2016 to date: Senior Lecturer in social science of sustainable development, CES. Co-investigator in Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP) and Centre for Evaluation of Complexity across the Nexus (CECAN).
2011-2015: Fellow, CES, and coordinator, Sustainable Lifestyles Research Group (programme led by Prof. Tim Jackson; funded by Defra, Scottish Government and ESRC)
1999-2011: Independent 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.
Visiting Professor and regular guest lecturer at CES (2005-11). Chair of RESOLVE advisory group at CES, 2007-2010.
Work with NGOs:
Former 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. Current trustee of Economic Change Unit, New Economics Foundation, Perspectiva. WWF Fellow, 2010 to date. Associate of Green Alliance think-tank, 1999 to date. Environmental advisor to Church of England, dioceses of Guildford and Southwark, 2009 to date.
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. Projects on diffusion and impacts of new technology in industry; energy efficiency; evaluation of Government business support programmes; take-up of 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).
Areas of specialism
University roles and responsibilities
- Academic and research management
Affiliations and memberships
Business, industry and community links
- Processes of change towards sustainability in values, policy, consumption and production
- Ethics of sustainability and environmental action
- Sustainable development and democratic governance
- Planetary boundaries framework
- Elinor Ostrom's commons framework for sustainable resource governance
- Religions and environmental values.
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.
I teach and supervise on: Sustainable Development concepts, policies and applications; ethics of sustainability and the environment; politics, social change and political economy in relation to sustainability.
Teaching on MSc Modules: co-leader of Foundations and Applications of Sustainable Development modules ; sessions on Corporate Social and Environmental Responsibility and Environment, Science and Society modules, CES.
Lectures at UG and PG level on environmental ethics on courses in Surrey School of Tourism and Hospitality Management and Surrey Business School; sessions in University of Surrey Global Graduate Award UG programme on sustainable development.
Previous teaching included over 10 years as lead tutor for Society for Sustainable Development for Forum for the Future's Master's programme delivered with Middlesex University.
I supervise PhD and MSc students across all my areas of interest and expertise and currently have 10 PhD students. Examples of current PhD projects: advocacy movements for rapid climate action; promoting sustainable food choices; promoting sustainable behaviour change in a UK hospital; understanding and implementing Net Environmental Gain in local development schemes.
Peer-reviewed journal papers
Christie, I., Gunton, R. and Hejnowicz, A. (2019), Sustainability and the Common Good: Catholic Social Teaching and ‘Integral Ecology’ as contributions to a framework of social values for sustainability transitions. Sustainability Science, September 2019, Volume 14, Issue 5, pp 1343–1354.
Kenter, J, Raymond C, Azzopardi, E, Brear, M, Calcagni, F, Christie, I, Christie, M, Fordham, A, Gould, R, Ives, C, Hejnowicz, A, Gunton, R, Horcea-Milcu, A-I, Kendal, D, Kronenberg, J, Massenberg, J, O’Connor, S, Ravenscroft, N, Raymond, I, Rawluk, A, van Riper, C, Rodríguez-Morales, J. (2019), Loving the mess: Navigating diversity and conflict in social values for sustainability. Sustainability Science, September 2019, Volume 14, Issue 5, pp 1439–1461
Elf, P., Gatersleben, B. and Christie, I. (2019), Facilitating positive spillover effects: New insights from a mixed-methods approach exploring factors enabling people to live more sustainable lifestyles, Frontiers in Psychology (Environmental Psychology section), 31st January 2019: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02699/full
Oakley, K., Ward J. and Christie I. (2018), Engaging the imagination: ‘new nature writing’, collective politics and the environmental crisis, Environmental Values. Vol. 27, issue 6
Christie, I and Warburton, D. (2001), From Here to Sustainability: politics in the real world, Earthscan: London
Carley, M and Christie, I (2000, second edition; first edition 1993), Managing Sustainable Development, Earthscan: London.
Christie, I et al (1995), Cleaner Production in Industry, Policy Studies Institute: London.
Christie, I and Ritchie, N (eds) (1991), Energy Efficiency: the policy agenda for the 1990s, Policy Studies Institute: London.
Higher education institutions (HEIs) have been urged to integrate sustainability across all their structural and organizational dimensions. A promising area of research and practice that can help to deliver this is organizational change management for sustainability. While this field has received increasing attention over the past decade, a comprehensive assessment is still lacking. Therefore, a systematic quantitative review was carried out to summarize and synthesize the academic literature on organizational change management approaches that aim to holistically embed sustainability in HEIs. Furthermore, this review aims to illustrate what change factors have been observed and how they have been analyzed, and from this highlight implications for practice and pathways for future research. The literature reviewed puts strong emphasis on change processes and human factors, as well as elements of the institutional framework, such as vision and strategy. The findings highlight the value of strategic and reflective actions, the importance of understanding and actively shaping change processes, and that change towards sustainability requires broad stakeholder input and commitment. This review serves as an important reference point for future research and practice.
