NESSE News: NESSE at ISGC 2017

The 2017 International Symposium on Green Chemistry (ISGC-2017) took place in May in La Rochelle, France. Following the trend of previous years, about 700 attendees gathered to discuss the most recent advancements on sustainable science across a variety of topics, including catalytic systems, biomass conversion, environmental impact, and biotechnology.    La Rochelle-1 

Prof. Roger Sheldon kick-started the four-day event with a plenary lecture that perfectly summarized the purpose of ISGC 2017. His talk, “Engineering a Sustainable Future with Green Chemistry and Catalysis”, exposed the need of shifting from a culture of fossil fuels to one that embraces renewable biomass. He elaborated on the use of green metrics, such as the E-factor and atom economy, for the evaluation and improvement of industrial processes.NESSE session pic 1-1

The NESSE team was present at ISGC-2017 to spread the word about our mission and recent efforts to connect scientists with a passion for sustainability. During the conference, we had the chance to talk to early-career professionals in our exhibition stand about the resources and opportunities that NESSE has to offer.NESSE exhibition area stand

Among NESSE’s activities at ISGC, we carried out a satellite session on career development. “Thriving careers and sustainability” was a panel discussion that brought together three guest speakers to converse about their vision about new professionals seeking to apply their knowledge in sustainable science into an academic or industrial career path. Dr. Edith Lecomte-Norrant discussed the opportunities for emerging scientists in the pharmaceutical industry through outreach programs that allow for a close collaboration between PhD students and the innovation department she leads. She emphasized the need to constantly innovate oneself in a market where companies constantly change and require new skill sets. Prof. Peter Wasserscheid shared his insight on the peer-review and grant writing processes for academic professionals, and how academia overlaps with entrepreneurial activities. On the topic of the value of a postdoctoral research, Prof. Luque shared his views on how this experience brought him closer to green chemistry, and how working abroad helps both by expanding the scope of your research and by improving your transferable skills along the way.NESSE session panelists-1INCREASE Industrial session-1

As part of the program, the International Consortium on Eco-conception and renewable resources (INCREASE) brought together a special session on the commitment of industry to sustainable chemistry. Representatives of several European industries discussed current efforts involving green innovation and answered questions from the audience. A particular point was made about industry not only having and active role within their own processes, but also the responsibility of carrying this objective throughout the supply chain.

NESSE session pic 2-1As usual, we had the opportunity to socialize throughout the week during the exhibition, at our NESSE social, and at the gala dinner held as part of the event. The historic town center of La Rochelle overlooking the ocean offered the perfect venue for us to meet new people and expand our knowledge on the latest advancements on green chemistry. We look forward to coming back to la Rochelle for ISGC-2019!

NESSE News: Congratulations to the Newly Elected Directors

Congratulations to our new Board members who were elected by NESSE members. They will formally start their roles on the 1st September joining four continuing Board members – Alex, Natalie, Luciana, Tabitha.

Felipe Cicaroni Fernandes  Director of Membership Activities 2017-2019

Felipe Cicaroni Fernandes
Director of Membership Activities 2017-2019

Tammy Puryicky Director of Marketing and Communications 2017-2019

Tammy Puryicky
Director of Marketing and Communications 2017-2019

Is interdisciplinary research career-suicide? Share your experience

ID research social media photoMulti-, inter- and transdisciplinary research are increasingly seen as vital in a world of complex, interconnected global challenges. Funders are beginning to support early-career researchers to conduct this work through doctoral training centres and projects with a focus on research at the intersections between disciplines.

Yet, these types of research have been called “career suicide” for young academics and a British Academy report suggested that early-career researchers should first “cultivate their academic home” as a base to conduct interdisciplinary research.

We want to understand early-career researchers own experiences and perspectives of MIT-disciplinary (multi-, inter-, or trans-disciplinary*) research as part of a larger study into the culture of science. Please help us by completing this 15 minute survey.

The survey asks you about:

  1. Your past and current experiences of MIT-disciplinary research;
  2. The motivations, challenges and rewards that you associate with MIT-disciplinary research;
  3. The level of support or hindrance that you receive in any MIT-disciplinary research that you undertake
  4. Your suggestions as to how support for future MIT-disciplinary research should be approached, particularly in relation to early-career researchers.

