Can we have both sustainability and prosperity?

Girl is holding mesh shopping bag with vegetables without plastic bags at grocery shop.

Credit: Getty

The UK’s Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity, funded by the ESRC, is leading research into one of the most pressing questions of our times.

The UK’s Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP) is leading research into one of the big questions facing humanity. How can we increase prosperity, and lift billions of people out of poverty, while reducing environmental impacts?

The question goes far beyond technology and involves economic, societal and behavioural issues, potentially resetting our world view. Analysing these issues is vital if we are to build a fair, net-zero future.

CUSP is a successor of the Research group on Lifestyles, Values and Environment (RESOLVE) and was funded by the Economic and Social Science Research Council (ESRC) to look at these questions. CUSP works with people, policy and business to explore what prosperity means in a world of environmental, social and economic limits. This work will also develop practical steps to a future where prosperity is shared and sustainable.

International expertise

Led by Tim Jackson of the University of Surrey, the centre’s research draws together an international network of experts. With a team of over 50, CUSP informs these vital debates through research, working papers, responses to government, journal articles, blogs and public events. For example:

  • the Investing in the Future programme (external site) aims to re-define finance and investment in terms of a meaningful ‘commitment to the future’. It looks at what changes in policy and finance are needed to unlock new forms of investment for building low-carbon infrastructure, using resources better, and protecting ecosystems
  • the CYCLES programme (external site), or Children and Youth in Cities – Lifestyle Evaluations and Sustainability, is studying the lives of young urban citizens in different contexts – sharing their experiences and ideas for living well within environmental limits, and inspiring others
  • the Systems Dynamic theme (external site), which forges a ‘post-growth’ economics, is central to CUSP’s work. Historically, socially and physically grounded, its system dynamics work is developing a suite of models capable of describing sustainable economies, and the transitions to such economies, that operate within ecological limits
  • the centre provides the secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Limits to Growth (external site), a platform for cross-party dialogue and collaboration on sustainable prosperity
  • CUSP-sponsored The World We Made (external site), a play by Beth Flintoff based on Jonathan Porritt’s book. Launched in 2019, the play looks back from an imagined 2050 to tell how ordinary and extraordinary people created profound change so that the world could still ‘work’ in the face of environmental challenges.

With work ranging across the arts, politics, finance, business, and society, CUSP is exploring how prosperity can work in the 21st century so that we can make better decisions for our future.

Last updated: 7 July 2021

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