It is widely acknowledged that the large-scale and long-term transitions needed to mitigate climate change and to implement policies for sustainable development within planetary boundaries require significant shifts in values and behaviours. Consequently, there is increasing interest in the processes through which major societal transitions for sustainability can occur through peaceful cooperation and widespread embrace of pro-environmental values, and the values associated with the broad concept of sustainability such as care for the interests of future generations and concern for the poor. This encompasses the search for compelling narratives to frame the process and goals of change and the need for the fostering of virtues and ethical frameworks of identity and practice that can underpin advocacy and change for sustainability. This requires drawing on richer sources of values and ethics. We suggest that important resources can be found in religious, as well as secular traditions of social values and ethical analysis. While major religions have begun to reflect environmental concerns and sustainability goals in their theology and praxis, with immense potential and actual influence over value and behaviours, little research has explored the impacts and implications of this development; nor indeed, the intellectual stimulus and social capabilities they can offer to secular thinkers and practitioners in sustainable development. In particular, we argue that there is a need to consider the affinities between secular sustainability frameworks for ethics and policy and the concepts of Catholic Social Teaching (CST) on the Common Good, recently updated by Pope Francis to integrate ecological concern and a call for universal ‘ecological conversion’ and cooperation. We outline the key features of CST and the Pope’s new ‘ Integral Ecology ’ framework and identify affinities, in particular, with Elinor Ostrom’s system of design principles for sustainable management of commons. We conclude with suggestions for research to investigate the interrelationships of the Integral Ecology reframing of CST with initiatives for transformational change in values and practices for sustainability.
This paper concludes a special feature of Sustainability Science that explores a broad range of social value theoretical traditions, such as religious studies, social psychology, indigenous knowledge, economics, sociology, and philosophy. We introduce a novel transdisciplinary conceptual framework that revolves around concepts of ‘lenses’ and ‘tensions’ to help navigate value diversity. First, we consider the notion of lenses: perspectives on value and valuation along diverse dimensions that describe what values focus on, how their sociality is envisioned, and what epistemic and procedural assumptions are made. We characterise fourteen of such dimensions. This provides a foundation for exploration of seven areas of tension, between: (1) the values of individuals vs collectives; (2) values as discrete and held vs embedded and constructed; (3) value as static or changeable; (4) valuation as descriptive vs normative and transformative; (5) social vs relational values; (6) different rationalities and their relation to value integration; (7) degrees of acknowledgment of the role of power in navigating value conflicts. In doing so, we embrace the ‘mess’ of diversity, yet also provide a framework to organise this mess and support and encourage active transdisciplinary collaboration. We identify key research areas where such collaborations can be harnessed for sustainability transformation. Here it is crucial to understand how certain social value lenses are privileged over others and build capacity in decision-making for understanding and drawing on multiple value, epistemic and procedural lenses.
Retailers can play an important role in facilitating a transition to sustainable diets in the UK. They have been implementing strategies aimed at helping customers make healthier choices and are now considering how to broaden this to include sustainability, which is a live discussion in the UK retail sector. Focusing on ‘less and better’ meat and dairy as a core component of sustainable diets, this study investigates retailer perceptions of sustainable diets and their strategies and challenges to provide and promote customer purchasing of ‘less and better’ meat and dairy. Results from a series of semi-structured interviews with senior health and sustainability professionals within the UK retail sector indicate that retailers have a diverse understanding of sustainable diets that seldom includes ‘less and better’ meat and dairy. Retailers are adopting a range of different strategies linked to ‘less and better’ meat and dairy – from improving the sustainability of their meat and dairy supply chains to influencing customer purchasing through ‘nudge’ interventions. While strategies related to ‘better’ meat and dairy are being adopted, no retailer is implementing interventions focused on reducing purchasing of meat products. The promotion of sustainable diets is seen by some retailers as a way of positively engaging with customers and improving brand loyalty, but there are external barriers to reducing purchasing of meat and dairy products that are beyond the direct control of the retailer.
