Sustainability research and projects , Rangahau whakapūmautanga

Explore our sustainability research. Get an overview of our expertise, groups and projects. See our sustainability publications and partnerships.

Massey research on sustainability-related areas is interdisciplinary, drawing on our expertise in design thinking, business, engineering, the natural, health and social sciences, and more.

Our researchers work with partners of all kinds, including:

  • local communities
  • mana whenua, iwi and Māori organisations
  • local and regional councils
  • central government
  • crown research institutes and other research organisations
  • private companies.

We also bring our applied, real-world research into teaching.

Find out more about studying sustainability

Research topics

Massey researchers work on a wide variety of sustainability topics, including:

  • business culture and sustainability practices
  • carbon and water footprint measurement
  • climate change
  • ecosystems
  • environment life cycle assessment
  • fashion design
  • investment in sustainability
  • renewable energy
  • sustainable transport
  • sustaining culture and identity in contemporary tribal organisations
  • urban sustainability
  • water governance
  • agriculture and horticulture.

Find research staff working in your area in our expertise database

We showcased examples of Massey research in sustainability in our 2018 ‘5in5 on Climate Change’ events.

Watch videos of Massey academics talking about sustainability research.

Robert McLachlan – Climate Change Emergency

Chanjief Chandrakumar –What Does the 2ºC Threshold Actually Mean?

Mereana Barrett – Rights of Nature

Huhana Smith – Whakakotahitanga

Peter Meihana – The Fate of the Koiwi Tangata at the Wairau Bar

Marta Camps – Soils

Luis Ortiz-Catedral – New Zealand Birds

David Aguirre – Corals in Crisis

Trisia Farrelly – Plastic

Sarah Meads – Art

Elspeth Tilley – Theatre

Jagadish Thaker – Curious Minds

Matt Williams – Misinformation

Magdalena Karasinska – Transformable Shoes

Alireza Mokhtar – Circular Manufacturing

Sustainability research centres and groups

Massey has several research centres and networks focusing on sustainability. Our researchers recognise sustainability is important in all human activity and branches of knowledge. Massey sustainability researchers often work in interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary groups that cut across traditional subject areas.

We often carry out research for partners outside Massey or work together with partners on certain topics or as part of long-term relationships. Our consultancy makes the most of expertise from all round the university, offering fresh thinking.

See more about our research partners in the partnerships section.

Sustainability and Responsibility Research Group

Massey researchers in the Sustainability and Responsibility Research Group (SSRG) work closely with other academics, businesses and policy-makers on multi-disciplinary research including:

  • corporate responsibility
  • ethical behaviour
  • responsible capitalism
  • sustainability disciplines
  • other social issues in business and management.

Email us at

What the SSRG does

The Sustainability and Responsibility Research Group helps the business sector understand:

  • the importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability
  • how CSR and sustainability strategies can improve reputation, profitability and competitiveness.

Goals of SSRG

The Sustainability and Responsibility Research Group aims to:

  • develop leadership, best practices, research, support and training in corporate social responsibility and sustainability research
  • gain national and international recognition for our centre of excellence
  • promote inter-disciplinary exchange and co-operation.

We will meet our goals by:

  • training postdoctoral fellows, postgraduate students and visiting postgraduate students
  • helping researchers, practitioners and policy-makers work together
  • offering a space for collaborative research with other universities, central government agencies, local governments, international organisations and research institutes.

People at SSRG

The members of the Sustainability and Responsibility Research Group are:

We welcome doctoral students with interests in sustainability, corporate social responsibility and related areas.

Other sustainability research centres

Across Massey, there are several research centres and networks related to sustainability, including:

Student research and projects

Campus Co-Lab and the eCentre are one way in which Massey staff and students work together on projects to improve life on campus. Many projects aim to make Massey more sustainable.

We also run Living Labs on each Massey campus, where different parts of the university community work together in projects to improve campus life.

