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Championing sustainable development at Warwick

An interview with Professor Elena Korosteleva, the IGSD’s Director, about the role and function of the Institute.

Hi Elena, can you tell us a little about the IGSD and its purpose?

The IGSD was first set up in 2019, but after the pandemic, was formally relaunched in 2022 to become the gateway to research on global sustainable development at Warwick. We work collaboratively across all faculties. Our remit is to engage with various academic and non-academic communities across and beyond the university, and work towards one common purpose – to seek solutions and pathways towards a more a sustainable, prosperous and healthier world. This way, IGSD is not just a key contributor to the University’s strategic direction, but also to its new Sustainability Strategy shaping research on sustainable development along three cross-cutting dimensions:

- Environmental policy and governance

- Complex eco-systems and climate change

- Resilience and community response to change


What is your specific role in the IGSD and when did you join?

I joined IGSD in April 2022, which was then a team of only two staff. Within a year we’d turned it into a vibrant environment of ideas, innovation, connections, and research success.


As Director, my role is to help generate and commit to, our shared vision for future growth and development; to find resources to make it happen; to offer support and ‘direction of travel’ especially for Early Career Researchers; to plug IGSD into the life of the university, and to connect it globally with research, policy and practice.


Three months after I joined, we devised our 10-year strategy, and organised our first transdisciplinary conferences examining Russia’s War in Ukraine and its global consequences for sustainability, working with five Global Research Priorities (GRPs) and international stakeholders! By October 2022, we’d grown into a team of 12 and had 9 research projects underway.


How does the IGSD link to and support the University’s new Sustainability Strategy?

IGSD gently nudged the University to commit to the launch of its Sustainability Strategy in September 2022 – The Way to Sustainable – that articulates our collective journey to a better world, shaped by the four pillars (research, education, operations and community engagement) in terms of sustainable development. The launch event was held last Autumn, attracting over 100 people, from academic, student, policy and local/international communities.

We see IGSD as a vehicle for helping the University to grow its Excellence with Purpose Strategy: by way of developing our own cutting-edge research and connectivity; by becoming the gateway to research on sustainable development, and visualising our connections via our research on SDGs - this is our first pilot project to show what we do in relation to SDGs and enable our transdisciplinary collaboration and impact.


What are the main priority areas or themes that the IGSD is focusing on?

We enjoy working across layers of transdisciplinary research on sustainable development at Warwick, and our School of Cross-Disciplinary Studies is a testimony to it! Yet, to give many layers of excellence one purpose, we need to connect and work collectively towards a better and more sustainable world. Hence, we restructured our work along the three research themes – of environmental governance, complex ecosystems and resilience – to tune out to the polyphony of research excellence across Warwick. We also reached out to our strategic partner-HEIs (EUTOPIA network, the GUILD, Monash Alliance, SDSN UK) to collectively respond to planetary crises as researchers. Find out more about our KPIs here.

What has the IGSD achieved over the past 12 months?

Over the past 12 months we have achieved phenomenal success, including:

- A growing family of amazing professional staff, including the recent launch of the IGSD Thematic Fellows.

- A growing number of impactful and innovative research and consultancy projects: currently 10 and counting, including ECR and Horizon Europe among them.

- A launch of our Sustainability Training School expecting 25 global ECRs from the UK, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

- Our staff received WOW, and ECR Impact awards; became members of ACU and NERC Advisory Boards; as well as advisors to EU and UK governments on resilience and war in Belarus and Ukraine

- We have published and launched two new books: Resilient Communities of Central Eurasia (March 2023), and Belarus in the XXI century: between dictatorship and democracy (May 2023).


What are the IGSD’s ambitions for the future?

Well, taking all the above, we aim for the Nobel Prize for peace, and contribution to sustainable development across the globe, no less. We hope to do well, and most importantly, to do GOOD, as part of our commitment to a more sustainable world around us.


Elena Korosteleva

Director, IGSD