Please share widely! Post on twitter or facebook: Early-career researchers – whats your experience of #interdisciplinary research? #ECRchat #PhDchat @greenscientists


*For the purposes of this survey, we define multidisciplinary as people from different disciplines working together; interdisciplinary as integrating knowledge and methods from different disciplines at the outset of a project; and transdisciplinary as involving researchers from different disciplines and other stakeholders variously in the design, execution and implementation of research.

NESSE News: Living Smaller, Living Greener – GreenSTEMS Social Symposium Recap

Editor’s Notes: We are so proud at NESSE of the great events championed by our NESSE groups! Here’s a blog post taken from GreenSTEMS after their recent social symposium. 

One Planet Week was full of interesting events to attend, all supporting a better world and a better life. GreenSTEMS could not be left out of this inspiring week! Our Living Smaller, Living Greener symposium was a success and we had great feedback. If you enjoyed this afternoon and want a bit more information, or if you couldn’t attend, keep reading for a summary of the talks.

Matthew Redding educates the audience about Passivhaus and sustainable architecture.

Matthew Redding educates the audience about Passivhaus and sustainable architecture.

The afternoon started with Jonathan Avery from Tiny House Scotland giving us an introduction to the concept of the tiny houses movement and its spread across the world. Tiny houses are not just gorgeous, they are also movable, greener and more affordable than normal houses.  Jonathan gave us a tour of his own tiny house, Nest House, and mesmerized all of us; after all, the best things in life come in small packages. If you want to learn more about this new housing concept and admire truly stunning photos of minimalist homes, check out Jonathan’s website at

Our second speaker, Matthew Redding, opened our eyes to a unsettling truth: it’s not just our housing that needs to change, it’s our lifestyle.  Matthew walked us through the ways we can achieve sustainability with architecture and introduced us to the concept of Passivhaus, a set of architectural guidelines for building or retrofitting low-impact buildings. Then, we learned about LILAC, a low impact living affordable community. The LILAC project is an inspiring community in west Leeds, just a short train trip away, so don’t miss the chance to learn more about it and visit it. Check for more information, or explore this map of UK Passivhaus buildings to see if there’s one near you:

The afternoon moved on from architecture to community-based change with a talk given by Sue Bird and James Newton from YorSpace. YorSpace is a group of York friends and neighbours who are working to provide low-cost, sustainable, cooperatively-owned housing, with a cohousing concept similar to LILAC. We were all inspired by the sense of community and equality of this wonderful project, and excited to hear about their future success. If you want to be a part of YorSpace or learn more, just go to

Our next speaker, John “Compost” Cossham, shared with us the secrets of low carbon impact living. He has an impressive (and enviable) low carbon footprint; such a great achievement might have you thinking that you cannot do the same…Calm down! Making small changes in your daily life can make a lot of difference. Some of those simple ideas are: turn off electronics before go to sleep, and use a lid when cooking. Cycle or walk to work instead of using the car. Recycle as much as you can and compost your organic waste. Care about where your electricity is coming from, getting energy from reliable companies is a good step forward. As John said, “it is all about reducing the bad and increasing the good”. Check his blog for more information

The next talk, by Ian Clare from North Yorkshire Rotters, was dedicated to another issue: food waste. It was shocking to hear that on average, we each throw away six meals per week! Students in particular waste a lot of food… However, this can be avoided by simple changes. Go to the market more often if you can, or plan two weeks of meals before shopping if you can’t. Another important thing is to keep track of the expiry dates. Make a list of what you have in the fridge and the use by date, it is not much work and will save you a lot of money too. In a pinch, you can freeze food up to 24 hours before it expires to make it last indefinitely! Finding ways to use leftovers is another important step, you can find great ideas at

Finally, we were introduced to two lovely initiatives at the university. York Edible Uni, as their secretary Apple Chew told us, aims to grow fresh, free vegetables for students and staff on university campus. They have built volunteer garden allotments on campus, and everyone is free to pick anything they find growing there. You can also come get your hands dirty at their weekly gardening sessions on Wednesdays. Have a look at  and find where the gardens are located and how to get involved. The university’s Green Impact team aims to reduce every department’s impact on the environment. It works through a set of tasks to be achieved annually and gives golden, silver, or bronze awards to the departments. Ask your department if you are already involved and find out more at

Thanks again to all of our speakers, and the sustainably-minded folks who came out to East Campus to learn, and contributed diverse viewpoints to the discussion. Hope to see you next time!

greenSTEMS committee members Anna and Tabitha (right) with Sue Bird, Matt Redding, and Jonathan Avery (left).

greenSTEMS committee members Anna and Tabitha (right) with Sue Bird, Matt Redding, and Jonathan Avery (left).

