Research and teaching

We nurture excellence in research and teaching and recognise the strong link between the two. All our research brings benefits back to our teaching and many areas of our research have an environmental element. These include climate change, sustainability in engineering and systems, how connecting with nature benefits wellbeing, and the impact of tourism.

Responsible Futures

We are committed to Education for Sustainable Development. The University of Derby and the Derby Union of Students worked together to achieve Responsible Futures accreditation, which is coordinated by SOS-UK. This highlights our progress in embedding social responsibility and sustainability throughout our students' journey. Responsible Futures is about giving our students the skills and experience they need to thrive as global citizens.

Progress on Responsible Futures is reported to the University's Environmental Steering Group on a quarterly basis by the Chair of the group, Chris Ribchester.

"We need an education system which equips graduates with the necessary competencies to face and address the climate and ecological emergency and deliver on climate justice, to avoid repeating mistakes of our past." SOS-UK

If you are a member of staff or a college team interested in including or increasing the amount of education for sustainable development within your programmes or modules, please contact the Responsible Futures Working Group, Chris Ribchester at or Emma Taylor at

If you are a student interested in increasing your knowledge and experience of sustainability or you are interested in working on an environmental project which could link to an assignment, please contact Emma Taylor.

Take a look at the UN Sustainable Development Goals to learn about the issues and see how you can help.

Support and training for staff

Sessions to support academic staff to integrate education for sustainable development (ESD) into their curriculum is provided through the following ways:

The Education for Sustainable Development Network (ESD Network)

The ESD network is focused on learning, teaching and the student experience. Its primary goal is the promotion and sharing of practice about how sustainable development topics, themes and debate can be included in the HE curriculum, across all academic disciplines 

The work of the group is framed partly by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and how we might support our learners to develop the sustainability literacy necessary to address these wide-ranging targets in their personal and professional lives. This aligns strongly with the University’s Strategic Framework in terms of ‘Being a force for positive impact’ and ‘Moulding the next generation of game changers’.  

What opportunities does it provide? 

How does it work? 

The group is currently operating as a virtual network via an MS Teams group. This is being used as the platform for presentations, meetings, and the sharing of resources and information. Recordings of all sessions are available via the MS Teams site. 

To join or for more information please contact Chris Ribchester, Pedagogic Lead for ESD (

2nd Year Extended Diploma Art & Design Year 2 – 5 week project

The theme for this project is ‘Trash to Treasure’, the conversion of trash into a unique product, garment or art work. This project is all about students creating an imaginative and personal response to the theme. Using recycled/found materials and considering the theme of recycling/upcycling, the task is to design and make an outcome within their specialist area of interest, this could be textiles, 3D, illustration etc.

Students begin with a trip to Les Oakes reclamation yard and they collect all things recyclable to produce their outcomes with. In the past, we have had dresses from empty crisp packets, chairs out of cardboard, ball gowns from bin bags, jewelry from electrical wires. 

1st Year Diploma Art & Design – Cycle of Good – 4 week project

Cycle of Good is a social enterprise designed to raise charitable funds for Krizevac Project which is a UK registered charity established to help end poverty in some of the poorest communities in the world. Krizevac sets up not-for-profit trading enterprises and make all their own funds through ethical trading relationships.

The majority of their work is in a township called Chilomoni in Malawi, one of the poorest townships in one of the poorest countries in the world. Cycle of Good is the latest enterprise to join the Beehive group. Currently employing 12 Malawian tailors full time, but with ambitions to grow this to a team of 100, they earn a good wage and can support their families.

Their ethos is to:

  • Value people; our team and our customers, and treat them fairly
  • Value resources; we reduce waste, recycle wherever possible and care for our environment by being frugal in the way we work
  • Be creative yet practical in our innovations; so we craft lasting products that serve a purpose
  • They collect waste inner tubes and other products, ship them in containers to Malawi and give them to the tailors who carefully craft useful and beautiful items. They also carefully source other Malawian made items, especially when they are made from recycled and sustainable materials.  They ship all these amazing products back to the UK where they will be selling them worldwide. The profits pay for more containers to Malawi and all surpluses directly fund the work of the children’s centre there. It’s why it is called the Cycle of Good!

