Centre for Environment and Society (CES)

Picture of road through fields

We are committed to informing the global transition to a green economy

We bring together world-leading, impact-focused research on all aspects of sustainability science being undertaken at our University.

We work closely with a range of local, regional, national and international groups, developing and deepening these relationships to enhance understanding, engagement and impact. With a diverse range of members, our Centre is home to a number of staff from a variety of departments, including; Essex Business School, School of Life Sciences, Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies, Department of Economics, Department of Sociology, Department of Law, and the Department of Government 

We bring together world-leading and impact-focused research on all aspects of sustainability science being undertaken at our University, including significant expertise on the social dimensions of sustainability challenges and solutions. Throughout our research and delivery to the wider community, we are committed to informing the global transition to a green economy which supports environmental well-being and social and economic justice.

We act as an incubator of community enterprises, a knowledge hub for green business and policy-makers communities local to Essex and around the world, local and international businesses, partner academic organisations and as consultant to local sustainability initiatives.

Our aims
  • To be a strong hub for research at Essex on environmental issues, including how environmental issues interact with society, which builds cross-disciplinary connections to produce world-changing environmental research.
  • To act as a beacon for Education for Sustainability, inculcating a sense of responsibility in our students and deepening their knowledge of environmental issues.
  • To be a strong environmental partner to the University and to the local community, working to enhance the local environment and catalysing students to act as ‘change agents’ for sustainability.

Our centre

Our management structure

Our current structure includes a Director (currently in Essex Business School), six members drawn from the faculties who form a Collaborative Board, together with the University’s Chief Scientific Adviser for Essex County Council. The Collaborative Board was designed to include two faculty members from each faculty, who would act as a point of contact within the departments for us to disseminate information and contribute to our activities and planning.

Our research, funding and outreach

Our research

We form strong intra and inter institute networks to build research teams around a number of key topics, including the blue economy, building city resilience and sustainability, and energy justice. Our members embody a wide range of environmental research expertise, including robotic assessment of pollutants, domestic and city air pollution, estuary and river processes, human rights to energy and food, green exercise and health, behaviours for greener economies, health and well-being services from ecosystems, literature of the wild, the cultures of nature, disaster and or hazards risks and resilience, and climate change governance.

Our funding

Our members have submitted research bids on a number of themes, including local food and green exercise. Members have also been actively seeking funding opportunities on both an individual and group basis, and we have been working with members to encourage research-generating activities and share contacts and ideas. Some of our members cemented grants from Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), British Academy (BA), Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and World Bank (WB).

Our outreach

Our members organise annual conferences, workshops and film series bringing key scholars and practitioners from external organisations such as key corporate sector leaders, Non-Governmental Organisational (NGO) representatives and government level policy makers to cement links, and generate funding opportunities and impact. We have also developed institutional collaborations with external organisations such as Joint Centre for Disaster Research (JCDR) - University of Massey, International Center for Ocean Governance (ICOG), Western Sydney University, and Social Policy Analysis and Research Centre (SPARC) - University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Our teaching

Sustainability-oriented teaching is a key feature across our University and partner organisations. We work on increasing the scope and depth of this teaching across undergraduate courses. For example, the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies runs the interdisciplinary MA in Wild Writing: Literature, Landscape and the Environment. Opportunities for knowledge exchange and work experience are integrated into teaching through short, research-focused placements with local businesses and organisations.

We run programmes which analyse the potential for educational offerings, including non-credit bearing interdisciplinary summer courses available to both undergraduates and postgraduate students on an optional basis. We have successfully implemented a Certificate in Sustainable Practice Summer School since 2017. The students were provided with seminars and training on sustainability philosophy as well as being given opportunity to work on group projects on issues that impact the University and community. These non-credit bearing short courses will provide a platform for our Centre to develop a coherent Education for Sustainability strategy of the University in line with national and global norms.

These interdisciplinary courses are designed to enhance student employability. CES represents Environment, Climate Change & Vulnerability cluster within the Accounting Group at Essex Business School (EBS). The cluster focuses on the research and impact activities on environment, climate change, sustainability practices, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), Disaster and other climate change related networks and extinction, natural world.


