ISDRS NEWSLETTER, Volume 2015, Issue 1

Editor: Yamini Narayanan, email

Dear reader,

We bring you the latest information about activities in our Society and activities and reflections posted by our members.


Message of the President
Member's essays
Featured discussions in our LinkedIn groups
Books and articles


Message of the President

As society we are happy to present the renewed online Newsletter, which will circulate on a regular base again. We appreciate Yamini Narayanan for her willingness to act as the Editor.

The newsletter is an essential instrument in achieving our goals: facilitating communication between the scholars in the worldwide community of sustainable development researchers. Every year on our conferences large numbers of crucial research projects are presented. These include analysis of the severity of sustainability issues and future projections of these as well as solutions and examples of implementing these. Our challenge as Society is to increase the exchange of lessons learnt of such exemplary cases. These may inspire others to follow the examples. But we must also be aware that whatever works at one place might not work elsewhere. As a global community we can arrive at a higher level of knowledge by combining our research work, sharing our lessons and comparing crucial factors for success.

In this context I call for all researchers connected to the ISDRS to actively contribute to the newsletters. One of the elements will be a short essay; fresh thoughts of what might need to be done or what was newly found. Anyone registered to the society can send such an essay to the editor. It is a format for short publication on challenging ideas, referring to crucial developments or new issues to be addressed, just between 500-2000 words. Be inspired and inspire us!

This first newsletter also contains some inputs from the 21st annual ISDRS conference. This year’s conference, held in Geelong (Melbourne), Australia and hosted by Deakin University, may have been smaller then before, but being there I felt a very positive atmosphere and I congratulate Yamini Narayanan and her team with the successful event.

There are a few of the many presentations and discussions that I want to highlight here shortly, but also read about it further on in this newsletter.

One of these was the keynote of John Thwaites (Monash University), showing their work on “Pathways to Deep Decarbonisation” and making a strong argument to go to a zero carbon emission target, and showing how this can be done. This work is extremely essential in a country with a very reluctant government on this topic. The pathways have thus also been shown for Australia and are available on the website, and any participant at the Paris COP21 Summit in December 2015 should be (made) aware of this.  

A second keynote to highlight here is the appealing talk by Clara Greed (Royal Town Planning Institute, UK) on global sanitation issues, with special attention to girls and women. Apart from denouncing the fact that over 2 billion people lack adequate toilet provision, water supply and sanitation with women being particularly badly affected, she also clearly demonstrated a male designer bias in the Western world when it comes to toilets.

These topics discussed in Geelong link to some of the major developments this late 2015, which are extremely relevant for sustainable development researchers.   

The first to mention is the last stage in determining the new UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are currently being discussed in New York. The key question at this moment is whether they will be a major step forward? The field of sustainable development has a long history of cacophonies on what the concept actually stands for. Practitioners, citizens, politicians, companies, they are all struggling to find their way through the cacophony of opinions on what sustainability means. These span from, at one side, the minimal position of just complying to regulatory requirements (which, in itself, is confusing due to contradictions and diversity in and between regulatory regimes in the >180 nations), via a wide variety of opinions available in the scientific, political and market arena’s (see useful articles in Environmental Sciences  by Du Pisani, 2006; and in Ecological Economics by Robinson, 2004) to, at the other side, some extreme positions of various idealists in civil society and academics taking positions which may even almost exclude the mere existence of businesses and modern mankind from the picture of Gaia. In this context a UN based consensus about SDGs would be very helpful. I hope this may lead to a clearer picture of what sustainable development is. However, so far I have some doubts. One of the critical issues is that the currently proposed set of SDGs mixes up end goals (solving states of unsustainability) with the means to get there (types of technologies, policies, networking, interventions) and activity fields (like cities, production and consumption). It would be better to clearly separate ‘end state’ targets (and indicators) from ‘process and policy projects’ targets and organise this as a clear theory of change.