Content taken from


NESSE News: NESSE’s Plans for the Year

Editor’s Note: Here’s NESSE’s founder and Executive Director, Jennie Dodson to share with us all of the exciting plans that NESSE has for the coming year.

This past year has been a rollercoaster for sustainable science and NESSE!

There was heady excitement and optimism with major international agreements on sustainable development and climate change, whilst NESSE has germinated from a small seed, has put down roots and is pushing through the soil to grow and flourish in the sunlight.

This coming year is one of going from big visions to real action. NESSE is uniquely placed to help achieve the vision of sustainable development – we are connecting scientists across disciplines around sustainability at the beginning of our careers. We are creating a new culture of doing science that is focused on positive outcomes for people and the planet using our collective skills and knowledge. We are engaging with society and demonstrating that an equitable, sustainable future is already being built.

So what have we got planned this year:

  • Our first major international workshop bringing together early-career researchers to discuss the role of Science for Sustainable Development will take place in London in December. We want this to be a template for other workshops around the world and we’re also partnering with international conferences. Would you like to run a whole workshop or host a NESSE booth or activity at a conference?
  • We are supporting new groups to grow at universities, in cities or in countries around the world. Do you want to bring together inspiring scientists across disciplines to discuss how we can solve the biggest challenges of our time? Then start a Sustainable Science Group.
  • We will be sharing more inspiration, from new research to career opportunities via our blogs, webinars and social media.
  • We are developing new ways to connect members around the world, from Randomised Coffee Trials to our soon-to-be launched new website.

This is only a small amount of what we want to achieve. We want to hear your ideas for other projects and activities we could be doing and support YOU to start your own projects.

On 1 November, from 6-7pm UTC for our first all members meeting to find out more about our plans and share your ideas. Sign-up via this link or read more about what we’ll be discussing at the meeting here.

NESSE News: Meet the Team

Editor’s note: This week, our Director of Marketing & Communications, Alex, writers to tell you more about the NESSE board, including all the stuff you never thought you would want to read about!


Executive Director: Dr Jennifer Dodson – London, UK

Executive Director: Natalie O’Neil – New York, USA

Director of Marketing & Communications: Alexandra Hicken – London, UK

Director of Membership Activities: Dr Norman Spencer – North Carolina, USApresentation2

Director of Research: Dr Cristiano Varrone – Denmark

Vice Director of Research: Daniel Pleissner – Germany

Director of Sustainable Science Groups: Chian Chan – Malaysia

Executive Board Support: Tabitha Petchey – York, UK


How did you get involved with NESSE?

  • JD: I set-up NESSE! Although it has evolved from the original vision and the excitement is seeing how new people who get involved develop their own creative ideas and activities.
  • NO: I joined NESSE’s mentorship program in March 2015 and was connected with some great sustainable scientists. I then took on the Marketing and Communications role for 2015-2016 and now I am transitioning to share the executive director duties with Jennifer Dodson.
  • AH: I previously worked with Jennie at the University of York and via some careful arm twisting, she persuaded me to apply for a board position.
  • NS: I learned about NESSE in mid-2014 from an online webinar from the American Chemical Society and registered as a member the same day. A while later, I received an email detailing upcoming events and available volunteer positions.
  • CV: I attended a Workshop on BioEconomy organized by NESSE in collaboration with the University of York, and I was highly impressed by the positive energy, the proactive attitude and the very international atmosphere.
  • DP: I saw the announcement for open board position and applied, now I’m in!  
  • CC: I think I was introduced to NESSE either by a friend or newsletter from the University of Newcastle, one of the newsletters was calling for volunteers to be Global Challenges Officer hence I got more actively involved.
  • TP: I helped Jennie with a NESSE-run event and she invited me to apply for the position.


What do you do on an average day?

