Just economies

Sustainable development requires fairer economic systems that foster social cohesion and protect the environment. CDE generates new forms of knowledge and integrates them with the experience of relevant actors to address issues such as:

  • how profits and risks of globalization are distributed between regions and social groups and what form of distribution is socially sustainable;
  • how structural change impacts people’s opportunities and scope for action;
  • how economic and trade policy can be shaped internationally, regionally, and locally to overcome power asymmetries between the global North and South; and
  • how alternative development pathways can be forged that enable greater social justice and individual life quality – while respecting planetary boundaries.

Poverty and inequality

Poverty and inequality are drivers and outcomes of unsustainable development. There is a need to distribute resources and opportunities more fairly. CDE researchers work to shed light on the causes and consequences of global inequality. They examine key poverty factors at the household level and link them with analyses of trade and the economy.

Labour and production

Technical and sociopolitical developments open up new opportunities for transformation to a sustainable society in the area of work and employment. CDE examines forms of work and social innovations that could alter our relationship to consumption and prosperity. This approach is complemented by studies on global value chains and rural labour markets in countries of the global South.

Trade, taxes and finance

Trade and financial flows can serve as important levers for change towards sustainable development. But it depends on how the corresponding rules are structured. CDE looks for new ways of shaping trade relations, financial flows from resource-rich developing countries, and international commodity investments such that they are fair and promote sustainable development.

Land rights and investments

Access to land is crucial to people’s food security, livelihoods, well-being, and cultural identity. But land is becoming ever scarcer. International land deals are one reason. CDE is working to make access to land fairer and more secure for affected populations, among other things by developing transparent information systems.


Consumption serves to satisfy our needs. In its current form, however, it has strong negative impacts on the environment and climate – and often on labour conditions in producer countries. CDE researches innovative and just solutions that enable fair, environmentally friendly consumption and lifestyles within a low-impact economy.


Human well-being is much more than material prosperity: It is an overarching goal of sustainable development. CDE develops concepts and indicators that make it possible to capture and measure sustainable quality of life and well-being. It also investigates what a good and simultaneously low-impact life might look like.


Sufficiency is about the conscious reduction of material and energy needs. The goal of the concept is to bring our consumption and economic activity in line with the limits of our planet. CDE explores how sufficiency can be anchored in our individual lives as well as in education, business, work, and society.