See more about studying sustainability

Postgraduate scholarships

New Zealand companies and organisations sponsor the research projects of some of our masters and PhD students.

Find scholarships

Details of all doctoral research projects


We map our university researchers’ publications to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The Times Higher Education (THE) organisation uses these mappings to work out their university Impact Rankings each year.

This table groups Massey University publications between 2014 and 2020 by the relevant SDG.

This table shows Massey scholarly publications from 2014 to 2020 and their relevant UN Sustainable Development Goals. See the total number of publications, the number of citations for each publication and percentage of papers written with researchers overseas.
SDG goal Scholarly publication (journal article or book) Citations for each publication International collaboration (%)
1. No Poverty 12 9.6 50.0
2. Zero Hunger 123 13.3 49.6
3. Good Health and Well-being 1,564 15.6 57.3
4. Quality Education 37 3.4 29.7
5. Gender Equality 30 3.3 33.3
6. Clean Water and Sanitation 38 11.3 57.9
7. Affordable and Clean Energy 83 18.6 69.9
8. Decent Work and Economic Growth 79 8.5 48.1
9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 28 20.1 64.3
10. Reduced Inequality 52 9.1 46.2
11. Sustainable Cities and Communities 101 8.2 53.5
12. Responsible Consumption and Production 105 14.6 48.6
13. Climate Action 172 14.8 70.9
14. Life Below Water 96 13.5 54.2
15. Life on Land 114 13.8 71.1
16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions 109 10.1 31.2


Massey University has a long tradition of working with partners outside the university as part of our applied approach to knowledge. We work on sustainability projects with all kinds of organisations, within New Zealand and overseas.

In our research partnerships, organisations outside Massey fund projects, working with us to solve real-world problems. All the partners agree the project goals and collaborate on the methods and research outputs.

Manaaki taha moana

This research project used Western science and mātauranga Māori knowledge to understand and stop the causes of the degradation of coastal ecosystems. The project helped train iwi and hapu-based researchers and empower local iwi to take leading roles in the restoration of coastal ecosystems.

The 6-year project was a partnership involving:

  • Tauranga Moana iwi
  • Ngāti Raukawa
  • WakaDigital
  • Cawthron Institute
  • Massey University.

The research was funded by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, now part of the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment.

Find out more about Manaaki taha moana

Living Labs

As well as using Massey campuses as Living Labs, we run Living Labs with partners outside the university. Both academic staff and research students work with partners to co-create new knowledge and practices to address real-world challenges in local communities.

Massey's Manawatū campus is in Palmerston North, where we have an ongoing Living Lab with the local council and the people of the city. Palmerston North City Council (PNCC) has generously contributed 10 years of funding towards the Living Lab relationship as part of its '10 Year Plan 2018–28'. We’ve worked on several projects together to improve life in the city, many of which feed into the work of PNCC.

Through these projects, Massey provides expert advice to the council on topics of interest, including:

  • pollution
  • transport
  • sustainable housing
  • sustainable city strategies.

Palmy Plastic Pollution Challenge

The 'Palmy' Plastic Pollution Challenge (PPC) is a long-term project to track and develop solutions for plastic pollution degrading the life essence mauri of the Manawatū river. The PPC team has sampled different aspects of plastic pollution in different places to create baseline data. This data informs the development of a community-based plastic pollution strategy for Palmerston North City.

The PPC project draws on citizen science and community engagement. Massey staff and students collaborate with :

Find out more about the Palmy Plastic Pollution Challenge at Environment Network

Join the Palmy Plastic Pollution Challenge on Facebook

Palmerston North transport

Massey staff and students carried out sustainable transport research for Palmerston North City Council (PNCC). The project ‘Barriers to Active Transport in Palmerston North’ ran from 2015 to 2017.