  • JD: My days are really varied. I run events, meet and discuss ideas with lots of interesting people across government, academia and NGOs or write briefing papers sharing what research to fund or how to fund it better.
  • NO: On MWF I teach chemistry lab and lectures at a small liberal arts school in upstate New York and on T/TH I am conducting research and writing to finish up my Ph.D. degree in Albany, NY.
  • AH: An average day consists of a couple of sweaty tube journeys, working in the lab and having lunch with my research group – which is obviously the best part of the day. I’m always excited to spend an hour or so with my colleagues chatting about recent events.
  • NS: I work full-time for Safe Alliance, a victim services agency that provides hope and healing in the form of advocacy, mental health counselling and legal assistance to over 12,000 survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking in the Metropolitan Charlotte area.
  • CV: I always start my day with a good cappuccino (would not be able to leave home without it) and am ready to bike to work only after that. I usually spend half of my day in the lab and half in the office, elaborating data, reading new articles, writing, etc.
  • DP: I stare at my laptop screen!
  • CC: Mapping out stakeholders for NESSE and Agridon; meeting clients and stakeholders and identifying funding opportunities for both organisations.
  • TP: Probably about 5 h in the lab and several more at my desk. Have lunch with lab-mates.


What is your dream career?

  • JD: I’m really lucky to be doing pretty much my dream career. I work to make sure we fund and use research for international development in the best way. I look at what research we need in the future, bring people together about how to support interdisciplinary research and look at how to get research into use.
  • NO: Working for an organization that promotes sustainable science and research in academia. Working with universities and abs to address their hazardous waste programs, energy consumption and how sustainability can be applied in the laboratory.
  • AH: I think my dream career might not actually be a career that is currently possible to pursue but to be able to use my passion for sustainability in order to directly improve people’s quality of life sums it up nicely.
  • NS: I am happy that my dream career is exactly what I do now: working in multiple professions and with multiple organisations. I could never feel truly happy and useful to society if I only ever worked in one profession.
  • CV: I would like to develop an independent research career.
  • DP: A permanent position in academia would be awesome!
  • CC: My dream career is to be able to be an independent consultant and having my own research group/company/entity with a track record of supporting career development of other professionals.
  • TP: It would be nice to do something to encourage sustainable living in the general public or to provide some alternative means of sustainable living that is accessible.


What is your favorite hobby?

  • JD: I love dancing…particularly forro, a Brazilian country-dance that I’m completely addicted to. If you haven’t heard of it check it out!
  • NO: My favorite hobby is snuggling my dog Tyson and taking hikes with him and my husband.
  • AH: My favourite hobby is travelling around the UK to watch my hometown football (soccer!) team. Sometimes it’s quite an enjoyable hobby, but most of the time it brings out the cynicism in me.
  • NS: Two of my most favourite hobbies are fashion and music. I enjoy developing a wardrobe possessive of all the essential contemporary and modern staples. I can (and have) easily passed an entire day traversing the many clothing and shoe shops. I play both trumpet and French horn; in addition, I currently sing for a few local groups in the Metro Charlotte area.hobbies
  • CV: There are many, starting from birdwatching and hiking, snorkeling, playing music, cooking…
  • DP: Writing scientific papers!
  • CC: My favourite hobbies include playing the piano, swimming, hiking, trekking, cycling, dancing, cooking, attending classical and dance concerts, racquet sports, reading New Scientists (occasionally National Geographic) and reading books.
  • TP: Hmm… possibly playing the piano, or attempting ill-advised DIY.


Do you have a guilty pleasure?

  • JD: Romantic period dramas. When the present world gets too much I retreat to Jane Austen.
  • NO: Watching terrible reality TV when I just need an escape from my own reality.
  • AH: My guilty pleasure is definitely anything I can collect – my current collections include magnetic bottle openers, used football match tickets and cute soft toys called tsum tsums (you never know when any of these things are going to come in handy!)
  • NS: I do not particularly have a guilty pleasure, but the closest to one would be wine. I enjoy tasting different wines, drinking them, collecting them and learning the properties of different wines. In particular, I have a fondness for Spanish wines due to my heritage.
  • CV: Not really. I don’t feel that guilty when doing what I like.
  • DP: Yes 😉 !
  • CC: Yes, listening to Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance.
  • TP: Several – not limited to but including cake.


Where’s the one place you would like to visit?

