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The University of Southampton
Sustainability Action

Presentation Themes

Sustainability crosses many sectors and disciplines. To showcase the breadth of student sustainability research, students were invited to apply across diverse themes:

Arts and humanities

To sustain societies, natural resources, human heritage and culture, we must better understand human beliefs and values – about ourselves, other people and the world around us. We need to understand the role of culture, through looking back through the centuries as well as at the present day and to the future. We need to explore and recognise the role that the arts have in better understanding and sharing socio-political messages and influencing hearts and minds towards sustainable living.

Potential research topics could include (but are not limited to): ethical fashion and design; race, class, and gender; religion and philosophy; the role of language and culture; historic civilisations; the arts and activism.

Business and law

Sustainability research in business and law is about securing the present and the future, for the economy, society and the planet. The future of business needs to be low-carbon and cost-effective, in a legal context that ensures individuals across the globe are valued equally and the environment is protected.

This theme invites research related(but not limited) to: corporate social responsibility; ethics and equality; human and employee rights; environmental regulation; the role of leadership; social enterprise.


Innovative design can change people’s lives and the environment for the better. This could be through taking better care of the natural environment and minimising potential damage construction, use and disposal (or avoiding it). This is about improving understanding about the interactions between humans and design, for example, identifying and capitalising on opportunities to enhance the lives of individuals through supporting rehabilitation and healthcare.

Examples of potential research themes are (not exclusive to): human factors in computer sciences and engineering; sustainable materials; renewable energies; urban design; designing for a circular economy; low carbon technologies; sustainable transportation; design and healthcare.

Health sciences

Maintaining human health is integral to sustainability. This theme looks at both inter-generational and intra-generational equality – how the wellbeing of individuals can be sustained and improved without negatively impacting future generations. It considers mental and physical healthcare, and the challenges to delivering equal access to it.

Topics for this theme could include(but are not limited to): physical and mental wellbeing; inequalities in health and the use of health care services; use of green spaces; impact of diets; addressing the obesity crisis; resource use in healthcare.

International sustainability

Global citizens understand their impact beyond their locality. They explore the sustainability challenges and opportunities that arise from our increasingly globalised and connected world. This theme will also consider the role of culture – the need to understand it when delivering international sustainable solutions, and challenge of preserving it where indigenous cultures are threatened.

Topic examples could include(but are not limited to): population and sustainability; global challenges; poverty; international trade; climate change; global environmental change; international politics and governance.


Addressing the world’s sustainability challenges requires the evidence base for policy and action. As they continue to pursue sustainable solutions, global citizens will need to continue to value and pursue cutting edge scientific research. This theme will showcase research from the broad, such as climate change, to the microscopic – for example, the impact of microplastic in oceans.

Topic areas could include (but are not limited to): green chemistry; oceanography; ecology; biology; environmental pollution; water quality; air quality; carbon footprinting; ecosystem services.

Social sciences

Many of the sustainability challenges faced by the world are driven by human choices and behaviours. Social sciences therefore play a vital role in identifying and delivering successful sustainable solutions. They explore the role of population – as a resource for addressing unsustainability as well as a potential driver of global challenge.

Theme topics include (but are not limited to): ageing populations, participation of minority groups in decision-making, the role of education in sustainable development; behaviour change and nudge; global development; sustainable development goals; population and consumption; social justice; sustainable communities; international politics and sustainability.


Will technology save or destroy us? This theme explores the rapidly changing and developing role of technology in addressing some of the global and local sustainability challenges facing the world today. This theme will explore how student innovations and research into the role, impacts and consequences of technology have in achieving sustainable development.

Topic themes might include (but are not limited to): open access resources; the potential role of automation; artificial intelligence; transportation; low-carbon technologies; gaming for social and environmental change; green computing; hacking for social and environmental solutions; the impact of social media on society and individuals.

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