Facilitating the adoption of more sustainable food behaviors is key in order to reduce pressure on nature and improve public health. Food businesses that interact directly with consumers are well placed to enable a positive change in food behaviors. The present study evaluates the effectiveness of a 9-week multi-component behavioral intervention implemented by a large UK food retailer. Three food behaviors were explored: meat consumption, food waste and scratch cooking. Evaluation methods comprise of surveys issued pre-intervention, at intervention-end and at delayed follow-up (3 months after intervention end), and focus groups where participants were divided according to life-stage (pre-family, family, retired). Results show the intervention mitigated individual barriers to change and had a positive impact on awareness, intention and behavior which lasted beyond intervention-end. Participants reported reducing their meat consumption and food waste and cooking more frequently from scratch. Findings indicate that the online community, ‘ask the expert’ videos and product samples were the most impactful intervention components, while recipes and cook-alongs were less effective. This study provides an effective and feasible intervention which could be implemented and scaled by food companies. While behavioral interventions offer a positive opportunity for companies to drive consumer behavior change, structural and cultural changes to the food environment will be needed to facilitate long-term change at scale.
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.
The contemporary interest in urban cultivation in the global North as a component of sustainable food production warrants assessment of both its quantitative and qualitative roles. This exploratory study weighs the nutritional, ecological, and social sustainability contributions of urban agriculture by examining three cases—a community garden in the core of New York, a community farm on the edge of London, and an agricultural park on the periphery of San Francisco. Our field analysis of these sites, confirmed by generic estimates, shows very low food outputs relative to the populations of their catchment areas; the great share of urban food will continue to come from multiple foodsheds beyond urban peripheries, often far beyond. Cultivation is a more appropriate designation than agriculture for urban food growing because its sustainability benefits are more social than agronomic or ecological. A major potential benefit lies in enhancing the ecological knowledge of urbanites, including an appreciation of the role that organic food may play in promoting both sustainability and health. This study illustrates how benefits differ according to local conditions, including population density and demographics, operational scale, soil quality, and access to labor and consumers. Recognizing the real benefits, including the promotion of sustainable diets, could enable urban food growing to be developed as a component of regional foodsheds to improve the sustainability and resilience of food supply, and to further the process of public co-production of new forms of urban conviviality and wellbeing.
This paper explores the potential of ‘new nature writing’ – a literary genre currently popular in the UK – as a kind of arts activism, in particular, how it might engage with the environmental crisis and lead to a kind of collective politics. We note the limitations of the genre, notably the reproduction of class, gender and ethnic hierarchies, the emphasis on nostalgia and loss, and the stress on individual responses rather than collective politics. But we also take seriously the claims of art to enable us to imagine other futures, suggesting that new nature writing has the potential to play a role in collective forms of environmental justice and capabilities.
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.
Orchestration requires political commitment and engagement on the basis of evidence, knowledge and progress-checking. Local actors face challenges in compiling carbon baselines that offer useful production and consumption emissions.
Positive spillover occurs when changes in one behavior influence changes in subsequent behaviors. Evidence for such spillover and an understanding of when and how it may occur are still limited. This paper presents findings of a 1-year longitudinal behavior change project led by a commercial retailer in the United Kingdom and Ireland to examine behavior change and potential spillover of pro-environmental behavior, and how this may be associated with changes in environmental identity and perceptions of ease and affordability as well as perceptions of how participation in the project has helped support behavior change. We draw on both quantitative and qualitative data. Study 1 examines quantitative data from the experimental and a matched control group. Study 2 reports qualitative findings from a follow up interview study with participants of the experimental group. As expected, we found significant changes in reported pro-environmental behavior and identity in the experimental group as well as some indications of behavioral spillover. These changes were not significantly associated with changes in environmental identity. The interviews suggested that group dynamics played an important role in facilitating a sense of efficacy and promoting sustained behavior change and spillover. Moreover, the support by a trusted entity was deemed to be of crucial importance.
The commoning approach to climate action collectively claims, creates and stewards the net-zero infrastructure. Commoning invites people to participate in the transition, to have a stake, not just a say, and shape their response.
The database is the foundation for the article “Organizational Change Management for Sustainability in Higher Education Institutions: A Systematic Quantitative Literature Review” published in Sustainability (https://doi.org/10.3390/su13137299). The article summarizes and synthesizes the academic literature on organizational change management approaches that aim to holistically embed sustainability in HEIs. The database contains all papers included in and categories for analysis, as well as definitions of codes, and a list of full-text papers assessed. The theoretical framework underpinning the database and the methods for creating it can be found in the article.
