Hot or Cool: A 2023 Retrospective

Looking back at achievements in agenda-setting, effective outreach and convening

As we approach the end of the year, December offers an opportunity to take stock of what we have achieved and the work that is yet to be done. Looking back at 2023 and the past 3 years since the Hot or Cool Institute was founded, it’s been a wild ride. We’ve had lots of fun, exciting research opportunities, and fruitful partnerships. Our team has accomplished much more than we dared to hope for.

Agenda-setting publications have opened doors to new partnerships and collaboration. We don’t see our publications as an final product, but as a tool to frame debates and build alliances. Our report on 1.5-degree lifestyles, published in October 2021, illustrates this approach. The study has inspired a range of follow-up activities, including a Policy Brief on socially responsible choice editing, co-published with UNEP, and a series of Think Pieces, deepening the analysis of policy approaches including carbon rationing and universal basic services.

The work on 1.5-degree lifestyles has also generated research collaborations that leverage our ideas. For example, Hot or Cool is playing key roles in two EU Horizon projects on low-carbon lifestyles: PS Lifestyles, led by the Finnish Sitra Foundation, and EU 1.5° Lifestyles, led by the University of Münster. Recently, in collaboration with the private company followfood, we analysed how food consumption in Germany could be brought in line with the ambition to limit global heating to 1.5-degrees Celsius.

Effective outreach and communication have contributed to extensive media coverage. Our 2022 fashion report Unfit, Unfair, Unfashionable, which was covered by several leading magazines such as British Vogue and also inspired a BBC feature on the sustainable wardrobe. Our report on 1.5-degree lifestyles made a primetime TV appearance on CBC News and was covered by Reuters, the Times, and many other news outlets, including in several non-native English-speaking countries.

Our research findings and ideas have been referenced in high-level policy documents. Our study on fashion is mentioned in the EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles. Findings from our 1.5-Degree Lifestyles study were included in a UK House of Lords report on behaviour change for climate and environmental goals. We were pleased that the UK report quoted our 2030 target for lifestyle carbon footprint, which is more ambitious than the current UK target and based on the principle that rich countries should reduce emissions faster than others.

Productive convening has brought together progressive organisations and experts for greater impact. Our work on a Caring Society, recently launched its report Economies that Dare to Care with input from over 30 researchers and practitioners from around the world. Hot or Cool and its partners have also established a Forum for Caring Societies to develop a common agenda for action and build social and political support for the transformation of societies through care.

The strong and positive reception of our work is reflected in a growing number of invitations to join high-profile initiatives and to make keynote presentations. For example, Hot or Cool was part of the Cambridge Sustainability Commission on Scaling Behaviour Change and the 21st Century Transformational Economics Commission. Recently, our Executive Director Lewis Akenji was invited to become a member of the Club of Rome – one of the oldest organisations advocating a systemic approach to society’s ecological overshoot.

None of this would have been possible without successful fundraising. Generous support from our funders and partners has enabled us to build a strong project portfolio and a skillful team. Long-term funding, such as for EU Horizon projects, has given us financial predictability, while grants from foundations have made it possible for us to explore new areas, go beyond research, and be at the leading edge of sustainability debates.

With the strong basis Hot or Cool has established, we are confident that the Institute will continue to be at the forefront of debates around overconsumption, fairness, and inclusive wellbeing. Our work will focus on topics where progressive change agents can find common ground and work together to build popular support for the transformative changes that our society so urgently needs.

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