HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Harvey Brooks Research Professor of International Science, Public Policy and Human Development


The need for faster and deeper transitions toward more sustainable development pathways is now widely recognized. How to meet that need has been at the center of a growing body of academic research and real-world policy implementation. This paper presents our perspective on some of the most powerful insights that have emerged from this ongoing work. In particular, we highlight insights on how sustainability transitions can be usefully conceptualized, how they come about and evolve, and how they can be shaped and guided through deliberate policy interventions. Throughout the paper, we also highlight some of the many how questions that remain unresolved and on which progress would be especially helpful for the pursuit of sustainable development. Our approach to these “how” questions on sustainability transitions draws on two strands of solution-driven research and policy advice: one emerging from studies of how human societies interact with nature and the other emerging from studies of how those societies interact with their technologies. Consumption-production systems have been a focus of extensive work in both strands. To help build bridges between them, we recently brought together a cross-section of relevant scholars for a PNAS Special Feature on “Sustainability transitions in consumption-production systems.” Their contributions are summarized in a companion paper we have written to introduce the Special Feature [F. W. Geels, F. Kern, W. C. Clark, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. (2023)]. We draw on that work in the Perspective we present here as well as our reading of the relevant literatures.


Geels, Frank W., Florian Kern, and William C. Clark. "Sustainability Transitions in Consumption-Production Systems." PNAS 120.47 (November 21, 2023): e2310070120.