Fédération de Recherche en Environnement et Durabilité

Research Initiative 
in Sustainability and the Environment 


Is the concept of « environemental sustainability » misleading ? 
Mixed perspectives 
Deadline 15 May 2021










The recently set-up FEdération de Recherche en Environnement et Durabilité (FERED) (University of Strasbourg/CNRS/INSERM), with the goal to inaugurate this new research structure, launch a Call for contributions. The event will be held in Strasbourg (and if needed, also online) on 20-22 October 2021 on the topic :« Is the concept of "environmental sustainability” misleading? Mixed perspectives ». The Symposium will thus offer an excellent opportunity to question the concept of sustainability at the crossroads of our various disciplines and practices, in order to better understand and master the way it affects environmental research lato sensu.

At a time of the climate emergency, the dramatic loss of biodiversity and the awareness of the need for a transition to the "future world", the concept of "sustainability" has become a buzzword that cuts across our disciplines. Although the concept covers a very old reality, it has been universally defined and recognised, notably in the United Nations' Bruntland report "Our Common Future" (1987), as satisfying the needs of the present without affecting those of future generations. This broad definition leaves a wide margin of appreciation to those who refer to it. Above all, the use of the concept seems to have been largely circumvented to cover processes that have a detrimental impact on the environment. 

20-22nd October 2021

Thus, the guiding thread of this event will be to assess how the concept of sustainability and the practices claiming to rely on it have evolved. We formulate the hypothesis that, because of a broad definition, it is necessary to assess how this room for manoeuvre has been exploited, and how in return the use made of it has made the concept of sustainability evolve and transform our disciplinary research. The ambition of this symposium will be to contribute to the emergence of a "new innovative sustainability science discipline" by questioning the misuse that may have been made of the concept over the last forty years, by reflecting on the means of ruling out such abuses, by rigorously drawing the contours of "environmental sustainability" and by trying to understand how it still makes sense.



International conference program - 20-22 October 2021 :

Is the concept of « environemental sustainability » misleading ?
Mixed perspectives

The Symposium 2021 of the Research Initiative for Sustainability and the Environment (RISE) of the University of Strasbourg/CNRS will take place from 20-22 October. The Symposium brings together environmental and sustainability scientists from all over the world to one meeting examining the concept of  environmental sustainability. The Symposium aims to question the evolution of the concept of environmental sustainability and how it affects environmental research today, at the crossroads of our disciplines and practices. The Symposium will revisit our notions and knowledge of environmental sustainability.

Priority will be given to abstract presenting innovative research renewing and offering a methodological and/or conceptual perspective. Selected contributions will be published after the Symposium as a collective (e.g., a Dictionary for Environmental Sustainability) and/or a special issue in an international journal. The deadline for abstract submission is 15 May 2021. You are kindly invited to select one of the four sessions for your abstract (see below). The Symposium organisation complies to sustainable environmental criteria.

In case any questions arise, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are looking forward to receiving your abstracts and thank you very much for your cooperation.

Session 1: Sustainability or Environmental Sustainabilities? A Plural Concept?

This session, which is intended to be introductory, aims to clarify the plural, dynamic and vague concept of "sustainability". What have been the role of temporal, geographical, cultural, social, geo-political, economic approaches in the diversity of meanings and representations given to the concept of "sustainability"?

Session 2: Sustainable goods, services and processes: a diversified implementation?

This session enters through sustainable goods, services and processes to expand the characteristics resulting from its implementation.  The proposals may cover the following topics: Agriculture/fisheries, food systems, manufacturing, construction, marketing, transportation systems, urban planning and mobility, architecture, management and rehabilitation of ecosystems…

Session 3: The evolution of measures and indicators of environmental sustainability

This session questions changes in the assessment and measurement of "environmental sustainability" across scientific disciplines. What is the state of science on the observation, measurement and assessment of environmental sustainability? What are current scientific controversies, and if so, how are they overcome or circumvented? How can "ecological limits" be measured in the longer term and at which scale?

Session 4: The sustainability of the concept of 'environmental sustainability': What does our Anthropocene Epoch need?

Building on experience acquired over 30 years, this session questions and foresees the evolution and potential impact of the sustainability concept. What can other concepts, such as "Planetary Boundaries", offer to develop sustainability sciences and practices? Is the transition towards a "sustainable" tomorrow desirable? What are the potential drawbacks of development focusing on sustainability? 


 Please complete this form : https://framaforms.org/ before Saturday 15th May 2021 (500 words).
Abstracts of the work that is to be presented at the Symposium should be written in English. Every abstract should present unique/original research not previously published. Abstracts can be for oral or poster presentations. A poster presentation is organized in a poster session (Day 2 and/or 3). 
The scientific committee will schedule your presentation and recommend either an oral or poster presentation. You will be informed by email when your time is assigned. 