Our 2017 study found safety was the main barrier to high school students cycling to school, followed by convenience, comfort, distance and time-saving. The study uncovered that the social and school transport norms at different schools were also an important factor. Recommendations included PNCC:

  • involving secondary schools when planning infrastructure such as cycle lanes, traffic lights, road markings and speed signs
  • helping schools to develop transport policies and plans that promote cycling and to design cycling facilities.

By Christine Cheyne, Muhammad Imran, Waheed Ahmed and Chantelle Potroz. 2017.

Research from 2015 found Palmerston North residents saw the main barriers to cycling or walking as:

  • physical aspects – for example, the distance and time involved, weather, doing other tasks at the same time, such as carry heavy shopping
  • safety and infrastructure – for example, cycling with cars, cycle lanes, street and intersection design
  • end-of-trip facilities – for example, showers and secure sheltered bicycle parking
  • personal factors – for example, health, socio-economic status, household access to cars and bikes
  • interpersonal factors – for example, the attitudes of peers, social status and identity.

By Christine Cheyne, Muhammad Imran, Michael Scott and Caleb Tien. 2015.

Palmerston North housing and land use

Massey staff and students carried out research for Palmerston North City Council (PNCC) into housing and land use within the city and wider Manawatū region.

Our 2013 research looked into what city residents thought were slowing down the adoption of sustainability features in housing. We grouped our findings into:

  • knowledge gaps – for example, little knowledge of the commissioning, design and building process, especially understanding the performance of new material and systems
  • legacy – for example, inertia created by the current housing stock and stigma attached to sustainable housing
  • costs and benefits – for example, focusing on upfront costs rather than costs over time, related to whether residents own or rent their homes
  • fragmentation – for example, the time between different parts of the design and building process, partly put down to inevitable delays in including new materials and designs in the existing building code.

By Dr Matthew Henry, Jo Ross and John Harold. 2013.

As part of the ‘Challenging Sustainability’ project, in 2012 Massey staff and students interviewed farmers in the Manawatū about subdividing farmland for ‘lifestyle sections’.

Key research findings are that most farmers:

  • reluctantly sell land for subdivision to raise enough money to retire, pay debts, invest in the farm business or leave land to family members
  • believe peri-urban lifestyle development has negative effects on productive agriculture and rural ways of life, outweighing benefits to themselves and their communities
    • welcome tighter limits on residential development to protect rural productivity and the character of rural areas
    • want any regulations to be flexible enough to recognise unique elements case by case – for example, specific physical characteristics, soil quality and commercial uses of their land
    • think losing good-quality land and keeping a smaller farm as productive can lead to more intensive farming, especially on dairy farms – these overlooked economic and sustainability effects need more research
  • include non-economic values when thinking about subdivision – for example, family, identity and ideas about ‘good farming’.

By Dr Matthew Henry, Matt Russell and Dr Brennon Wood. July 2012.

Past Living Labs

Challenging Sustainability

The ‘Challenging Sustainability’ project ran from 2011 to 2012. We explored sustainable agricultural land use at the urban, rural and peri-urban scales. Massey worked with:

  • Wellington City Council
  • Palmerston North City Council
  • Hawkes Bay Regional Council.

Sharing the Waiwhakaiho

With local communities, artists, scientists and policy-makers, Massey researchers looked at the sustainability of the Waiwhakaiho River in the Taranaki region in 2014 and 2015. We collected, shared and interpreted social, cultural and environmental content about the river in innovative ways. This helps everyone understand more about the importance of this river.

We worked with:

  • local communities
  • local iwi
  • Taranaki Regional Council (TRC)
  • Intercreate
  • NIWA

Visit Sharing the Waiwhakaiho

Work with us

If you have a sustainability project or issue you'd like us to help with, please email the Research Development Team at

Related content

Study sustainability

Help people, businesses and government manage resources wisely for a sustainable, prosperous future for the planet.

Strategy & charter

Read key te Tiriti o Waitangi elements in the Massey University Strategy and about our charter development.


Massey University is a research-led Aotearoa New Zealand university with a reputation for excellence in innovation and the creation of new knowledge.