PhD supervision 

The following examples showcase the supervisory engagement by our colleagues.

Dr. Jane Hindley has co/supervised two students through to completion.

  • Helle Abelvik-Lawson - “Indigenous Environmental Rights and Extractive Projects: A Socio-Legal Analysis of Participation in Lithium Mining” (2019)
  • Jasper Finkeldey - “Social Movements on the Fossil Fuel Frontier in South Africa” (2019)

Two PhD candidates are being offered placements to commence their studies at Essex from September 2021. The supervision will be undertaken by the CES colleagues working across Essex departments. 

  • Sashika Withange – “Hybridized Bio-Diversity Accounting Practices in a Post-Colonial Neo-Liberalism: The Case of Sri Lankan Tea Plantation Sector”, This study will be supervised by Professor Kelum Jayasinghe and Professor Teerooven Soobaroyen.
  • Ayesha Kadigba Gueye-Massa – “Assessing the challenges, opportunities and impact of environmental management on rural women in Sierra Leone”, this study will be supervised by Professor Kelum Jayasinghe. 

If you would like to discuss PhD supervision in any area related to the Centre for Environment and Society please visit our members. Here you will find links to our members' academic staff profiles, which include detailed information regarding research interests, supervision status and staff contact details.

Knowledge exchange

Our research is focused on real-world impact with researchers and students closely involved in engaging end-users at all stages of research from design to delivery. We have significant expertise in the design and use of participatory methodologies in various types of research projects. We actively promote knowledge-exchange within our University and with all of our stakeholders, including:

  • communities local to Essex and around the world
  • local and international businesses
  • partner academic organisations
  • grassroots activists

We also work closely with the University and community-based sustainability and environmental action groups, such as University of Essex Estates, Employability and Careers centre and Enactus UK.

As highlights of our knowledge exchange activities, our colleagues have worked with the United Nations’ Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), achieved World Bank contracts for the public financial management and climate change projects and participated in the Academic Think Tanks of Heathrow Airport Expansion project.

Our events

The Centre for Environment and Society organises research seminars and workshops throughout the academic year. We invite research experts and leading practitioners around the world to share their expertise and cutting-edge research in the fields of sustainability, climate change, disaster management, environmental management, and biodiversity. Our events provide a convincing platform to promote greater debate and innovative approaches, which serve as the building blocks to an inclusive development. Our seminars and workshops are open to all.


Highlights from our events:


"As the members of CES, we conduct interdisciplinary research on the ecosystems management including biocultural issues and human well-being and share this knowledge with the ecosystem managers and the policy makers." 
Professor Kelum Jayasinghe Director, centre for environment and sociecty

Our research

Our research collaborations


  • Inter-disciplinary research cluster on “the environment and human rights – University of Essex The Human Rights Centre (HRC) and the Centre for Environment and Society (CES) at the University of Essex organised a research networking event on human rights and climate change (initiated by Dr. Judith Bueno De Mesquita - HRC). The participants of this event managed to share a range of cutting edge and very complementary research on the environment and human rights being carried out by our academic staff across a range of departments. Based on the feedback from this event, HRC And CES have established an inter-disciplinary research cluster on “the environment and human rights” for networking, research-exchange, and funding applications in this area of global concern. We have formed an inter-disciplinary steering group for the cluster, which will support the development of its activities, together with the core teams of the HRC and CES. 
  • Collaboration with Sustainability Science Institutes in Europe: CES has joined with the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS) and other 15 other Sustainability Science Institutes in Europe that operate as a separate Centre for sustainability, having strong scientific-basis and either being part of a University or having a national mandate. 
  • The Eastern Arc thematic champion role: Professor Graham Underwood (a leading member of CES) has recently been appointed to the Eastern Arc thematic champion role for sustainability, natural resources and food (see link below), with a remit to help bring together interested parties across the three EARC universities.  There are equivalent colleagues at UEA and Kent.  It’s a "convening- facilitating" role, and he can draw upon EARC resources and a direct feed into the PVC-Rs. 
  •  Collaborations in Australia and New Zealand:The CES conducts collaborative research with Joint Centre for Disaster Research (JCDR), University of Massey, New Zealand and the International Centre for Ocean Governance (ICOG), University of Western Sydney, Australia.

