Mr Ian Christie

Fellow, CES and Coordinator, Sustainable Lifestyles Research Group

Qualifications: BA (Hons.) Modern Languages, University of Oxford (1979); MA, Contemporary German Studies (political science and sociology), Ealing College of HE (1988)

Phone: Work: 01483 68 9612
Room no: 10 BA 02

Office hours

Mon. - Fri. 9am-6pm most days

Further information


2011 to date: Fellow, CES 

2011-2015: coordinator, Sustainable Lifestyles Research Group (programme led by Prof. Tim Jackson; funded by Defra, Scottish Government and ESRC)

1999-2011: Freelance researcher, advisor, teacher and writer on sustainable development and environmental policy. Projects for central and local government, public agencies, business, NGOs and think-tanks. Part-time policy advisor to ministers and officials on sustainable housing and climate policy, 2006-2008. Associate of Green Alliance think-tank. Visiting professor and lecturer at CES (2005-11). Chair of RESOLVE advisory group at CES, 2007-2010. Trustee of Involve; Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development; Global Action Plan. Advisory committee member for WWF-UK's global and national programmes, 2004-2010. WWF Fellow 2010-2015.

2003-2006: Joint head of sustainability and environment, economy and waste management services at Surrey County Council.

1997-1999: Deputy / acting director of Demos think-tank, London.

1995-1997: Senior consultant / Associate Director, The Henley Centre for Forecasting Ltd, London. Research programme head and lead researcher on environment and consumption. 

1986-1995: Research Fellow / Senior Fellow, Policy Studies Institute, London (now part of University of Westminster). Projects on diffusion and impacts of new technology in industry; energy efficiency; evaluation of Government business support programmes; cleaner production systems in UK industry.

1979-1986: Computer programmer, International Computers Ltd (now Fujitsu UK); technical author and manager of documentation services, K3 Software Services Ltd (now part of IBM UK).

Research Interests

  • Sustainable consumption, lifestyle change and community action for sustainability
  • Ethics of sustainability and environmental action
  • Sustainable development and policymaking
  • Planetary boundaries and governance of SD
  • Religions and environmental values

Research Collaborations

Sustainable Lifestyles Research Group: collaboration with Institute of Fiscal Studies, University of Bath, University of Sussex, Brunel University, University of Edinburgh

Research collaboration with think-tanks in recent years: ScienceWise network (Cabinet Office) on Science Horizons programme on public understanding of science and technology trends and scenarios, 2007; Theos on environmental strategy and vision for the Church of England, 2009; The Futures Company on environmental scenarios for Government departments, Environment Agency and other bodies, 2007-2010


Journal articles

  • Melville E, Christie I, Burningham KA, Way C, Hampshire P. (2017) 'The electric commons: a qualitative study of community accountability Energy Policy'. Energy Policy, 106, pp. 12-21.


    This study explores how energy might be conceptualised as a commons, a resource owned and managed by a community with a system of rules for production and consumption. It tests one aspect of Elinor Ostrom’s design principles for successful management of common pool resources: that there should be community accountability for individual consumption behaviour. This is explored through interviews with participants in a community demand response (DR) trial in an urban neighbourhood in the UK. Domestic DR can make a contribution to balancing electricity supply and demand. This relies on smart meters, which raise vertical (individual to large organisation) privacy concerns. Community and local approaches could motivate greater levels of DR than price signals alone. We found that acting as part of a community is motivating, a conclusion which supports local and community based roll out of smart meters. Mutually supportive, voluntary, and anonymous sharing of information was welcomed. However, mutual monitoring was seen as an invasion of horizontal (peer to peer) privacy. We conclude that the research agenda, which asks whether local commons-based governance of electricity systems could provide social and environmental benefits, is worth pursuing further. This needs a shift in regulatory barriers and ‘governance-system neutral’ innovation funding.

  • Clift R, Sim S, King H, Chenoweth JL, Christie I, Clavreul J, Mueller C, Posthuma L, Boulay A-M, Chaplin-Kramer R, Chatterton J, DeClerck F, Druckman A, France C, Franco A, Gerten D, Goedkoop M, Hauschild MZ, Huijbregts MAJ, Koellner T, Lambin EF, Lee J, Mair S, Marshall S, McLachlan MS, Milà i Canals L, Mitchell C, Price E, Rockström J, Suckling J, Murphy R. (2017) 'Planetary Boundaries as a Basis for Strategic Decision-making in Companies with Global Supply Chains'. Sustainability, 9 (2)


    The Planetary Boundaries (PB) framework represents a significant advance in specifying the ecological constraints on human development. However, to enable decision-makers in business and public policy to respect these constraints in strategic planning, the PB framework needs to be developed to generate practical tools. With this objective in mind, we analyse the recent literature and highlight three major scientific and technical challenges in operationalizing the PB approach in decision-making: first, identification of thresholds or boundaries with associated metrics for different geographical scales; second, the need to frame approaches to allocate fair shares in the ‘safe operating space’ bounded by the PBs across the value chain and; third, the need for international bodies to co-ordinate the implementation of the measures needed to respect the Planetary Boundaries. For the first two of these challenges, we consider how they might be addressed for four PBs: climate change, freshwater use, biosphere integrity and chemical pollution and other novel entities. Four key opportunities are identified: (1) development of a common system of metrics that can be applied consistently at and across different scales; (2) setting ‘distance from boundary’ measures that can be applied at different scales; (3) development of global, preferably open-source, databases and models; and (4) advancing understanding of the interactions between the different PBs. Addressing the scientific and technical challenges in operationalizing the planetary boundaries needs be complemented with progress in addressing the equity and ethical issues in allocating the safe operating space between companies and sectors.