The crisis of climate disruption and shortcomings in top-down approaches has focused attention on the effectiveness of governance to achieve climate goals. New sub-national governance models such as business alliances, city networks and NGO coalitions have emerged; such institutional ‘re-making’ is often motivated by frustration at national inaction, and by a belief thatlocal actors offer an effective ‘bottom-up’ approach. Literature on the emergence of climate-led multi-level and polycentric governance focuses primarily on cities; the role of urban-rural counties and of the micro-level of local government, and the challenges and opportunities before them, is less well studied. This paper draws on work in progress in a study exploring progress, challenges and failings in UK climate governance across multiple levels of county-based government: Surrey, an area of towns, peri-urban districts and countryside, is offered as a case study, with a focus on micro-level action in small towns and parishes. We find that despite a lack of national government orchestration or sub-regional frameworks, climate action is occurring voluntarily at all levels of governance. However, the nature of action is variable and irregular and there is little evidence as yet to demonstrate effectiveness. A fragmented form of multi-level governance is observed, with limited upward flows of ideas and no indication of national interest in micro-local climate lessons and experience. We identify the importance of ‘wilful actors’ and the need for greater coordination, information- and knowledge-sharing networks to achieve effective institutional ‘remaking’ for climate action.
To enable a transition to a more sustainable food future, it is crucial policymakers consider and address livestock production and meat consumption holistically. The concept of ‘less and better’ meat and dairy offers an alternative approach to industrial livestock production. This study explores perspectives of UK stakeholders engaged in political advocacy and implementation on policy priorities and specific policy measures aimed at facilitating a transition to ‘less and better’ meat in the UK. 16 UK experts on food and farming from the research, civil society, business and farming sectors were interviewed. Thematic analysis was conducted to identify convergence and divergence on views related to policy priorities and the potential for impact, political feasibility and unintended consequences of specific policy measures aimed at increasing the sustainability of livestock production or reducing meat consumption. Experts agreed on policy priorities but held divergent views on the potential for impact of specific policy measures. Economic structures including incentives, disincentives and food prices were highlighted as having the greatest influence over meat production and consumption practices.
Melville, E., Burningham, KA, Christie, I, and Smallwood, B. (2018), Equality in local energy commons: a UK case study of community and municipal energy. Rassegna Italiana di Sociologia, vol. LVIX, no. 2, April-June
Melville, E., Christie, I., Burningham, KA, Way, C. and Hampshire, P. (2017), The electric commons: a qualitative study of community accountability. Energy Policy, 106.
Clift, R., Sim, S., King, H.,Chenoweth, J.L., Christie, I. et al (2017). The Challenges of
Applying Planetary Boundaries as a Basis for Strategic Decision-Making in Companies with Global Supply Chains. Sustainability, 9, 279.
Martin, G, Clift R and Christie, I (2016), Urban Cultivation And Its Contributions To Sustainability: Nibbles Of Food But Oodles Of Social Capital, Sustainability, 8 (5),10.3390su8050409
Jones, A, Mair, S, Ward, J, Druckman, A, Lyon, F, Christie, I, Hafner, S. (2016): Indicators for Sustainable Prosperity? - Challenges and potentials for indicator use in political processes. CUSP Working Paper No. 03 . Guildford: University of Surrey.
Jackson, T, Burningham, B, Catney, P, Christie, I, Davies, D, Doherty, B, Druckman, A, Hammond, M, Hayward, B, Jones, A, Lyon, F, Molho, N, Oakley, K, Seaford, C and Victor, P. (2016) : Understanding sustainable prosperity - toward a transdisciplinary research agenda. CUSP Working Paper No 1. Guildford: University of Surrey
Christie, I., The Pope and the Planet: waiting for Francis. Theos, 17th June 2015. https://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/comment/2015/06/17/the-pope-and-the-planet-waiting-for-francis
Venn, S., Burningham, K., Christie, I., and Jackson, T., (2015) , Consumption junkies or sustainable consumers: considering the grocery shopping practices of those transitioning to retirement. Ageing and Society: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X15000975
Clift, R., Druckman, A., Christie, I., Kennedy, C., & Keirstead, J. (2015). Urban metabolism: a review in the UK context. UK Government Office for Science Foresight programme Future of Cities. https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/future-of-cities
Burningham, K., Venn, S., Christie, I., Jackson, T., Gatersleben, B. (2014). New motherhood: a moment of change in everyday shopping practices? Young Consumers. 15, 3, 211-226.
Clift, R. Druckman, A. Christie, I. Keirstead, and J. Kennedy, C. (2014). The Future of Cities: Urban Metabolism, working paper for Foresight/Cabinet Office programme on the Future of Cities. Government Office for Science: London.
Burningham, K., Venn, S., Sammes, J., Gatersleben, B., Christie, I. and Jackson, T. (2014). ELiCiT: Exploring Lifestyle Changes in Transition: a longitudinal mixed method approach, , SAGE Cases in Methodology, Sage: London
O’Riordan, T., Lenton, T. and Christie, I. (2013), Tipping points and critical thresholds: metaphors and systemic change, in O’Riordan, T. and Lenton. T. (eds), Addressing Tipping Points for a Precarious Future, Oxford University Press & The British Academy: Oxford.