Looking at the current set of 17 SDG’s, some of them can be linked to aspired end states in the three key issue fields of sustainable development: planet, people, prosperity. ‘People’ goals 1, 2, 3 and 5 on poverty, hunger, health and gender may well serve as desired end states, but goals 4 and 6 on education and sanitation rather refer to means to get there. The same at the ‘planet’ side: goals 13, 14 and 15 on climate, marine resources and ecosystems are representing the ecological end states, but goal 7 on energy again are ways to get there. For the ‘prosperity’ side goals 8 and 10 on sustainable growth and inequality may describe the intended end state, while goals 9 and 12 on infrastructures and consumption and production rather address again the routes. Then the last two goals 16 and 17 seem to be the leftover categories. Goal 16 combines the call for peace, justice and inclusive institutions. Yes, we may easily all agree to these, but here we mix end states and means in an incoherent way. Goals 17 is merely about the UN agenda itself, the partnerships, which refers to a policy project, but should not be presented at the same level as end states of poverty, inequality and ecosystems. I hope there will be still sufficient flexibility in the process to reshuffle the current attempts. (See more on this here)

Making sense of the concept sustainable development is getting more urgent. One other recent development I would like to refer to is the upward adjustment in the newest population predictions, as recently published by the UN DESA Population Division. The 2105 revision shows a higher longer-term prediction for 2050 then before, going up to most likely 9,7 billion people, rather than the 9 billion projected before (link). The implications are immense. We will have to further speed up innovations, identify the inefficiencies and waste in global economies and work towards a fair distribution of wealth and make our implementation strategies more effective.

This is also relevant for the upcoming COP21 in Paris, December 2015. Do we expect progress after the political stagnation in the last years? There are some promising signs at various sides of the globe, but the political world community is also occupied with various urgent pressing issues (growing flows of refugees, the destructive instability in the Middle East and Central Africa, the wavering economy of China). It is essential that the links between these various crises are seen and addressed jointly. The bigger picture is that the relations between the Old en new worlds are rearranging, in most cases directly related to the pressures exercised by unsustainable practices and structures. This brings me to my final remark.

In this context we are happy that the next 22nd ISDRS conference, coming year in July in Lisbon will address this theme of rethinking sustainability models and practices: challenges for the new and old world contexts. The hosting team led by Tomas Ramos, School of Science and Technology and the Center for Environmental and Sustainability Research, Universidade Nova De Lisboa presents their conference later in this newsletter.

Walter J.V. Vermeulen, President ISDRS



Board of ISDRS – results of annual voting process

According to the charter of the International Sustainable Development Research Society, all green+ members (these are those who are at least for 2 years member of the society) have the active and the passive voting right for the board of directors of the society. New candidates are nominated by the board; these nominations are mainly based on proposals from the members meetings hold at each annual conference. Four people were nominated for this year’s election: Walter Vermeulen (president, existing Board Member), Pauline Deutz (vice-president, existing Board Member), Rupert J. Baumgartner (executive secretary, existing Board Member) and Astrid Skjerven (New candidate Board Member). We are happy to announce that all nominees where elected with a great majority by the green+ members in an online voting process.


New board member: Dr. Astrid Skjerven

We welcome especially our new colleague in the board of ISDRS: Dr. Astrid Skjerven. Dr. Astrid Skjerven is Professor in design theory at the Department of Product Design, Oslo and Akershus University College, Norway. She has a doctorate in design history from The University of Oslo. Her special field of interest is the phenomenon of Scandinavian design in a global context, the impact of design on daily life, and cultural sustainability. She has been Co Editor of Scandinavian Journal of Design History and Leader of Docomomo Norway, and has published articles in books and international scientific journals. She is National Committee Deputy Member of the EU based COST Action of Cultural Sustainability, and is presently working with an anthology on design, culture and sustainability for Routledge.


Featured discussions in our LinkedIn group

Does monitoring ESG KPIs raise operational performance?