  • Martin G, Clift R, Christie I. (2016) 'Urban Cultivation and Its Contributions to Sustainability: Nibbles of Food but Oodles of Social Capital'. SUSTAINABILITY, 8 (5) Article number ARTN 409
  • VENN S, BURNINGHAM K, CHRISTIE I, JACKSON T. (2015) 'Consumption junkies or sustainable consumers: considering the grocery shopping practices of those transitioning to retirement'. Ageing and Society,
    [ Status: Accepted ]


    Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015The current generation of older people who are approaching or recently experiencing retirement form part of a unique generational habitus who have experienced a cultural shift into consumerism. These baby boomers are often portrayed as engaging in excessive levels of consumption which are counter to notions of sustainable living and to intergenerational harmony. This paper focuses on an exploration of the mechanisms underpinning the consumption patterns of baby boomers as they retire. We achieve this through an understanding of the everyday practices of grocery shopping which have the potential to give greater clarity to patterns of consumption than the more unusual or ‘extraordinary’ forms of consumption such as global travel. In-depth interviews with 40 older men and women in four locations across England and Scotland were conducted at three points in time across the period of retirement. We suggest that the grocery shopping practices of these older men and women were influenced by two factors: (a) parental values and upbringing leading to the reification of thrift and frugality as virtues, alongside aspirations for self-actualisation such as undertaking global travel, and (b) the influence of household context, and caring roles, on consumption choices. We conclude with some tentative observations concerning the implications of the ways baby boomers consume in terms of increasing calls for people to live in more sustainable ways.

  • Burningham KA, Venn S, Gatersleben B, Christie I, Jackson T. (2014) '’New Motherhood: a moment of change in everyday shopping practices?’'. Young Consumers, 15 (3), pp. 211-226.


    The purpose of this paper is to draw on data from 16 interviews (two each with eight women) to explore some of the ways in which everyday shopping may change as women become mothers. The meanings, practices and implications of the transition to motherhood have long been a topic for sociological inquiry. Recently, interest has turned to the opportunities offered by this transition for the adoption of more sustainable lifestyles. Becoming a mother is likely to lead to changes in a variety of aspects of everyday life such as travel, leisure, cooking and purchase of consumer goods, all of which have environmental implications. The environmental impacts associated with such changes are complex, and positive moves toward more sustainable activities in one sphere may be offset by less environmentally positive changes elsewhere.

  • Christie I. (2014) 'Turning the Tides? Parallel Infrastructures and the Revolt of the Corporate Elites'. Addressing Tipping Points for a Precarious Future,


    © The British Academy 2013. All rights reserved.The forces which impede transformational tipping points are very strong, entrenched and locked in. To overcome these will require polycentric governance, cooperating corporations, alliances between civic and religious groups, and the onset of more autonomous yet accountable local and regional governance. These may form parallel infrastructures of change in corporate ethos and accounting, in the ecological awakening of religions, and in the effective democratization and economic autonomy of local governance.

  • O'Riordan T, Lenton T, Christie I. (2014) 'Metaphors and Systemic Change'.


    © The British Academy 2013. All rights reserved.Tipping points are metaphors of sudden change, of fear, of falling, of foreboding, and of failure. Tipping points are thresholds of tolerance, of bifurcation, and of transformation which are built into complex systems of transformation. Sudden change can arise from earth system phase changes (for example in the condition of ice, ocean acidity, drying of the tropical forests and the onset of monsoons). But they can also depict rapid shifts in geopolitics, local and regional conflicts, and in economic performance with implications for the well-being of societies all over the globe. The patterns of suddenness and aftermath of physical and socio-economic systems vary greatly. Tipping points can lead to unintended worsening, to induced vulnerabilities, to chaos and confusion in communication, and to the scope for restorative redirection. The scope for benign transformation is an intrinsic aspect of the tipping point metaphor.

Book chapters

  • Abbas K, Christie I, Demassieux F, Hayward B, Jackson TD, Pierre F. (2013) 'Sustainable consumption and lifestyles? Children and youth in cities.'. in ISSC , UNESCO (eds.) World social science report 2013: Changing Global Environments


Sustainable Development modules; CSER and ESS modules, CES; environmental ethics, FASS; University of Surrey Global Graduate Award programme on sustainable development 

Society for Sustainable Development: external tutor for Forum for the Future Scholars Master's programme delivered with Middlesex University

Departmental Duties


Academic and research management

Teaching: Sustainable Development; Corporate Responsibility; Environmental Ethics

Sustainable Development modules for MSc courses: SD Foundations and SD Applications

MSc and doctoral supervision


Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), London

Member of : IEMA, International Society for Industrial Ecology, WWF-UK, Green Alliance, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Town and Country Planning Association, International Association for Environmental Ethics

Associate/ affiliate of: Green Alliance; The Futures Company; Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development; Involve

Trustee/advisory group member: Global Action Plan; Telefonica UK Sustainability advisory group; Theos 

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Expiry Date: Monday 28 May 2012 13:57:58
Assembly date: Mon Mar 27 09:16:42 BST 2017
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