Students Design Challenge!

To invent some new recycled inner tube products, with fabrication instructions and templates that can be made by the tailors in Malawi. Ideally, they will fit with their ethos of being useful items, things that serve a purpose, rather than being purely decorative. They believe there is already too much “stuff” in the world, so the stuff they create needs to be useful.

Our environment

Living Lab

Our Living Lab project engages students in research that helps the University and local businesses to be more sustainable. Current Living Lab projects include:

Academics or students with projects they would like to work on and University staff with environmental or sustainability initiatives where academic input would make a difference can contact

Undergraduate Research Scholarship Scheme (URSS)

The URSS is a prime example of the University supporting research projects for sustainable development. All second-year students have the opportunity to take part in this funded project. Projects align to one or more of the University’s key academic themes including ‘Zero Carbon’.

Zero Carbon Nature-Based Solutions Research Centre

The Zero Carbon Nature-Based Solutions Research Centre provides students, academics, government agencies, industry and business with exciting opportunities to contribute to urgent global challenges in climate change and sustainable development. One such piece of research was conducted by Michael Sweet, Lecturer in Invertebrate Biology at the University of Derby. He found that, in order to save coral reefs and fisheries, scientists must improve their collaborations in small island states.

Featured PhD student - Daniel Komsoon is at the Muni Lagoon, Winneba, Ghana, researching the impacts of climate change on a coastal community. Daniel is studying how local people, reliant on coastal resources, are responding to ongoing environmental and climate change and using that information to develop adaptation strategies. These strategies will enable communities to deal with the changes to their environment and associated livelihoods. This research is being carried out through the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre in the School of Environmental Sciences.

Daniel Koomson

Daniel's research is focused on enhancing understanding of how the livelihoods of coastal small-scale fishing households are impacted by the interaction of climate change and local socioeconomic factors.


The Nature Connectedness Research Group aims to understand people's connection to nature and create everyday interventions in order to improve connectedness, bringing about the associated benefits in wellbeing and conservation behaviour.

Darley Park, Derby

University of Derby recognised in UK’s Best Breakthroughs list

Our research into nature connectedness led by Professor Miles Richardson has been named as one of the UK’s 100 best breakthroughs for its significant impact on people’s everyday lives.

Read the full storyRead the full story

Institute for Innovation in Sustainable Engineering

The Institute works with SMEs to help provide cutting-edge solutions for the challenges faced. Professor Paul Stewart is leading this group at the University of Derby as the Energy and Environment Research Chair.

Centre for Business Improvement

Our research in Sustainable Business and the Green Economy within the Centre for Business Improvement reflects our commitment to sustainability and the increasing importance of the low-carbon sector to the local, regional and national economies. We conduct practical and applied research to help organisations progress with green or low-carbon innovation.

Centre for Supply Chain Improvement

The research in the Centre for Supply Chain Improvement has three broad areas of focus: technology innovation, system improvement and process re-engineering. The centre's sustainability work includes Green Lean, Sustainable, Green and Circular Operations and Supply Chains.

Derby city skyline

Entrepreneurial networking for environmental sustainability

Academics and practitioners have long known about the benefits of networking. Dr Polina Baranova looks at how the Low Carbon Business Network can support environmental sustainability.

Read more about the Low Carbon Business NetworkRead more about the Low Carbon Business Network

Visitor Economy Research Group

A group of researchers who conduct research into the impacts of tourism, which includes work on sustainability.

Derby Law School

Our academics have been working with the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA), which is part of the Home Office, to tackle human trafficking and modern slavery. Our researchers based in Derby Law School are also undertaking a number of projects focused on the legal issues of sustainability, including bioethics and food technology. 

Mapping the Good Things

We have developed a wellbeing app that prompts users to notice, rate and photograph their surroundings and map the good things in and around Derby - helping to create better urban spaces in the city.

Find out about the Good Things Derby appFind out about the Good Things Derby app