Research & Development

Our research is focussed on answering big sustainability questions; how do the system dynamics work, how does carbon track through the economy, where do the impacts lie and what can bring about change. Current themes include:

Development of a Global Input-Output model for macro-level carbon analysis: The reporting of national level greenhouse gas emissions and the subsequent emission reduction targets only includes direct emissions that occur within a country. However, it is now widely recognised that this hides emissions that are embodied in imported goods and services. Developing an understanding in this area is important to inform national and international policy on climate change mitigation as well as guiding low-carbon procurement. Our input output work began as a collaborative research project with Lancaster University, funded by the Joule Centre.

Carbon embodied in everyday life, household consumption and diets: Individuals are key to reducing the carbon impact of daily life. Understanding the carbon impact of every action that we make, from driving to work, to sending a text or email, to eating a steak is an important part of managing our impacts. Even more important is communicating this in a way that is easily accessible, enabling people to relate to carbon numbers and think about the wider consequences of their actions.

Sustainable Food Systems: for cities and regions in the Northwest.

The relationship between carbon and global trade: Understanding the relationship between carbon and international trade is an important step for a low carbon future. Small World is currently mapping the direct and indirect use of fossil fuel within countries and industries through OECD input–output tables and world energy statistics to analyse the carbon impacts of global trade.

Human and consumer behaviour: With Small World’s help, researchers at Lancaster University are investigating how key carbon moments in personal consumption may be influenced through the use of ubiquitous technologies to reduce the climate change impact.

Tool Development: An important part of our research is developing the tools required to allow others to engage with the carbon agenda, enabling them to understand and manage their own impacts and communicate with others. For more information on this see our Tools page.

Buildings: Small World (with Crichton Carbon Centre) provided three reports to Historic Scotland on the embodied carbon and operational impacts of refurbishment and rebuild options for traditional buildings. This also led to an analysis of the truncation error in processed based LCAs in the construction industry.

Action Research: Finally, we regard all of our work, from How Bad are Bananas, to our corporate, SME and public sector client work, as one big action research project into how to bring about change.