From the research I presented this Monday at the SDA Bocconi for the SRI Week.My study stems from the idea that the business case surrounding ESG measuring and disclosing is widely investor-centric, overlooking the informational value that internal decision-makers can find in the ESG data. Today, a top reporting company features software for data gathering and harmonization, data ownership and responsibility diffused across organizational functions, KPIs to track performance, sustainability committees to discuss results and build strategy. All these elements constitute a management control system, a tool used to maintain or alter patterns in the organization in order to achieve a competitive advantage.My panel analysis of the S&P 1200 from 2002 to 2014 shows consistent association between ESG KPIs monitoring and return on assets.more details here:


Creating a professional organization for Industrial Ecologists

You, an industrial ecologist, or environmental systems analyst?
Check out IIEP - International Industrial Ecology Professionals!
On Thursday 15th, you can join in on the online meeting to officially form the organisation. Ask for a weblink at


For all LinkedIn discussions:



Global Sit-down

On Monday November 30st, at 11.55 sustainability scientists and students all over the world walked outside to sit down. With this symbolic act they asked attention of the world leaders at COP21. The message is plain and clear: "To decision makers @COP21 Paris: we, all scientists, have done our work. We sit down. It is up to you: make the decisions now. We will help you implement!”

This was organized by a group of scientists that participated at the Global Cleaner Production & Sustainable Consumption Conference, Sitges, Barcelona, Spain, 1-4 November 2015. Together with the ISDRS they targeted many networks around the world to get them to join this global sit-down. Groups of scientists in most of the time zone did take the invitation, from Fiji to Stockholm and Cape Town and New York, Brazil and Argentina.

See for an impression the Facebook site and #globalsitdown


Groups that not yet participated are invited to sit-down at any day at their convenience at 11.55 am.

Send us the pictures to



ISDRS Conference 2016: Lisbon

The International Sustainable Development Research Society (ISDRS) is pleased to announce its 22nd Annual Conference to be held 13th-15th July 2016 in Lisbon, Portugal!

The international sustainable development research community is faced with challenging sustainability threats and opportunities for emerging and fast changing economies and societies (New World). At the same time, it carries the accumulated knowledge about the models and results of countries with relevant past experiences in dealing with sustainability issues in more stable contexts (Old World). The major theme will focus on the current sustainability strategies, policies, practices and approaches and the need to rethink their roles and applicability in different socio-cultural and economic contexts.

Researchers from around the world are invited to submit abstracts and contribute to the debates that will unfold at 22nd ISDRS conference. Please find more information on the conference website: Oral and poster presentations will be accepted and will be subjected to a review process for formal publication in the conference proceedings. Abstract submissions are due by the 15th December 2015.


ISDS 2015: Africa Summit

The 6th Annual Ibadan Sustainable Development Summit Debates the Role of Africa in Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals

Since the beginning of the 21st century, the world has been pursuing Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) which will be rounded off in 2015. The year 2015 is another critical year as the world transits to a similar development paradigm which seeks to address many of the shortcomings of the MDGs. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will replace the MDGs after 2015. It is therefore apposite to consider promises that the SDGs hold for overcoming the various development challenges in Africa. Similarly, Africa cannot afford to be left behind in the on-going global development agenda setting. The ensuing SDGs, therefore, offer another opportunity for Africa to be more proactive to ensuring sustainable development in the continent as well as progressive transformation of economies and societies.

In addition to the specific goals and targets, the post-2015 SDGs aim at integrating six essential elements (dignity, people, prosperity, planet, justice, and partnership), which are germane in the African context. We can then safely ask (howbeit rhetorically), whither Africa? Is Africa prepared? What lessons are we taking from the MDGs into the SDGs?

The summit was organised by the University of Ibadan Centre for Sustainable Development (UI-CESDEV) in collaboration with the African Sustainable Development Network (ASUDNET) and Nigeria Sustainable Development Solutions Network (NSDSN). It was held during 23 – 28 August, 2015. Theme for the summit was The Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda: Whither Africa? About 230 persons from 10 countries from Africa (Ghana, Gambia, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, Nigeria) and Europe (Italy, France, Netherlands, United Kingdom) participated at the summit. There were representatives of Governments and Non-Governmental Orgranisations, Students and Alumni Associations. Young scholars and researchers presented papers at the summit.

High-point of the summit was the setting up of five research and working groups on the Sustainable Development Goals.

For more details, please contact Dr Olawale Olayide, Secretary, Local Organising Committee via email,,


Barcelona: Cleaner Production Conference

Special ISDRS Session on “Getting Product Prices Right” at the GCPSC Conference in Spain

On November 1st, 2015 ISDRS organised a special session about approaches to calculate the ‘real’ or ‘full’ price of products. This session was part of the Global Cleaner Production & Sustainable Consumption Conference in Barcelona, Spain, 1-4 November 2015 (link).

