About the Centre for Sustainable Transitions

USN’s Centre for Sustainable Transitions is an expert centre promoting co-creation between the University of South-Eastern Norway and local individuals and organisations, focusing on sustainable transitions and transformations.

The centre facilitates broad cross-disciplinary and cross-sectoral collaboration, enabling USN to create local, national and global foundations for sustainable transitions and tranformation. 

The centre enables USN to contribute with a diversity of perspectives on sustainability and transition rooted in the humanities, the natural sciences, the social sciences, technology and economics. 

The Centre for Sustainable Transitions serves as a catalyst for reflection, research and action.


The centre is made up of an expert network of researchers and administrators from within the university, mutually coordinated by a small team of individuals who constitute the centre’s ‘core working group’. See more about the centre team here.

What is sustainability?

The term ‘sustainability’ is key to the work being carried out at the centre, and our point of departure remains the definition that emerged from the 1987 UN World Commission on Environment and Development (also known as the Brundtland Commission, after its chair, a former Prime Minister of Norway)

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Since the Commission’s results were published, both the definition and meaning of the term have evolved. As part of its 2030 Agenda for Global Development, the UN has formulated 17 principal Sustainable Development Goals and 169 specific sustainability targets. These goals are intended to act as a shared global guide towards achieving sustainable development, and it is anticipated that all nations and all sectors of human activity shall contribute. 

The UN Sustainable Development Goals also form the basis for USN’s work to address sustainability. The Centre for Sustainable Transition is committed to promoting the idea that ‘sustainability’ shall be more than just a buzzword banded about at political conferences and in annual reports.  

Many people ask us about our definition of the term, often arising from a feeling that the term is in danger of being watered down, and that the more expansive goals set out in the UN agenda are being disregarded.   

The centre is working on the basis of a diversity of definitions and interpretations of the term, with a strong emphasis on clarifying content, objectives and ways of working in encounters with our partners.  

We believe that the depth inherent in the perspectives, our critical outlook and a willingness to go the extra mile will enable us to contribute towards developing holistic solutions where ‘the solution, its implementation and transition’ will walk hand in hand.   

For us at USN, the term ‘sustainability’ is all about addressing the following:  

  • Climate and the environment  
  • Social and human relations  
  • Economic conditions  

In particular, we will be looking into the term ‘sustainable transitions’ as it applies to the specific and gradual work of transitions that must be carried out by all organisations that are looking to promote greater sustainability. And, not least, we will also be investigating how socially-constructed systems of meaning and significance create the foundation that makes transition to a sustainable society possible.

During its ‘pilot period’ (2021-2023), the centre focuses on promoting, coordinating and strengthening collaboration in the fields of research, education and dissemination that specifically promote sustainable transitions.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals address the major challenges of our times. USN’s role in meeting these challenges is a key component of the university’s social responsibility as a knowledge centre.

Our aim is to gather together a variety of in-house and external communities that are looking to work towards sustainable transitions and clarifications of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The Centre for Sustainable Transitions offers collaboration, advise and guidance linked to this area of focus.