Our research projects

  • Net Zero Innovation Project - Dr. Jane Hindley, Dr Nicholas Beuret, Dr Marie Juanchich, Kirils Makarov, Professor Ian Colbeck, Professor Alex Dumbrell and Dr Leanne Hepburn. Dr. Jane Hindley (project lead) and further members of CES have successfully obtained a CBC-UoE Net Zero Innovation project [working together with the Colchester Borough Council Centre (CBC)]. The programme is a joint Local Government Association-UCL initiative. The environmental sustainability project focuses on CBC’s key challenge of reaching “beyond the choir” to achieve the borough’s net zero goals.
  • World Bank-PEFA Project - Professor Kelum Jayasinghe, Professor Thankom Arun, Dr. Chaminda Wijethilake, Dr. Bedanand Upadhaya and Dr. Pawan Adhikari. Integrating Climate Change Budgeting into public investment policies: A Cross Country Assessment in South Asia (India, Sri Lanka and Nepal).
  • GCRF (University of Essex) Project. This project looked at ensuring collaborative accountability and governance in disaster management in Sri Lanka by Professor Kelum Jayasinghe.
  •  UMB’s Carbon Credit as Risk Mitigation of Deforestation Project by Professor Kelum Jayasinghe. The aim of this study was to investigate the carbon credit risk mitigation of deforestation in Indonesia. He has conducted this project with Dr. Wiwik Utami and Lucky Nugroho, University of Mercu Buana (UMB), Indonesia.
  • Indigenous cultural representations of nature project – An exploratory study of the cultural representations of nature and wildlife within four Colombian indigenous communities. The project is based on the ‘green cultural criminology’ framework (Brisman and South, 2014) that emphasises the power of cultural representations of nature in shaping protective and destructive human behaviours toward nature by Professor Nigel South.
  • COVID-19 GCRF funded project –  A GCRF funded project on: COVID-19, Indigenous Communities and Health Justice in Colombia - Covid-19 has made more visible the intersection and reinforcement of injustices - including health injustice - affecting Indigenous peoples, such as the lack of access to water, food and health services. The consequences of the pandemic will leave Indigenous communities in even more vulnerable positions by Professor Nigel South.
  • GCRF (University of Essex) Project - ARISE: Advancing a Resilience Index for Sustainable Energy and Water in Africa.Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), project by Dr Gina Reinhardt.
  • Ecosystem Management: Building Resilience and Adaptability to Coastal Climate Change Effects project by Dr Gina Reinhardt.
  • GRCF (University of Essex) Project –  EMBRACE - Ecosystem Management: Building Resilience and Adaptability to Coastal Climate Change Effects by Professor Graham Underwood. 
  • The Royal Society - Understanding microalgal biofilm contributions to sediment blue carbon in contrasting salt marsh habitats in the U.S. and Europe by Professor Graham Underwood. 
  • Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) – Professor Underwood Ecosystem Management: Building Resilience and Adaptability to Coastal Climate Change Effects by Professor Graham Underwood. 
  • ORA grant – Dr. Philip Leifeld is a co-investigator for an ORA grant (~ £1 mio.) by the ESRC jointly with German and Canadian funding agencies for a project called "Frames in Production: Actors, Networks, Diffusion (FRAMENET)", together with folks at Warwick and Aston. The project has been awarded and will start in April. We have several case studies in which we analyse the frames and communication strategies of political actors around policymaking, and some of them will be focusing on the environment, probably cross-cutting with the topic of trade.

  • NERC and ESRC – Professor Philip Leifeld is currently involved in a project application with a volume of £1.5 mio together with CEFAS, Natalie Hicks (a marine scientist here at Essex) and others. Project title: "Enabling a Natural Capital Approach for Sustainable Management of the Seabed System (ENCASMSS)".  

Our research publications

Contact us
Centre for Environment and Society (CES) University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ
Telephone: 01206 874281
Essex Business School University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ
Telephone: 01206 873333