Many plethoras for determining the value of externalities have been heart for a few decades in environmental sciences, ecological economics and in the political debate about solutions to our unsustainable economy. Once the full costs of economic activities are know, better choices can be made and costs can be adjusted by means of taxation or otherwise.

Successes had been booked in calculating externalities on the level of national economies and of investment projects.

More recently academic scholars and practitioners have been suggesting and implementing approaches to calculate externalities linked to the full life cycle of products. Determining valid full prices of products embedded in complex international value chains and reflecting the wide variety of impacts through the full life cycle on all aspects related to the ‘planet’, ‘people’, and ‘prosperity’ is a complex activity. Based on different theoretical points of departure various methodologies have been developed and both academics and practitioners have started to apply forms of calculating the ‘full prices’ of (consumer) products. Various labels have been attached to this practice, like ‘full cost accounting’,  ‘true costs’, ‘hidden prices’, ‘true prices’, ‘fair prices’, ‘green taxation’, ‘shadow prices’, ‘payments for ecosystem services’, ‘prevention costs’, and more.

During this special session various scholars who are engaged in developing and applying such approaches for (consumer) products presented their most recent work and discussed communalities and variations in the fundamental choices in their approaches, methodological issues and the challenges and opportunities for the future. Bo Weidema (Aalborg University, DK) presented his approach to calculate a social footprint, applying a top-down method based on generic data. Natasha van der Velden (Delft University, NL) presented a special case of calculating social external costs, applied to Bangladesh sourced clothing, using field data of specific supply chains. Justus von Geibler (Wuppertal Institute) presented results of the MyEcoCost project, enabling showing the key environmental impacts with mobile phone apps to be used by consumers in the shop. A fourth approach was presented by Pim Croes (Utrecht Univesity, NL) who presented his Oikonomy project, calculation of full prices based on preventative costs and voluntary certified data exchange in the supply chain.

In the workshop some of the challenges about key methodological choices (using preventative or damage costs; calculating it in general for product groups or for specific products), issues around data availability and market introduction were discussed. We will not yet see the full prices on the products in the shop soon yet, but good first steps have been made! Most important outcome of the meeting is that the presenters see good opportunities for collaboration.

Walter Vermeulen

See for more information:

- Bo Wiedema’s social footprint

- Natasha van der Velden (Delft University, NL) social external costs

- MyEcoCost Project website

- Pim Croes’ Oikonomy project 

ISDRS activity at the Global Cleaner Production & Sustainable Consumption Conference, Sitges, Barcelona, Spain, 1-4 November 2015

The ISDRS has been active at the special conference organised by the Journal of Cleaner Production and Elsevier.  The special occasion for this was the 25th anniversary of the journal, and the inspiring editorship by Don Huisingh. His ambition was to bring together the many societies, networks and initiatives active in the field of sustainable consumption and production, choosing the motto: ‘Accelerating the Transition to Equitable Post Fossil-Carbon Societies’.  They succeeded very well with having over 800 scholars present and four days of intensive and inspiring discussions.

During the conference Don Huisingh handed over the lead-editorship of the journal to the next generation. The ISDRS has always had a close relation to the journal, forwarding a lot of our conference presentations into special issues of this journal.

We want to honour Don Huisingh for his long lasting leadership in the field of cleaner production and his inspiration and encouragements to many younger scholars who followed in his footstep. Thanks Don, and continue to make the dream reality!

As with all conferences, I would like to highlight just one of the many inspiring contributions, one which I take home as ‘splendid example’. In this case this was the presentation about the Kickstart project by Angela Mason. It is possible to bring livelihood improvements to the poor in Africa, with well thought over Bottom-of-the Pyramid innovations implemented with an entrepreneurial approach. Follow my advice and look at the video’s at their website:

