Thematic structure

SEI’s four integrated research themes represent different perspectives on sustainable development and serve as cross-centre platforms for synthesis, learning, exchange, and leadership. Within and across the research themes, SEI explores novel research ideas and responds rapidly to knowledge gaps and emerging policy demands.

The themes generate and develop new research ideas and identify challenges that our work should address. They function as platforms for knowledge generation and as units for planning, monitoring, evaluating and communicating our achievements. The theme leadership functions as an institute-wide collective that guides the development of research and enhances its quality and relevance, together with the Research Director, Policy Director and Capacity Development Director.

Reducing climate risk

Emissions of greenhouse gases are built into our economic systems. Our research shows the benefits of a low carbon future and describes how we get there through mitigating and adapting to climate change.


Managing environmental systems

Growing populations, rapid urbanisation and increased consumption put unprecedented pressure on land, water and air resources. We show how to manage these resources together to protect food security, human health and biodiversity.

Transforming governance

Rapid social and environmental change threatens successful poverty alleviation. Unsustainable resource use traps communities in poverty. We're working to identify ways that vulnerable communities can build sustainable livelihoods.

Rethinking development

The global economy has brought welfare and prosperity to the world. But it has also depleted natural resources and vital ecosystem services. We set out alternatives for a sustainable future, from the planetary scale down to local, on-the-ground solutions.