  • JD: Too many places. However, I’m trying to keep my air miles down, so the Scottish Isles would be top of my list currently.
  • NO: Anywhere I haven’t been before, I find traveling more about the adventure than about the destination.
  • AH: I’m conscious that recently my air miles have been a little on the excessive side, so like Jennie would also like to visit the Scottish Highlands – maybe we organise a NESSE retreat?
  • NS: I would desperately love to visit Iceland. I am in the midst of planning a trip to Iceland with a close friend of mine!
  • CV: Hawaii.
  • DP: I have a long list of places I would like to visit, too many but no time…!
  • CC: It would be the Arctic before all its’ ice sheets melt away into oblivion due to global warming.
  • TP: At the moment, I would love to visit Sweden.


Finally… What’s the main thing that you would like to achieve whilst working within NESSE?

  • JD: I want loads more people to feel connected to a community and feel that they can set-up something locally through inspiration from NESSE. This year I really want to make sure we get some funding so we can employ someone and ensure NESSE can grow. I am so excited about all the new energy and enthusiasm from the new Directors who have joined.
  • NO: My motivation for working with NESSE is to spread sustainable science to early career scientists and engineers that may not be exposed to it at their university or in their career field. To do this we need to achieve 501(c)(3) status and start applying for grants, this is my main objective over the next year.
  • AH: My main aim whilst working with NESSE is to make sure that the fantastic work achieved by NESSE members is communicated as effectively and as widely as possible.
  • NS: There are many things I would like to accomplish, but in particular, I really want to help curate an active, excited and tireless member body. In order to achieve this goal, I want to lay the framework for seamless electronic communication between members, a robust and developed jobs and opportunity board and developing a specialised team of committed and talented volunteers that will serve as our membership’s frontline.
  • CV: Increase our impact on the Sustainable Development Goals, together with our SDG-Team, and consolidate the NESSE webinar series.
  • DP: Getting a paper published showing that NESSE members can work together to solve a sustainable issue.
  • CC: NESSE being financially viable and self-sustaining non-profit organisation with a track record of spawning other financially viable and self-sustaining organisations.
  • TP: As I am in a supporting role, I most want to ensure that the goals of NESSE are met: in particular, that we reach out to as many people as possible.

NESSE News: Thank You Laura!

Editor’s Note: NESSE Executive Director Jennie writes to thank former Secretary and Director of Sustainable Science Groups, Laura Hoch, for her tremendous work over the past three years.

There are very few times in your life when you meet someone with an energy, spark and passion that touches everyone around them. Laura Hoch is one of those people – and it has been an absolute privilege and joy to work with her to develop NESSE over the past few years. After three years helping to shape NESSE from the initial idea, Laura is now moving on to exciting new opportunities. However she will always remain in NESSE’s heart, not just from the groups and ideas she has nurtured, but also in providing input to our Advisory Group.

Laura has been wonderful to work with, simply because her instant response to new ideas is ‘yes’! She is fascinated in what she can learn from everyone around her and instantly shares her joy and passion for the things she loves. Laura shaped our groups work, helping to share inspiration between sustainable science initiatives around the world, from the Green Chemistry Initiative which she co-founded several years ago at the University of Toronto, to the new groups she supported through her fantastic short course. In that time she has not only been an integral part of NESSE, but has also gained her doctorate, started a new job and moved town!

On a more personal note, she is great fun! We finalised NESSE’s launch event in Washington DC over coffee after we’d both just flown in, an hour before the event!! We’ve run around together madly organising events at the International Symposium on Green Chemistry and celebrated together with delicious crepes, French cider and cycling at sunset. We held our first NESSE Board retreat over-looking the sea in Rhode Island followed by wild camping and swimming in the forests of Vermont.


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And this is what is great about networks. You don’t just find people to work or share ideas with, you make friendships that will last a lifetime. You learn and take the best from the people you meet, and together you can create something amazing. If NESSE is a network of leaders who are even half as amazing as Laura, I know that it will have a huge and positive impact on the world. So thank you Laura for all your time and effort you have put into NESSE, for believing in it from the very beginning and for your positivity, energy and smile. We’ll miss you, but we’ll definitely see you around!