Walter Vermeulen


Books and articles

Edited book from the Circular Economy and Industrial Ecology working group

Pauline Deutz, University of Hull UK

Strategies for resource efficiencies and their implications have always been important topics for ISDRS. Since the 2005 conference in Helsinki, Don Lyons and I have helped to carry the baton in this area, organising sessions around industrial symbiosis and regional development, as well as industrial ecology more generally.  Coming from geography backgrounds we are keenly interested in understanding the significance of geographic (i.e., social, economic, policy, cultural) context for industrial ecology initiatives.  We were delighted to be invited, along with Jun Bi from the University of Nanjing, to edit a book exploring the variability of IE across the world.  The foundation for the book was contributions to ISDRS conference sessions, with additional invited contributions to increase the geographic and academic coverage.  This book is the first in a series ‘Studies on the social dimensions of industrial ecology’, edited for Edward Elgar by Frank Boons.  A brief overview follows.

International Perspectives on Industrial Ecology

Edited by Pauline Deutz (University of Hull, UK), Donald Lyons (University College Cork, Ireland) and Jun Bi (Nanjing University, PR China). Published October 2015.

The implementation and study of industrial ecology and related circular economy practices have become world-wide phenomena. However, awareness of the geographic context of an initiative is often limited, and its significance rarely explored. This book, with contributors and case studies from across the world makes an important contribution to the field. A range of approaches to industrial ecology are included, such as industrial symbiosis, eco-industrial parks, carbon emissions accounting, and cleaner production.  A variety of theoretical approaches are examined via a range of both quantitative and qualitative methods. 

For more information on contents, a full list of contributors and reviewers’ comments see

More information on the Circular Economy and Industrial Ecology working group can be found at


Sustainable Development: Special Issue: The Cultural Dimension of Resilience and Sustainability

Martina Keitsch

Comparatively little has been written on the cultural or social aspect of sustainability, compared to the environmental and economic aspects. Yet, it is increasingly understood and acknowledged that in many cases, cultural and social factors are the deciding factors for successful implementations of sustainability strategies.

Development interventions that are responsive to the cultural context and the particularities of a place and community, and advance a human-centered approach to development are most effective, and likely to yield sustainable, inclusive and equitable outcomes (UNESCO, 2012).

Some authors even claim that culture should be considered the fourth pillar of sustainability (Nurse, 2006). Wessels (2006) states that adding culture on its own merits to the ecological, economic and social pillar creates a holistic approach to sustainability.

This special issue is based on the need to examine the socio-cultural dimensions of sustainability (Williams 2003), which goes along with a call for interdisciplinary cooperation to meet real problems connected to a sustainable development.

The aim is to present innovative views to sustainability challenges and initiate a debate of new solutions to meet them. Three areas are thematically highlighted in this special issue:

• Overarching conception of sustainable architecture and design and their impact on a sustainable development.

• Methodologies and tools and their applications to sustainable design.

• Policy and strategy development to assess and implement sustainable design.

The contributions in this special issue analyze the cultural dimension of resilience and sustainability from various perspectives such as eco-friendly technologies, eco-city planning and development. Further, authors debate lifestyle changes, architecture and housing, and cultural sustainability as part of social innovation.

A major challenge for today’s societies lies in facilitating adequate relationships between the natural environment and peoples` activities. Incorporating the (local) cultural context into an overall sustainable development framework is emphasized in this special issue and could become  an onset for redefining the meaning and the practice of sustainable development.


Nurse, K. (2006). Culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development, Small states: economic review and basic statistics, 11, 28-40

UNESCO (2013) Managing Cultural World Heritage, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

Wessels, T. (2006). The Myth of Progress: Toward a Sustainable Future. Hanover: University of Vermont Press.

Williams, Maureen, 2003, January, Sustainable development and social sustainability. Hull, QC:

Strategic Research and Analysis, Department of Canadian Heritage. Reference: SRA-724.



This newsletter is presented by the International Sustainable Development Research Society on a regular base to all her registered Followers and Green(+) members. If you want to receive this newsletter, please register at:

Contributions to the newsletter and announcements of relevant activities are welcomed.

Please send any contribution to the editor:

Yamini Narayanan, email

Followers and Green(+) members are invited to share innovative, creative and critical ideas about about the further enhacement of sustaibale development in a short essay form. This would have a size of between 500-2000 words, follow the general rules of academic publishing (proper references etc.), but would fill the gap between journal/conference abstracts and official journal publications.