Special Issue "Sustainable Welfare beyond Growth"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Human Geography and Social Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 1 December 2019.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Tuuli Hirvilammi
Guest Editor
Kokkola University Consortium, University of Jyväskylä
Prof. Max Koch
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Lund University, Socialhögskolan
Interests: political economy; social policy; sustainability; welfare; degrowth

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Environmental sustainability literature has not paid much attention to welfare issues. However, this is necessary as ambitious climate policy targets, for example, have distributional consequences that threaten to make them unpopular amongst the electorate. Conversely, much current welfare and social policy literature continues to gravitate around the crisis and corresponding recalibrations of the welfare arrangements that were developed in the post-war era. Ecological concerns such as climate change keep being largely ignored.

The emerging approach of ‘sustainable welfare’ has begun to integrate environmental sustainability and social welfare research and has demonstrated that, on a finite planet, Western production and consumption patterns, as well as its welfare standards, cannot be generalized globally. At the same time attempts to absolutely decouple GDP growth, resource use, and greenhouse gas emissions have largely failed. As highlighted in degrowth/postgrowth literature, a significant reduction of the matter and energy throughput of the economy in the rich countries is required in order to make their production and consumption patterns compatible with planetary boundaries and to safeguard wellbeing in the future.

The provision of ‘sustainable welfare’ has in general terms been defined as satisfaction of human needs within planetary limits, in a global and intergenerational perspective. An institutional compromise for a sustainable welfare society would need to go beyond existing institutions and welfare regimes. However, further interdisciplinary research is needed to broaden and deepen the theoretical concept of sustainable welfare, thereby systematically accounting for environmental and intergenerational concerns. Elaborated ‘eco-social policies’, which may help re-embed the rich countries into planetary limits, are also required at transnational, national, and local levels. 

In asking what it requires to make welfare societies ecologically sustainable, this Special Issue regards the current financial, economic, and political crisis and the corresponding adjustments in existing welfare state institutions as an impetus to also consider the environmental crisis and reach beyond the growth imperative. Are there, for example, indications that particular welfare configurations are in a better position to provide environmental sustainability than other welfare state types? What is the current relationship between wellbeing, economic growth, and environmental impacts? How can wellbeing be ensured while reducing material and energy use? And how is ‘sustainable welfare’ related to concepts such as ‘sustainable development’ or degrowth?

We particularly invite papers that

  • develop theoretical perspectives on welfare and wellbeing within environmental limits;
  • provide empirical studies that combine sustainability and welfare perspectives;
  • identify and discuss (emerging) eco-social policies for sustainable welfare beyond growth.

Dr. Tuuli Hirvilammi
Prof. Max Koch
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1700 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • environmental sustainability
  • social welfare
  • sustainable welfare
  • eco-social policies
  • degrowth

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Open AccessArticle
Public Support for Sustainable Welfare Compared: Links between Attitudes towards Climate and Welfare Policies
Sustainability 2019, 11(15), 4146; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11154146 - 01 Aug 2019
The emerging concept of sustainable welfare attempts to integrate environmental sustainability and social welfare research. Oriented at a mid-term re-embedding of Western production and consumption norms into planetary limits, it suggests the development of “eco-social” policies in the rich countries. In this theoretical [...] Read more.
The emerging concept of sustainable welfare attempts to integrate environmental sustainability and social welfare research. Oriented at a mid-term re-embedding of Western production and consumption norms into planetary limits, it suggests the development of “eco-social” policies in the rich countries. In this theoretical context, this article empirically investigates the relationships between attitudes towards welfare and climate policy in 23 countries. Using 2016 data from the European Social Survey, we explored patterns of synergy between both kinds of policies as well as effects of crowding-out, where support for one kind of policy involves refusing the other. Since previous research addressed the role of welfare states and their institutional foundations in establishing environmentally sustainable societies, we studied how attitudes towards welfare and climate policies differ according to welfare regime affiliation. Additionally, we examined how a range of socio-demographic and political factors such as class, education, income, and political position shape people’s views on welfare and climate policy goals. The results of a multiple correspondence analysis indicate that the simultaneous support of welfare and climate policies follows welfare regime lines in that this support is the highest among social-democratic countries. However, also some conservative and Mediterranean countries score high in this regard. At the individual level, people with a higher education, employees in socio-cultural professions, and voters of moderate left and green parties display the highest mutual support for welfare and climate policies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Welfare beyond Growth)
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