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What we work on

Transformative Sustainability Research

The Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) conducts research with the goal of understanding, advancing, and guiding processes of societal change towards sustainable development. Our researchers collaborate with diverse actors from science, policymaking and public administration as well as business and civil society to develop a common understanding of sustainability challenges and generate potential solutions. The Institute pursues a research approach that is transformative, transdisciplinary, and co-creative.

About us

In brief

Installation by IASS Art Fellow

At Berlin Science Week, IASS Art Fellow Susanne Schmitt will transform a derelict nail studio into a botanical garden on 1 November 2022. Registration for the exhibition and workshop is already open.

Video on Solar Geoengineering

Frank Biermann, professor of Global Sustainability Governance at Utrecht University, recently gave a talk on "Solar Geoengineering as a False Climate Policy Solution" within the IASS lecture series "Justice in Sustainability". The talk is now available on Youtube.


Consequences of climate change are dramatic in the Arctic

As the Arctic Ocean is particularly affected by global temperature rise, more knowledge about this special habitat is needed. Interview with IASS researcher Nicole Wienrich


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Social Sustainability Barometer

How Is the Energy Crisis Affecting Public Opinion on the Energy and Transport Transitions in Germany?

Is the current energy crisis putting the brakes on climate action? Undaunted by the growing financial burden, support for the energy transition remains strong in Germany. Despite the spectre of skyrocketing energy prices, a broad section of the public wants to see the government double down on its efforts to achieve climate neutrality. This is the conclusion of the annual “Social Sustainability Barometer 2022”.

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IASS 10+2 Anniversary

“A flagship in the German sustainability landscape”

Following a two-year delay due to the pandemic, the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) celebrated the tenth anniversary of its foundation and its forthcoming integration into the Helmholtz Association with a festive ceremony in Potsdam under the motto “10+2”. The President of the German Environment Agency, Dirk Messner, gave the keynote speech and IASS Founding Director Klaus Töpfer attended as the guest of honour. The event concluded with a tribute to IASS Scientific Director Ortwin Renn, who will retire at the end of the year.

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Making Trainees in the Coal Industry Agents of Change

How can courses at vocational schools encourage their students to work for climate mitigation despite the impeding economic change? Based on workshops with trainees in the German coal-mining region of Lusatia, a team from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) offers some guidelines on how to include civics and education for sustainable development in lesson plans.

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Sebastian Unger Appointed Germany's First Special Representative for the Oceans

At a cabinet meeting on 14 September, the German Government appointed Sebastian Unger as its first Special Representative for the Oceans in the portfolio of the Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection. Prior to his appointment, Unger worked at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) for a good decade. The establishment of a Special Representative for the Oceans underscores the Federal Government’s recognition of the growing importance of marine conservation and the sustainable use of the oceans.

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Deliberative Mini-Publics Dossier

Deliberative mini-publics are participatory processes in which a randomly selected and heterogenous group of citizens cooperate for a period to develop recommendations, ideas or solutions on a specific issue. The IASS accompanies these processes in various roles.

IASS Focal Topic 2022

Justice in Sustainability Dossier

The issue of justice is increasingly playing a greater role in the transformation towards sustainability. Calls to improve justice outcomes touch on a variety of issues, in particular the distribution of the costs and benefits of transformations as well as the burdens of climate change and environmental degradation. Other claims target procedural aspects: Who should have access to decision-making about transformation towards sustainability? A third set of justice claims focuses on recognition: Which groups are or should be recognized as rights-holders or as affected or especially vulnerable populations?

Sustainability in Brandenburg Dossier

Brandenburg is facing major sustainability challenges, such as agrarian transformation, energy transformation, mobility transformation, transformation of Lusatia, adaptation to climate change, promotion of rural areas, revitalisation of the economy after the Corona pandemic, and water supply and water protection. As a Potsdam institute, the IASS is actively involved in sustainability work in Brandenburg.

Systemic Risks Dossier

Modern societies are vulnerable to “systemic risks” such as pandemics, financial crises, or climate change. Due to their complex and interconnected nature, systemic risks pose a particular challenge to conventional approaches to risk analysis and management. The research group on systemic risks at the IASS analyses risks and opportunities around transformation processes for sustainable development and, in a second step, develops policy recommendations for the governance of systemic risks.