MISTRA Environmental Communication (MISTRA EC)

MISTRA Environmental Communication – Reframing communication for sustainability is a 4-year research programme that aims to reframe environmental communication, i.e., to mainstream an advanced and inclusive understanding of environmental communication in research, policy and practice such that it can effectively underpin and foster sustainability transformations.

MISTRA Environmental Communication’s overarching aim is to reframe environmental communication, i.e., to mainstream an advanced and inclusive understanding of environmental communication in research, policy and practice such that it can effectively underpin and foster sustainability transformations.

The programme draws on a transdisciplinary approach that involves researchers from a range of disciplinary back-grounds as well as non-academic partners representing crucial actors in wider society to harness existing thinking, co-develop new insights and approaches and translate these into communication practice.

The following five principles will be crucial ingredients in a reframed approach to environmental communication:

  • Understanding environmental communication as multimodal and multilateral rather than as linear diffusion of (expert) knowledge, and as performed not only by scientists or government experts but in all societal fields
  • Considering both the instrumental and constitutive aspects of communication – this implies that environmental communication can take place with (e.g., through information campaigns) and without a purpose (e.g., over a coffee among friends and family), and that both these aspects shape public discourses and, ultimately, action
  • Understanding environmental communication as a field of discursive struggle, and sustainability as an inherently contested concept
  • Complementing sustainability transformation approaches that target individuals with approaches that foreground the social practices and structures that produce environmental problems
  • Taking account of the role of power and conflict in knowledge production and communication processes, rather than viewing knowledge as neutral or objective

MISTRA EC’s scientific contribution will thus be to strengthen the development of critical and change-oriented approaches to environmental communication as a research field in its own right that is well embedded in both wider communication studies and other strands of the environmental social sciences. It will produce in‐depth knowledge on how and under what conditions environmental communication can contribute effectively to sustainability transformations.

Five major fields of environmental communication practice

MISTRA EC addresses five major fields of environmental communication practice. These include:

  • government-led dialogue
  • consumption
  • science and knowledge co-production
  • organisational networks in market contexts
  • arts and the media

These five areas form the basis of MISTRA EC’s work package structure. They are complemented by cross-cutting work packages and think/do tanks that synthesise, add value, apply lessons learned to specific organisational contexts, and scale out. MISTRA EC will provide a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of different forms of environmental communication and their roles in sustainability transformations, and will allow to effect change in environmental communication scholarship and practice more generally.

A consortium covering a wide range of perspectives

The programme builds on the well-established research and teaching expertise at SLU’s Division of Environmental Communication, and on SWEDESD’s international work on education for sustainable development.

Programme directors are Anke Fischer, professor in Environmental Communication at SLU and Eva Friman, director of SWEDESD.

The programme is hosted by SLU and involves academics at SLU, Uppsala University, Lund University, University of Borås, the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia, Charles University Prague, and the University of Texas at Austin. Importantly, the consortium also includes 28 societal partners, covering a wide range of environmental and sustainability concerns and perspectives – from climate action to nature conservation, hunting and agriculture, and from the local to the national and international level.


Period: 2019-2023
Partners: The Division of Environmental Communication at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Uppsala; Lund University, the University of the Sunshine Coast (Australia), the University of Texas at Austin (USA), Charles University (Czech Republic) and a range of other academic and wider societal partners, including the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency; Sweden’s Forestry Agency; the Federation of Farmers; Greenpeace, environmental consult-ancies, artists, media representatives and museums, and other authorities, NGOs and businesses.
Funders: MISTRA
Contact: Eva Friman, eva.friman@swedesd.uu.se

Mistra Environmental Communication slu.se