• Assessing the suitability of sustainability frameworks for embedding sustainability in higher education curricula: pragmatism versus transformation

      Druckman, A.; Mair, Simon (2021)
      Purpose. This viewpoint paper addresses the use of sustainability frameworks in embedding education for sustainability into the curriculum of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). We focus on the paradox that sustainability frameworks must facilitate transformation of existing structures whilst also being well-enough aligned with current conditions to be readily adopted by today’s HEIs. Design/methodology/approach. We propose a set of four criteria for assessing the suitability of sustainability frameworks for use across the curriculum: Relevance to Current Curricula; Language; Institutional Fit; and Concept of the Future. Using these criteria, we assess how various frameworks align with the current (unsustainable) state of affairs, and their transformative potential. The frameworks assessed are: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); the Three Pillars Framework; and the Capitals Approach. Findings. We find that each of the frameworks has strengths and weaknesses: the SDGs and the Capitals Approach perform well on alignment, but less well on transformation. Conversely, the Three Pillars Framework perform well on transformation and less well on alignment. By applying the criteria set out in this paper, we hope those working to embed sustainability into the curricula of HEIs will be better equipped to navigate the tensions presented by sustainability transitions. Originality. Using a novel set of criteria for assessing sustainability frameworks, this paper provides guidance that was previously lacking to education for sustainability professionals who are attempting to embed sustainability into the curriculum at HEIs.
    • The challenges of applying planetary boundaries as a basis for strategic decision-making in companies with global supply chains

      Clift, R.; Sim, S,; King, H.; Chenoweth, J.L.; Christie, I.; Clavreul, J.; Mueller, C.; Posthuma, L.; Boulay, A.M.; Chaplin-Kramer, R.; et al. (2017)
      The Planetary Boundaries (PB) framework represents a significant advance in specifying the ecological constraints on human development. However, to enable decision-makers in business and public policy to respect these constraints in strategic planning, the PB framework needs to be developed to generate practical tools. With this objective in mind, we analyse the recent literature and highlight three major scientific and technical challenges in operationalizing the PB approach in decision-making: first, identification of thresholds or boundaries with associated metrics for different geographical scales; second, the need to frame approaches to allocate fair shares in the 'safe operating space' bounded by the PBs across the value chain and; third, the need for international bodies to co-ordinate the implementation of the measures needed to respect the Planetary Boundaries. For the first two of these challenges, we consider how they might be addressed for four PBs: climate change, freshwater use, biosphere integrity and chemical pollution and other novel entities. Four key opportunities are identified: (1) development of a common system of metrics that can be applied consistently at and across different scales; (2) setting 'distance from boundary' measures that can be applied at different scales; (3) development of global, preferably open-source, databases and models; and (4) advancing understanding of the interactions between the different PBs. Addressing the scientific and technical challenges in operationalizing the planetary boundaries needs be complemented with progress in addressing the equity and ethical issues in allocating the safe operating space between companies and sectors.
    • A Critical Review of the Role of Indicators in Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals

      Mair, Simon; Jones, A.; Ward, J.; Christie, I.; Druckman, A.; Lyon, F. (2018-01)
      The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) bring together environmental, social and economic concerns. They therefore have the potential to move society away from the dominant model of prosperity as purely economic toward a more holistic and ‘sustainable’ prosperity. But, the success of such a transformative agenda rests on its implementation. At the heart of planned implementation of the SDGs is a set of 230 indicators. Indicators have been strongly critiqued in a range of literatures. However, in the context of the SDGs, indicators have been described as ‘essential’ with little critical assessment of their role in implementation. Therefore, this chapter aims to provide this critical voice. To do this, the chapter reviews critiques of indicators from sustainability science, anthropology and sociology and provides illustrative cases of indicators implementation. From this review we are able to draw lessons for the use of indicators in SDG implementation. Specifically, the chapter argues that indicators are reductionist and struggle with contested concepts. Nevertheless, by making the operationalisation of concepts visible and enabling quantified analysis, indicators can have a useful role in SDG implementation. However, this requires that indicator critiques are taken seriously and inform indicator use.
    • Energy and Productivity - a review of the literature

      Elkomy, S.; Mair, Simon; Jackson, T. (Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity, 2020-01)
    • Fairness and Globalisation in the Western European Clothing Supply Chain

      Mair, Simon; Druckman, A.; Jackson, T. (Jenny Stanford Publishing, 2017)
      In this chapter we use global multi-regional input-output analysis to explore how globalisation has impacted fairness along Western European clothing supply chains. Our analysis shows that while globalisation has made the Western European clothing supply chain ‘fairer’ by increasing employment opportunities and income for workers in Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC), it has failed to make the supply chain fair. Despite large increases in the labour compensation received by BRIC workers in the Western European clothing supply chain, labour compensation is still insufficient to support a decent standard of living and cannot, therefore, be considered fair.
    • Global inequities and emissions in Western European textiles and clothing consumption

