led by Alexander Paulsson (Lund University).

The project investigates the foundation of special-purpose digital currencies (SPDC) and the extent to which their infrastructure enable the creation of a complementary socio-economic system that captures and transacts value realms other than those recognised by general purpose money (GPM). Building on a systematic review of the literature on local complementary economy initiatives as well as on empirical research of international case studies, the project aims to identify the factors, the stakeholders and monetary design traits required for the development of a SPDC that would encourage sustainable production and consumption. The research collaboration includes research institutions from five countries – Lund University in Sweden, Getulio Vargas Foundation and Sao Paulo Business School in Brazil, HEC Montréal Business School in Canada, Brunel University London in the UK, and Maastricht University in The Netherlands

“Complementary currency based Universal Basic Income (CC-UBI)”, funded by FRIBIS. I coordinate the project.

The project investigates the design and governance of UBI programs based on complementary currencies (CC-UBI), which are developing monetary and welfare infrastructures for inclusive, fair and sustainable economies. The project aims to build an empirically calibrated model of how the various levers of monetary and governance designs affect variables of economic and social interest – such as economic activity, savings, and citizen engagement – with a view to inform on the use of those levers to make CC-based UBI programs sustainable. The research collaboration includes the University of Girona (Spain) and Bard College (US).

Which theoretical framework and research methodologies do you adopt? 

Theoretically, all three projects bring together monetary theory, political economy and grassroots innovation. This means building on the insights and concepts from an interdisciplinary range, from Ostrom’s political economy of the commons, to ANT sociology of translation and Baumol’s insights on entrepreneurship.

Research methods are interventionist, actively taking part in the grassroots entrepreneurial processes I also study. Typically, this involves a mix of qualitative empirical methods ranging from interviews and ethnographic observations to participatory co-design workshops and town halls.

How can your projects lead to sustainable impact?

Through the three projects, we hope to gain a better understanding of the diffusion strategies of grassroots currency innovations as well as of the monetary designs and governance rules that lead to sustainable, resilient and inclusive local community economies.

Learn more about Ester Barinaga's research in the Lund University Research Portal

Interview: Cristián Ducoing on his research

Title of project: Genuine Savings as a measure of sustainable development. Towards a GDP replacement.

What is your project about? 

This project aims to trace levels of sustainability from the mid 19th century to today using an approach called Genuine Savings (henceforth, GS) . GS is an indicator that was developed  by researchers at the World Bank in the 1990s that measures progress and development. It has proven to be an relevant indicator of sustainable development.

Based on the concept of wealth accounting, GS addresses shortcomings in conventional metrics of economic development by incorporating broader measures of saving, including human capital , and natural capital. The latter by accounting for social costs of pollution and natural resource depletion.

The value of GS as an indicator is determined the possibility to predict future standard of living on basis of genuine savings of the past. A central shortcoming of GS data provided by the World Bank is its limited historical coverage. Our project addresses this gap by providing consistent historical estimates of GS since 1850.

Which theoretical framework and research methodologies do you adopt? 

We use the theoretical framework of the economics of sustainable development which is based on intergenerational well-being. One aspect of this is the assumption of weak sustainability, which assumes substitutability between types of capital. For example $1 of oil can be reinvested in education or building new plant and machinery. We also draw on historical national accounts and natural capital estimations.  After the main data collection, we will pursue several econometrics approaches to forecast future trends and to estimate the effects on wellbeing by GS. 

Does your project involve any external partners and if so, how do you collaborate? 

There are two international members of the project, Eoin Mclaughlin (University College of Cork) and Les Oxley (University of Waikato). Besides these members, the project has a network of collaborators in Spain, Denmark, Uruguay, The United Kingdom and Sweden. We collaborate mainly through papers, working papers and the data (open to the public). 

How can your project lead to sustainable impact? 

We believe that the most widely used measure of economic activity (GDP) is not a suitable indicator for SDGs. Alternative measures of development, including the harmful externalities of economic growth,  are a better orientation point for policy makers.

