Sustainability studies

Sustainability is a broad term that can be applied to almost any aspect of life, at any scale, and such it is used to mean different things in different situations. Nevertheless, the generally held ‘official’ definition is that “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland Commission of the United Nations). It is now clear that as a species we are living unsustainably, and that changing this will require significant changes in our approach to life.

The desire for agricultural sustainability is well recognised in the UK’s agricultural industry and is now accepted by most farmers although the means for delivering such a goal are still largely unclear. This is, in-part, due to the lack of sound data describing just how far away that goal is. Whilst we have fairly reliable data on the farm economics of crop production, its environmental impact considering the production cycle overall is less well defined. It is only now with the development of risk assessment techniques and sophisticated models mapping environmental fate that we have the skills to address this problem. Bringing economic appraisal together with environmental impact assessment will allow more informed judgements to be made on any possible socio-economic impacts and so lead to a better assessment of the sustainability of UK food production.

AERU’s core expertise in sustainability assessments and studies, have been at the centre of the unit’s work for more than a decade, and we are at the forefront of applying sustainability concepts to the agri-environment sector. The following sections give a number of examples of our work, but to obtain further information or discuss your needs, contact us at

University of Hertfordshire
University of Hertfordshire, 2014.