Sustainability Science Program

Vanessa Timmer

Vanessa Timmer

Vanessa TimmerDr. Vanessa Timmer
Sustainability Science Program
Kennedy School of Government
Mailbox 81
Harvard University
79 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138 USA
Office: Non-resident
Group affiliation: Associate

Vanessa Timmer is an Associate with the Sustainability Science Program and co-founder and the Executive Director of One Earth, a Vancouver-based nonprofit focused on sustainable consumption and production across scales. Her work seeks to transform manufacturing systems towards sustainability, particularly for the most vulnerable populations. Vanessa is contributing to collaborative work with the Initiative on Innovation and Access to Technologies for Sustainable Development led by William Clark. One Earth is curating the New Economies theme of Cities for People, initiated by The J. W. McConnell Family Foundation – a Canada-wide experiment in taking collaborative action to create more resilient and livable cities. One Earth works with local to global partners to highlight the links between who we are, what we buy, where we live, what we make, what we trade, and how we live together. Vanessa is working towards North American leadership and systemic change in this area, with partners including Canadian and US Government and cities, the United Nations, private sector, media, academia, and civil society. One Earth co-founded the Global Research Forum on Sustainable Production and Consumption and is catalyzing a global campaign to create positive and compelling visions and experiences of life in sustainable futures. With her sister Dagmar, Vanessa co-hosts the Metro Vancouver television show, The Sustainable Region. Vanessa writes, speaks and teaches on social change, leadership, systems thinking and sustainability. Timmer holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from the University of British Columbia, a M.Sc. from Oxford University in Environmental Change and Management, and a Queen’s University Bachelor of Arts Honours in Sociology. From 2002 until 2003, Vanessa was a Fulbright Research Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government as part of the Initiative on Science and Technology for Sustainability. In 2013, Vanessa was named one of Business in Vancouver’s Top Forty under 40. Her faculty host is William Clark.

Systems change in the manufacturing sector: Innovation and access to technologies for sustainable development and improved livelihoods
The goal of this project is to understand the relationships among socio-technical conditions of innovations and interventions by actors who transform manufacturing systems towards sustainability, particularly for the most vulnerable populations.

The sustainability of the industrial economic model of production and consumption is increasingly coming into question. There is growing concern about the negative environmental and social consequences of the ‘take-make-dispose’ linear pattern of resource consumption and waste production, along with the increasing complexity, long-term consequences and global spread of supply chains. It is also clear that increasing innovation and access to technology for greater sustainability and equity in the manufacturing sector requires a systemic perspective. This research applies a conceptual framework of the innovation process to the manufacturing sector to explore how existing institutional arrangements, particularly those involving transnational actors, can be strengthened to improve the impact of innovation on sustainable development between and across generations.

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