Walking the Talk
Asda, Unilever, AstraZeneca Among Funders of New University of Cambridge SDG-Focused Fellowships

The University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) has announced a major new partnership with leading companies today with the launch of The Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellowship Programme. Corporate and individual donors are sponsoring up to 15 academic fellows to identify breakthrough solutions to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and mobilize evidence on these challenges as they undertake three-year studies.

Among the founding sponsors are Anglian Water, Asda, AstraZeneca, The Equal Opportunities Foundation, Heathrow Airport Holdings, Paul and Michelle Gilding (individuals), Sainsbury’s, Sappi and Unilever. As a tribute to his 70th birthday year, and in recognition of his lifetime dedication to environmental issues, the Fellowship Programme was named in honor of CISL’s Patron, The Prince of Wales.

“Universities contribute to society through the creation of new knowledge and the development of new skills. It is our aspiration to do this in ways that are relevant and purposeful,” said Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. “The Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellowship Programme, hosted by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, will help us to do just that by allowing academics to engage productively with business, government and financial institutions for society’s benefit – both in the UK and globally.”

Fellows will work independently of their sponsors, although sponsors will have the opportunity to indicate the general areas where they perceive there to be ​gaps in knowledge, helping to ​focus attention on the next generation of solutions. Each sponsor is supporting one research area. Fellows will join the Programme in 2019, will work closely with CISL from the Institute’s offices.

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The initial research areas are:

  • Social & environmental accounting (supported by Anglian Water) – the potential of, and develop a standardised measurement framework for, natural and social capital in order to make informed decisions as to how limited resources are spent.
  • Investing in sustainable communities (supported by Asda) – what it means to be a good corporate citizen and the role of business in local communities across the UK, with the ambition of developing strategies for resilience that benefit employees and customers, and society as a whole.
  • Sustainable health (supported by AstraZeneca) – how the world health systems can deliver higher standards of care to a growing population characterised by an older demographic and high expectations. The burden on health systems has increased as a result of diet and lifestyle choices and an overall rise in non-communicable disease in almost all parts of the world. In this context health systems rarely have the resources to invest in preventing ill health, focused as they are on dealing with acute healthcare priorities which feel impossible from an individual, social and political perspective to ignore.

“AstraZeneca is proud to be part of the Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellowship Programme, supporting research to positively impact SDG 3; Good health and wellbeing. By supporting a research Fellow to review the academic evidence for non-communicable disease prevention, we look forward to understanding and sharing more about the policies, practices and innovations necessary to deliver the economic and human benefits of sustainable health,” said Katarina Ageborg, Executive Vice President, Sustainability and Chief Compliance Officer at AstraZeneca.

  • Inclusive growth (supported by The Equal Opportunities Foundation) – the potential of leveraging on China’s Belt and Road, and Greater Bay Initiative, to promote the transition to sustainable economies for all countries and regions involved. In addition, the research will investigate ways in which to address social exclusion, unequal development, and rural poverty through the effective use of financial instruments including fintech and artificial intelligence within the wider policy and strategy framework.
  • Radical innovation and disruption (supported by Paul and Michelle Gilding) – the implications of innovation and disruption associated with the transition to a sustainable economy, for incumbent businesses, investors and policymakers.
  • The role of responsible business in the community (supported by Sainsbury’s) – the evidence and potential for business to play a more active and positive role in the communities in which they operate and serve.
  • Industrial transformation (supported by SAPPI) – how trends of innovation and sustainability will come together to reshape the future of industry, looking at the paper and pulp industry as an initial example and examining drivers including the rise of artificial intelligence and the need to bring carbon emissions to net zero.
  • Pathways to a circular economy (supported by Unilever) – the potential of a circular economy to mitigate the business risks associated with ‘linear’ models of production and consumption and generate new business opportunities. In doing so it will also explore the structural factors that can help or hinder a transition to a more circular economy and the likely impacts on society of that transition.

“The Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellowship Programme will create a rich intellectual space for collaboration between researchers and industry as we seek breakthrough ideas and leadership actions to towards meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” said Polly Courtice, Director of CISL.

The effort is timely given the UN’s recent announcement that progress on the SDGs has been slow and not on track to reach its 2030 targets.

“Meeting the UN SDGs will require the biggest transformation the world has ever faced and it will take all stakeholders to pull it off: governments, the private sector, civil society and academia,” said Lise Kingo, CEO and Executive Director, United Nations Global Compact. “The Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellowship Programme will provide a critical meeting point for the exchange of ideas in the development of solutions, and the evidence base for the urgent action that is required.”

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