Home  >> Who we are  >> Strategies



In order to develop better ways to manage human well-being, economic growth, environmental degradation and resource depletion, the Panel’s approach includes:

  • identifying global issues of sustainability in need of independent scientific assessment;
  • building scientific teams capable of working at the cutting edge of those issues;
  • assessing the existing science to achieve new insights and potential for action;
  • producing reports and documents tailored to the needs of different audiences; and
  • generating reports and advice of the highest quality, independence and impact.

The Panel emphasises:

  • systems thinking and a life-cycle perspective, that takes account of drivers, pressures, states, impacts and potential responses;
  • policy relevance rather than policy prescription.

It also develops new tools for applications such as:

  • exploring alternative resource futures and the complexity of emerging resource issues,
  • evaluating the risks of burden shift associated with economic globalization and rebound effects,
  • calculating the hidden costs of a bio-based economy,
  • assessing the impact of green technologies on already scarce materials,
  • identifying ‘lock-in implications’ of short-term gain that prevents long term benefit.

The Panel’s choice of issues for research covers many different resources and especially the way these interact with the economy and society. Its research entry points include:

  • Resources (water, land, materials, energy, etc.) and the nexus of resource impacts
  • Environmental impacts at global, regional and local levels. Systems (eg. cities, trade, food chain, etc.) and correlations between production and consumption
  • Policy impacts (e.g. poverty, equity, access, employment, fiscal, prices, etc.)

In all its work, the Panel seeks positive solutions to the growing problems posed by resource depletion and misuse by identifying:

  • substitutes and alternatives;
  • potential innovations;
  • pricing, regulation and fiscal measures;
  • information gaps and communication needs;
  • efficiency issues; and
  • rebound effects, where the efficiencies gained may be lost in new resource use.

In an era of runaway resource consumption, the Panel also studies the wider, multi-dimensional aspects of resource issues, such as: 

  • Bio-physical impacts of resource use.
  • The distributional and social justice dimension.
  • Economic efficiency.
  • Institutional feasibility.
  • Behavioural or cultural issues, including in the changes needed.
  • Successful and ineffective ways to manage change in different societies.

Reports & Publications

  • Unlocking the Sustainable Potential of Land Resources: Evaluation Systems, Strategies and Tools

    Land resources are one of nature’s most precious gifts. They feed us and help our societies and economies to thrive. Some 2.5 billion agricultural smallholders worldwide....

  • Food systems and natural resources

    Global food systems have radically changed over the last 50 years. Food production has more than  doubled, diets have become more varied (and often more energy-intense) satisfying people’s preferences ...

  • Options for Decoupling Economic Growth from Water Use and Water Pollution

    Global trends point to a relative decoupling of water – that is, the rate of water resource use is increasing at a rate slower than that of economic growth. The Options for Decoupling Economic Growth from...

  • Green energy choices: The benefits, risks and trade-offs of low-carbon technologies for electricity production

    This report represents the first in-depth international comparative assessment of the environmental, health and resource impacts of different low-carbon technologies for electricity production… ...

  • International Trade in Resources: A Biophysical Assessment                                                                                                                          

    This latest report from the IRP analyses the role of international trade in increasing resource efficiency, reducing environmental impact and promoting equitable and inclusive growth? ...

  • Assessing Global Land Use: Balancing Consumption with Sustainable Supply

    This report explores how the management of land-based biomass production and consumption can be developed towards a higher degree of sustainability across different scales: from the sustainable...

  • Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production: Priority Products and Materials

    This report focuses not on the effects of environmental pressure, but on its causes. It describes pressures as resulting from economic activities. These activities are pursued for a purpose, ...

  • City Level Decoupling: Urban Resource Flows and the Governance of Infrastructure Transitions

    This report examines the potential for decoupling at the city level. While the majority of the worlds population now live in cities and cities are where most resource consumption takes place, ...

  • Measuring Water Use in a Green Economy

    Water is an essential resource for virtually all aspects of human enterprise, from agriculture via urbanization to energy and industrial production. Equally, the many uses for water create pressures...

  • Decoupling Natural Resources Use and Environmental Impacts from Economic Growth

    Humankind has witnessed phenomenal economic and social development in the past century. However, there are increasing signs that it has come at a cost to the environment and to the availability of ...

  • Towards Sustainable Production and Use of Resources: Assessing Biofuels

    This report provides an overview of the key problems and perspectives and use of biofuels. It is based on an extensive literature study, taking into account recent major reviews.

  • Building Natural Capital: How REDD+ can Support a Green Economy

    This report advocates placing REDD+ into a larger planning framework that should involve multiple influences (especially those driving deforestation, albeit sometimes inadvertently).

  • Decoupling 2: Technologies, Opportunities and Policy Options

    This report was produced by the Decoupling Working Group of the IRP. It explores technological possibilities and opportunities for both developing and developed countries to ...

  • Metal Stocks in Society: Scientific Synthesis

    The continued increase in the use of metals over the twentieth century has led to a substantial shift from geological resource base to metal stocks in society. This report reviews the relevant literature on this topic.

  • Recycling Rates of Metals: A Status Report

    In theory, metals can be used over and over again, minimizing the need to mine and process virgin materials and thus saving substantial amounts of energy and water while minimizing environmental ...

  • Environmental Risks and Challenges of Anthropogenic Metals Flows and Cycles

    This report focuses on the impact of metals on the environment as well as on their life cycle energy use. Currently primary metals production is responsible for 78 % of the total global energy use ...

  • Metal Recycling: Opportunities, Limits, Infrastructure

    A key question that relates to the very broad and intensive use of metals is whether society needs to be concerned about long-term supplies of any or many of them. This is a many-faceted question ...