Leeds University Business School System-level Sustainability (LESS) research group


Intellectual rationale and mission of the LESS group

We face a climate emergency. Climate scientists tell us we have only a decade until feedback and cumulative effects reach a point of no return and we face crisis in the biosphere and the collapse of civilization as we know it. Business activity is the main cause of this climate crisis. Business-school-based research on environmental issues, however, contributes little to pushing that activity in a positive direction. One reason for this lack of impact is the focus of our research: the bulk of business-school-based research focuses on firm-level and individual-level behaviour, but any changes we help catalyse at those levels cannot yield more than incremental change. Yes, efforts to forestall the climate emergency will certainly require changes in business and individual behaviour, but the actions of individual businesses and actors cannot possibly suffice to meet the challenge we face. These threats require radical change in the wider “system”—which we understand as the political-economic and cultural structure within which organizations and individuals operate, enabling and constraining their activities at the same time.

In the different divisions of Leeds University Business School, a considerable number of scholars are conducting important research on sustainability with a focus on radical change and the role of the political-economic system. If these scholars could establish a community and some form of institutional infrastructure, the Business School would have the potential to establish itself as a leader for system-level sustainability research among UK business schools. At the moment, however, we have neither a community nor institutional infrastructure for such system-level sustainability research.

The establishment of the LESS research group is a first step to address this gap. The mission of the LESS group will be to advance interdisciplinary efforts to develop system-level research that addresses the environmental emergency, thereby contributing to:

(1) achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,

(2) the transition to a sustainable and just society

(3) reimagining the role of business schools in the time of environmental crisis.

As such, the LESS group aims to connect with related research agendas of groups in the wider University, such as those in the Faculty of Earth and Environment, the Faculty of Engineering, and the Priestley Centre.

Long-term goals of the LESS group

Some long-term goals to inspire the work of the new research group are:

(1) Explore and develop integrative frameworks for guiding research on the systemic nature of the environmental crisis and for guiding the development of system-level sustainability solutions

(2) Analyse key system-level impediments to an effective response to the environmental crisis

(3) Explore and develop conceptual models for alternative political-economic systems for a world beyond environmental crisis

(4) Develop concrete system-level sustainability solutions and contribute to the mobilization for system-level change to help implement system-level sustainability solutions.


Dr Zlatko Bodrožić

Dr Vera Trappmann

Dr Gabriella Alberti

Dr Jo Cutter

Dr Gary Graham

Dr Kate Hardy

Elena Hofferberth

Professor Sarah Irwin

Dr Gulbanu Kaptan

Professor Anna Mdee

Dr Andrew Mearman

Dr Jyoti Mishra

Dr Charles Umney

Dr Anna Viragos

Publications and outputs

Climate, class, and civilizational crises in the Holocene” – Professor Jason Moore, environmental historian and guest speaker, Binghamton University. September 2020.

"Mariana Mazzucato and the Entrepreneurial State" – discussion, with an introduction by Zlatko Bodrožić, Co-leader LESS research group, University of Leeds. October 2020.

"What's wrong with the food system?"- Professor Steffen Böhm, Professor in Organisation & Sustainability, University of Exeter Business School. November 2020.