      Mair, Simon; Druckman, A.; Jackson, T. (2016-09-20)
      Rising demand for cheaper textiles and clothing in Western Europe is well documented, as are changes in the Textiles and Clothing industry's globalised production structure. We apply a sub-systems global multi-regional input–output accounting framework to examine the sustainability implications of meeting Western European demand for textiles and clothing goods between 1995 and 2009. Our framework estimates environmental and socio-economic impacts of consumption in a consistent manner and shows where these occur both geographically and in the value chain. The results demonstrate that Western European textiles and clothing consumption remains dependent on low-cost labour from Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC), principally in the Textiles and Clothing and Agricultural sectors. Conversely, we show that the wage rate for BRIC workers in the global value chains serving Western European textiles and clothing consumption has risen over time but remains low relative to the wage rate paid to Western European workers. Likewise, we find that profits are increasingly generated within BRIC and that they are now at comparable levels to those generated in Western Europe. We find a slight overall decrease in the amount of carbon emitted in the production of textiles and clothing goods for Western Europe between 1995 and 2009. However, the trend is not linear and the importance of different underlying drivers varies over the timeseries. We conclude by discussing the implications of these results for a more sustainable future for Western European textiles and clothing consumption.
    • Higher Wages for Sustainable Development? Employment and Carbon Effects of Paying a Living Wage in Global Apparel Supply Chains

      Mair, Simon; Druckman, A.; Jackson, T. (2019-05)
      In this paper we explore how paying a living wage in global supply chains might affect employment and carbon emissions: Sustainable Development Goals 8 and 13. Previous work has advocated using wage increases for poorer workers to increase prices for wealthier consumers, thereby reducing consumption and associated environmental damage. However, the likely effects of such an approach remain unclear. Using an input-output framework extended with income and demand elasticities, we estimate the employment and carbon effects of paying a living wage to Brazilian, Russian, Indian and Chinese (BRIC) workers in the Western European clothing supply chain. We find negligible effects on carbon emissions but a substantial increase in BRIC employment under 3 scenarios of consumer behaviour. Changes in Western European consumption lead to small decreases in global carbon emissions and BRIC employment. However, the increase in BRIC wages increases demand in BRIC. This increased demand increases production which largely cancels out the carbon savings and generates net increases in BRIC employment. We conclude by arguing that paying higher wages in global supply chains represents a good but not sufficient step toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
    • Investigating fairness in global supply chains: applying an extension of the living wage to the Western European clothing supply chain.

      Mair, Simon; Druckman, A.; Jackson, T. (2018)
      This paper explores the issue of fairness in global supply chains. Taking the Western European clothing supply chain as a case study, we demonstrate how applying a normative indicator in Social Life Cycle Assessment (SLCA) can contribute academic and practical insights into debates on fairness. To do so, we develop a new indicator that addresses some of the limitations of the living wage for SLCA. We extend the standard form of living wage available for developing countries to include income tax and social security contributions. We call this extension 'living labour compensation'. Using publically available data, we estimate net living wages, gross living wages, and living labour compensation rates for Brazil, Russia, India, and China (BRIC) in 2005. We then integrate living labour compensation rates into an input-output framework, which we use to compare living labour compensation and actual labour compensation in the BRIC countries in the Western European clothing supply chain in 2005. We find that in 2005, actual labour compensation in the Western European clothing supply chain was around half of the living labour compensation level, with the greatest difference being in the Agricultural sector. Therefore, we argue that BRIC pay in the Western European clothing supply chain was unfair. Furthermore, our living labour compensation estimates for BRIC in 2005 are ~ 35% higher than standard living wage estimates. Indeed, adding income taxes and employee social security contributions alone increases the living wage by ~ 10%. Consequently, we argue there is a risk that investigations based on living wages are not using a representative measure of fairness from the employee's perspective and are substantially underestimating the cost of living wages from an employer's perspective. Finally, we discuss implications for retailers and living wage advocacy groups. Living labour compensation extends the living wage, maintaining its strengths and addressing key weaknesses. It can be estimated for multiple countries from publically available data and can be applied in an input-output framework. Therefore, it is able to provide a normative assessment of fairness in complex global supply chains. Applying it to the Western European clothing supply chain, we were able to show that pay for workers in Brazil, Russia, India, and China is unfair, and draw substantive conclusions for practice.
    • Neoliberal economics, planetary health, and the COVID-19 pandemic: a Marxist ecofeminist analysis