Congratulations to the newly elected Directors

Congratulations to our new Board members who were elected by NESSE members. They will formally start their roles on the 1st September joining four continuing Board members – Jennie, Natalie, Cristiano and Norman

Chian Chan – Director of Sustainable Science Groups 2016-2018

Daniel Pleissner – Vice Director of Research 2016-17

Tabitha petchey

Tabitha Petchey – Executive Board Support 2016-18

Alexandra Hicken

Alexandra Hicken – Director of Marketing & Communications 2016-18

A Draft Framework for Understanding Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Interactions

A Draft Framework for Understanding Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Interactions (1)

Contributed by our Director of Research – Dr. Cristiano Varrone

Edited by: Dr. Lisa Kozycz 

Link for the conference

UN Livestream

On July 15, 2016, in New York, the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development will have its first global progress review. Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015, the agenda represents a new coherent way of thinking about how issues as diverse as poverty, education, and climate change fit together; it entwines economic, social, and environmental targets into 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as an indivisible whole. Implicit in the SDG logic is that the goals depend on each other — but no one has specified exactly how. International negotiations gloss over tricky trade-offs. Still, balancing interests and priorities is what policymakers do — and the need will surface when the goals are being implemented. If countries ignore the overlaps and simply start trying to tick off targets one by one, they risk perverse outcomes. If mutually reinforcing actions are taken and trade-offs minimized, the agenda will be able to deliver on its potential.

In the 2030 Agenda, the social, environmental, and economic dimensions of sustainable development are intertwined and cut across the entire framework. Indeed, while most of the 17 goals have a clear starting point in one of the three pillars, most goals actually span all three dimensions across their targets.

SDG 2 “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture” contains targets related to social (e.g. malnutrition and vulnerability), economic (e.g. agricultural productivity and financial services) and environmental dimensions (e.g. genetic diversity and climate resilience), exemplifying how there are significant interactions between goals. Staying with the food SDG example, a commonly discussed set of interactions lies in the nexus between food, water, and energy (2). For instance, water is required for energy production in cooling thermal power plants and generating hydropower; energy is required for water pumping and irrigation systems; and water is needed for irrigating agriculture. There are also competing resource requirements: for example, food production may compete with bioenergy production for the same land or water.

Articulating these linkages helps explain why the 2030 Agenda must indeed be treated as an indivisible whole. However, in that phrase there is a hidden presumption that the interactions between goals and targets are—for the most part— mutually supporting; in order to achieve one goal area you also need to address the others. At the same time, both the research community and policy makers have paid attention to the fact that there are probably as many goal conflicts and trade-offs as there are synergies.

While the scientific community has emphasized the need for a systems approach to sustainable development, scientists, like policy-makers, are now facing the challenge of turning the goals into reality.

The problem is that policymakers and planners operate in silos. Different ministries handle energy, agriculture, and health. Policymakers also lack tools to identify which interactions are the most important to tackle.

The 2030 Agenda focuses on the existence of trade-offs and synergies between sectors, and the need to map them out and identify ways to alleviate or remove trade-offs and maximize synergies. However, this area currently has a weak conceptual and scientific underpinning, and no common framework to analyze the nature and strengths of these interactions, and the extent to which they constrain or enable policy and action.

Seven possible types of interactions are rated, from the most positive (scoring +3) to the most negative (–3). These can be applied at any level — among goals and targets, to individual policies or to actions (see ‘The wins and losses en route to zero hunger’ (3)). For practical policy making, the process should start from a specific SDG — in line with a minister’s mandate — and map out, score, and qualify interactions in relation to the other 16 goals and their targets.

The framework consists of a typology of interactions, organized on a seven point ordinal scale, and should be considered as a starting point for building an evidence base to characterize the goal interactions in specific local, national or regional contexts. There is no formal platform for sharing such knowledge yet, but the International Council for Science (ICSU) is beginning to use the framework and populate it with empirical evidence.


Beyond trade-offs and synergies – a seven-point scale of SDG interactions

Thinking carefully about interactions, and more specifically the range of different types of interactions (so not just “positive” or “negative”), is important because they may have very different implications in terms of implementation actions. Interactions between goals (such as SDGs and/or their targets) are presented on a seven-point ordinal scale, indicating the type of the interaction with other targets, and the extent to which the relationship is a positive or a negative one. Not all linkages between SDGs and targets will neatly fall into one of the seven points on the scale, but they provide a sufficiently wide range to classify most relationships.