Learn more about Cristián Ducoing's research in the Lund University Research Portal

Interview: Ellen Hillbom on her research

Title of project: Sustainable development in Small Island States

What is your project about? 

We study Small Island Developing States, SIDS, opportunities to achieve sustainable growth while improving the living standards and capabilities of their citizens. Historically, they have shared challenges such as low human capital, remote locations, limited land-based resources, susceptibility to natural disasters, and high dependency on trade and aid. Today their transformation must happen quickly and in innovative ways because SIDS are particularly vulnerable to the repercussions of global economic competition and Climate Change.

Which theoretical framework and research methodologies do you adopt? 

We explore the idea that SIDS’s transformative capacity determines their ability to proactively find solutions to both the general and unique threats they are facing. Each state’s capacity is context specific and the outcome of cumulative long-term processes of change. We have a multi-faceted level of analysis (macro, meso, micro) to make a holistic swoop. We apply a mixed method approach consisting of both quantitative and qualitative studies and with a clear emphasis on comparison.

How can your projectlead to sustainable impact?

Within the group of SIDS there are lessons to be learned from both success and failure in terms of all three pillars of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental. But SIDS are also of a global relevance because they are forerunners into a future of extreme weather, technological change, innovative solutions, and shifts in political focus.

Learn more about Ellen Hillbom's research in the Lund University Research Portal

Interview: Andreas Inghammar on his research

Title of project: Global Collective Agreements as instruments for the establishment of rights and duties on the global labour market

What is your project about?

The project concerns the global labour market and the lack of legal accountability in global supply chain product especially in the garment industry despite improved international legislation, not least from the ILO and escalating CSR regulation and consumer awareness over the past 30 years. The project monitors the possible role of the relatively new feature “global collective or global framework agreements” might have in the promotion of workers’ rights and corporate responsibilities also in supply chains.

Which theoretical framework and research methodologies do you adopt? 

The project primarily engages with legal methodology, focusing international and domestic legal sources in a larger perspective, including collective agreements as a legal, usually binding, tool. Secondly the project adopts a qualitative method for parts of the research questions, investigating how the global collective agreements are perceived by industrial partners on local and central level. The overarching analysis departs from an legal and societal understanding of the applied law as an interface between traditional legal instruments (statutory law and international law) and private legal instruments such as contractual arrangements (including to some extent CSR) and collective agreements.

Does your project involve any external partners and if so, how do you collaborate? 

The project has been carried out in collaboration with external partners, not least the Phnom Penh office of Raoul Wallenberg Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, but also in collaborating with local partners such as NGOs, trade unions and ILO Better Work Cambodia.

How can your project lead to sustainable impact?

The project provides an opportunity to engage with the important (but sometimes neglected) sustainability issue of social development and social rights and deepens the understanding of supply chain liabilities and opportunities and legal inventions for the establishment and promotion of social sustainable development in a consumer-oriented market (the garment and fashion industry) which has been particularly affected by globalisation. We are all happy to purchase cheap clothes from global brands, but less eager to look behind the curtain and into the conditions in the business, especially since the manufacturing of the products is carried out in the global south. The SDGs addresses social sustainable development in a broader sense, but the establishment, implementation and enforcement of such rights across different jurisdictions and corporate structures, requires significant legal analysis, not only on the jurisdictional limitations of black-letter law, but also on the perception and understanding – and perhaps innovation – of legal instruments.

Learn more about Andreas Inghammar's research in the Lund University Research Portal

A message from Susanne Arvidsson, director of the Institute

To our students:

Psst! If you are a student and do not want to review a whole research film, please go to the last slide in the films. Here, I have asked the researchers to include a slide with relevant research questions. Maybe these questions can inspire you when you are in the process of deciding what to focus your thesis projects on. You can also review the short text in relation to the films to find out more about our researchers’ projects.    

To our LUSEM researchers:

If you are interested in making a film highlighting your sustainability research projects, please contact me at susanne.arvidsson@fek.lu.se.

Last published: 2021-06-01