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About the Institute for Sustainability

The Institute for Sustainability at the University of Surrey has been designed as a ‘synthesis centre’, bringing together social and natural scientists, technologists and non-academic stakeholders in the public, private and third sector to advance transdisciplinary research in sustainability. The Institute facilitates interconnections between world leading experts, and generates and promotes innovative ideas and approaches for sustainability.

Our philosophy of work

Societal change for sustainable living

Woman pulling plants out of the ground

To understand how individuals and societies can live more sustainably without compromising wellbeing, noting that societal buy-in is a necessity for progress.

This pillar will explore, for example, sustainable diets, active transport and the provision of more sustainable leisure and tourism activities, reform of economies and businesses, protection of animal welfare and nature, while simultaneously tackling increasing inequalities.

Sustainable infrastructure

A building covered in green plants

To accelerate the implementation of appropriate infrastructure for individuals, societies and businesses to act ‘sustainably’.

In this pillar we build on Surrey’s outstanding track record in the technological development of energy systems; novel foods; sustainable urban environments including green city landscapes and watershed protection; transport, travel and tourism systems; water provision; and clean air to enable radical reductions in carbon emissions and protection of the natural environment.

Holistic systems approach

Students at Guildford food market

To balance the inevitable trade-offs between the systems of provision for different needs such as energy, food, transport and housing, enabling systems analysis and modelling approaches which are vital for addressing interconnected challenges such as ‘carbon-water-food’, ‘sustainable food-health and nutrition’.

In the holistic systems approach, sustainability experts work alongside psychologists, sociologists and economists to tackle the barriers to change such as acceptability and affordability.

The foundation of the Institute for Sustainability

  • 1966

    The University is established

    Established as a University in 1966, the University of Surrey has a rich history of pioneering areas of teaching and research and was one of the first universities to offer all students an option of a year in industry.

  • 1992

    CES is founded

    In 1992, the Centre for Environment and Sustainability (CES) was established as a hub for interdisciplinary research in sustainability which quickly gained an international reputation.

  • 2016

    CUSP is launched

    The Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP) was launched in 2016, to be an international network that brings together experts from academic and non-academic backgrounds to drive the vision of sustainable prosperity for all.

  • 2020

    Net Zero target agreed

    Surrey has set the ambitious commitment to be Net Zero carbon by 2030 and – through its research and teaching – acts as a catalyst for new thinking, new collaborations, and experimentation.

  • 2021

    Climbed the impact rankings

    Surrey is ranked 55th in the world in the Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings, which assesses performance against a range of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

  • 2022

    The Institute is founded

    As part of its vision to drive research excellence, Surrey has established the Institute for Sustainability to build on its research themes and break new ground in producing world-class research, innovation and education that addresses urgent global sustainability challenges.

  • 2023

    Fellows recruited

    200+ sustainability fellows recruited and the Institute for Sustainability unveils 12 research themes

  • Moved into top 50 for sustainability impact

    University of Surrey placed 9th in the UK and 46th globally in the Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings 2023

  • Win first award

    'Remember the Future' animation wins at Cannes World Film Festival

Sustainability expertise

Home to world-leading research and innovation, the Institute for Sustainability includes a broad range of sustainability expertise across multiple disciplines in social sciences, engineering and physical sciences, and health and medical sciences, with over 40 sustainability research groups across its three faculties.