The nature of the interactions can be determined at the level of targets, or at the level of instruments (used to reach a certain target). The choice depends on the purpose of the assessment: in some cases, we would like to know how, if a target is reached, it will directly affect another policy area. In other cases, we would like to know how, if a certain intervention or instrument is pursued, it will affect another policy area. An example is the use of certain taxation or incentives (= instrument) to improve energy efficiency (= target). The effect of the taxation on other Goals can be different from the effect of the enhanced energy efficiency. Whether to examine the relationship between targets or instruments, or (more likely) a combination, needs to be resolved on a case-by-case basis.

Key dimensions that shape the interactions

The impact and influence that a certain action can have on the others can depend on many parameters and local conditions. For instance, while some relationships are generic, others are highly context-dependent. As an example, bioenergy production is widely assumed to counteract food security through land competition. But in the Nordic region, bioenergy markets have reinforced the agricultural and forest production systems — offering new and more diversified market opportunities and increasing farmers’ and forest owners’ resilience (Geographical context-dependency). On the other hand, even if bioenergy in the Nordic countries is not considered to affect food security there, a joint change in their food export patterns to support national bioenergy production could still have an impact on food security globally.

In some cases, the negative nature of a relationship can be the result of poor governance (for instance actions taken without public involvement, consultation or compensation of local communities, etc).  Negative impacts on local communities are more likely to occur, or tend to be larger, when institutions and rights are weak (Governance-Dependency).

In some cases there is a real trade-off but there are technologies that when deployed will significantly mitigate these trade-offs, and even remove them – think for instance about new technological solutions that can mitigate harmful emissions – (Technology-Dependency). On the other hand, certain interactions may be restricted in time to the actual period of intervention. When the intervention ceases, the interaction stops (Reversibility). Other interactions are irreversible or take a very long time to “wear out” such that affected systems recover (i.e. species extinction, collapsed fisheries or changed states of eutrophication).

Certain interactions play out in real time, whereas others show significant time lags. For example, increases in fertilizer use will help to alleviate hunger today, but over-application could reduce our ability to produce food for future generations (Time sensitivity).

Finally, the interaction between two areas can be unidirectional or bidirectional, and symmetrical or asymmetrical. For example, electricity access is needed for powering clinics and hospitals for the delivery of health care services, whereas health care services in clinics and hospitals are not needed for providing electricity access (Directionality).

Other forms of coherence relationships

Another type of coherence relationship exists across jurisdictions. We can for instance consider to what extent the pursuit of objectives in one country has international repercussions or affects the abilities of another country to pursue its objectives, which leads to cross-jurisdictional concerns that need to be addressed through appropriate indicators. For instance, it is often the case that while new policies and goals can be easily introduced, institutional capacities for implementation are not aligned with the new policy designs and are also much more difficult to develop. There may be a mismatch between the goals and targets established at the global level, and the agenda as interpreted at the national level and acted upon at the local level. Finally, coherence relationships should be considered along the implementation continuum: from the policy objective, through the instruments and measures decided, to the actual implementation practice on the ground, which often deviates substantially from the original policy intentions.

Analytical questions for case study research into SDG interactions

The framework outlined above is intended to form the basis of a report presenting the analytical framework and a set of examples from different SDG areas testing and applying the framework. The report seeks to provide conceptual tools as well as evidence-based recommendations to policymakers on the management of interdependencies through context-specific analysis of synergies and trade-offs around specific policy areas. The areas that have been identified initially to road-test the framework, are food and agriculture, health, and energy.

For partnership development enquiries, please contact:

Anne-Sophie Stevance, Science Officer at the International Council for Science (

Check back soon to see what NESSE is doing about SDG! 


1 Måns Nilsson, Dave Griggs,Martin Visbeck and Claudia Ringler. (June 2016). Working paper “A draft framework for understanding SDG interactions.” Paris: International Council for Science (ICSU).

2 Weitz, N., Nilsson, M. and Davis. M. 2014. A Nexus Approach to the Post-2015 Agenda: Formulating Integrated Water, Energy, and Food SDGs. SAIS Review of International Affairs, 34 (2):37-50. doi:10.1353/sais.2014.0022

3 Måns Nilsson, Dave Griggs and Martin Visbeck. Map the interactions between Sustainable Development Goals. Nature;Vol 534:320-322. 16 June 2016.