The results will be communicated at the end of may. Final papers in view of the publication process will have to be submitted end of 2021. Depending on the number of papers being selected, a collective publication under the form of a special issue in a journal, or a book or Dictionary will be prepared for 2022. 

Scientific Committee

Rémi BARBIER, Prof. ENGEES, Directeur de l’UMR GESTE

Gwenaël IMFLED, DR CNRS, Lhyges, Directeur de la FERED

Elisabeth LAMBERT, DR CNRS, SAGE, Membre du comité de pilotage de la FERED

Marie-Claire PIERRET, Géochimiste LHyGeS , Responsable de l'OHGE (Observatoire Hydro-Géochimique de l'Environnement)

Laurent SCHMITT, Professeur au LIVE, Directeur Adjoint de la FERED

Karl-Matthias WANTZEN, Professeur, Chaire UNESCO / Fleuves et Patrimoine, CNRS UMR Citeres 


(having already confirmed)

Biography and abstracts

Dr. Campbell Ben

Lecturer, Dpt of Anthropology, Durham University 



Session 1

Alexandra Langlais 

CNRS Researcher (IODE, Rennes)

"Changing our trajectory towards greater sustainability: 
between scientific uncertainties and ecological emergencies"
Session 1

Leire Escajedo

Professor of Constitutional Law, and Law and Ethics in the Biosciences. Department of Public Law, and Historical-Legal Sciences, University of the Basque Country, Bilbao (Spain).


“Is environmental sustainability at risk of becoming an empty concept? Ambiguous and confusing uses”


Session 2

Klaus Kümmerer

Professorship for Sustainable Chemistry and Material Resources, Director International Research and Education Sustainable Collaborative Centre (ISC3), University of Lüneburg



Session 2

Dr. Karl Matthias Wantzen

UNESCO Chair River Culture/ Fleuves et Patrimoine, CNRS UMR Citeres University of Tours, France

"Environmental sustainability: learning from biological strategies and nature-adapted cultural forms".
Session 2

Dr. Stanislav Shmelev 

Director, Environment Europe, Oxford, UK, Professor at Al-Farabi Kazakh National University (Kazakztan) 

“Multidimensional Assessment of Sustainability for Countries and Cities"
Session 3

Christian Arnsperger

Prof., Institut de géographie et durabilité (IGD), Uni Lausanne



Session 4

Nathalie Herve-Fournerau


"Critical reflexions on EU Green Deal: rethinking the concept of vulnerability to built new socio-ecological solidarities" 
Session 4

Jean-Baptiste Jouffray

Postdoctoral researcher

"About the concept of Corporate Biosphere Stewardship" 
Session 4

Eric Pineault

Professor at the Institute of Environmental Sciences (ISE) and the Department of Sociology at UQAM, President of the Scientific Committee of the ISE and USIAS fellow at the University of Strasbourg

"Planetary boundaries to what and for whom ? Growth, capitalism and environmental limits today" 
Session 4


Symposium Venue

MISHA Conference room
(Maison Interuniversitaire des Sciences de l'Homme – Alsace)

Allée du Général Rouvillois, 

Access from the train station

Take the Tram C to your left when you leave the train station.

Leave at the "Université" station.

Access from the airport 

From the airport to the train (Entzheim)

From Entzheim to Strasbourg

Take the TER train which brings you directly to the Strasbourg train station. 
About 4 trains per hour.
More informations here.

From the train station to the 
conference place

Take the Tram C to your left when you leave the train station.  
(Please refer to the map above). 

The MISHA room

To know more about Strasbourg : https://www.visitstrasbourg.fr/en/welcome-in-strasbourg/

Hotel suggestions

Roses hotel
7 Rue de Zurich

13 minutes away

46 Rue du Bassin d'Austerlitz, Presqu'île André-Malraux

8 - 14 minutes away


Couvent du Franciscain
18 Rue du Faubourg-de-Pierre

20 - 30 minutes away


31 Rue des Serruriers 22 minutes away

22 minutes away


Registration fees

A link to make the payment will be available soon.
Please complete the payment to confirm your registration. 


* In case of online attendance : -50%

**The registration fee covers :

  • Welcome package
  • Attendance at all sessions and at the exhibition
  • Welcome reception (20th October)
  • Lunch buffet (21st and 22nd)
  • Coffee breaks.
Registration form

 To come soon...


Laurent Reynes

Under construction...

Under construction....