      Mair, Simon (2020-12)
      Planetary health sees neoliberal capitalism as a key mediator of socioecological crises, a position that is echoed in much COVID-19 commentary. In this Personal View, I set out an economic theory that emphasises some of the ways in which neoliberal capitalism's conceptualisation of value has mediated responses to COVID-19. Using the intersection of ecological, feminist, and Marxist economics, I develop an analysis of neoliberal capitalism as a specific historical form of the economy. I identify the accumulation of exchange value as a central tendency of neoliberal capitalism and argue that this tendency creates barriers to the production of other forms of value. I then analyse the implications of this tendency in the context of responses to COVID-19. I argue that resources and labour flow to the production of exchange value, at the expense of production of other value forms. Consequently, the global capitalist economy has unprecedented productive capacity but uses little of this capacity to create the conditions that improve and maintain people's health. To be more resilient to coming crises, academics, policy makers, and activists should do theoretical work that enables global economies to recognise multiple forms of value and political work that embeds these theories in societal institutions.
    • Powering Productivity - Mapping Method Report

      Boehnert, J.; Mair, Simon; Landa-Avila, C. (Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity, 2019-12)
    • Redefining SME Productivity Measurement and Assessment for a Low Carbon Economy

      Owen, R.; Harrer, T.; Lodh, S.; Pates, R.; Mair, Simon (Productivity Insights Network, 2020-10)
      The UK faces the joint economic policy challenges of raising productivity and tackling climate change. This report challenges prevailing narrow market-based views of productivity, by examining the £4bn UK early stage Cleantech innovation finance market. We find that Cleantech innovation is frequently capital intensive and long horizon (5-10+ years), measured by shorterterm technology readiness level (TRL) and intellectual property (IP) progression. Longer-term sustainable productivity impacts remain little understood and, where applied, narrowly relate to customer adoption. This leads to Cleantech environmental impact investor logics that primarily relate to end user financial value (customer sales). There is little consideration for non-market values from, for example, circular economy (CE) and wider environmental spillover impacts (e.g. supply chains). Whilst few Cleantechs currently successfully commercialise, a small proportion exhibit high employment and sales growth and global environmental impact. Improved understanding of the broader environmental impacts of Cleantechs, through the adoption of environmental impact metrics (EIMs) can (i) add to a more holistic notion of productivity and (ii) improve the efficiency of the finance escalator, enabling more Cleantechs to contribute significantly to establishing the UK as a globally leading low carbon economy.
    • A tale of two utopias: Work in a post-growth world

      Mair, Simon; Druckman, A.; Jackson, T. (2020-07)
      In this paper, we aim to contribute to the literature on post-growth futures. Modern imaginings of the future are constrained by the assumptions of growth-based capitalism. To escape these assumptions we turn to utopian fiction. We explore depictions of work in Cokaygne, a utopian tradition dating back to the 12th century, and William Morris's 19th century News from Nowhere. Cokaygne is a land of excessive consumption without work, while in News from Nowhere work is the route to the good life. These competing notions provide inspiration for a post-growth vision of work. We argue that biophysical and social dynamics mean that in a post-growth economy we are likely to have to be less productive and work more. But, this can be a utopian vision. By breaking the link between work and consumption at the level of the individual, we can remove some of the coercion in work. This would free us to do jobs that contribute to the social good, rather than generate exchange value, and empower us to fight for good work. Finally, we draw on eco-feminist analyses of capitalism to argue that by challenging labour productivity growth we can also challenge wider forces of oppression.
    • Wellbeing and productivity: a review of the literature

      Isham, A.; Mair, Simon; Jackson, T. (Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity, 2020-01)
    • Worker wellbeing and productivity in advanced economies: Re-examining the link

      Isham, A.; Mair, Simon; Jackson, T. (2021-06)
      Labour productivity is a key concept for understanding the way modern economies use resources and features prominently in ecological economics. Ecological economists have questioned the desirability of labour productivity growth on both environmental and social grounds. In this paper we aim to contribute to ongoing debates by focusing on the link between labour productivity and worker wellbeing. First, we review the evidence for the happy-productive worker thesis, which suggests labour productivity could be improved by increasing worker wellbeing. Second, we review the evidence on ways that productivity growth may undermine worker wellbeing. We find there is experimental evidence demonstrating a causal effect of worker wellbeing on productivity, but that the relationship can also sometimes involve resource-intensive mediators. Taken together with the evidence of a negative impact on worker wellbeing from productivity growth, we conclude that a relentless pursuit of productivity growth is potentially counterproductive, not only in terms of worker wellbeing, but even in terms of long-term productivity.