Report // Nexus2020: The most important research questions for business sustainability

Partnerships between businesses and researchers are fundamental to generating tangible steps towards sustainability, reveals the Nexus2020: The most important research questions for business sustainability report. Nexus2020 is led by the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, as part of the Nexus Network activities to bring together business and academia.


CISL website (full report)


The most efficient way for academics to identify the research needs of companies is to talk with them; likewise the most effective way for companies to obtain useful insights from academics is to work with them as partners from the beginning of a research process to its conclusion – and potentially beyond into practice where new questions arise. This is surprisingly rare. A more conventional approach is for academics to engage companies at the end of a research process (or not to engage them at all!) in what is usually referred to as dissemination. The absence of users during the design phase of a research study can inhibit its ability to make sense to – or even be seen by – users after publication. For this reason the Nexus 2020 project set out to build a bridge between the business and academic worlds to identify the top 40 questions that, if answered, would best help companies to manage their food-energy-water-environment nexus dependencies and impacts. This was the first time that these two communities have been brought together effectively to co-produce research priorities that underpin solutions to nexus challenges such as managing competing uses of land, building resilient supply chains and sustaining livelihoods in resource-scarce parts of the world.

The report

  • outlines nexus research priorities
  • explains why partnerships between businesses and researchers are critical in the long term for companies to thrive
  • calls for researchers and business practitioners to develop specific projects to answer pressing nexus issues
  • outlines the opportunities of this co-production approach for research funding agencies


  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Why should business consider the nexus?
  • Business and academics co-create research questions
  • Top 40 questions for Nexus2020
  • Five emergent themes
  • Categorising the top nexus questions for business
  • Incentives for change
  • Collaboration and stakeholder engagement
  • Investing in sustainability
  • Supply chains taking a landscape approach
  • Making better policy
  • Creating opportunities
  • Next steps
  • Participants




› back

Peace and conflict

Project // Improving Security and Climate Resilience in a fragile Context through the Water-Energy and Food Security Nexus (Frexus)

The Frexus project fosters cross-sectoral and integrated approaches in resource management, within local communities in Mali, Niger and Chad that are faced with the consequences of resource scarcity and climate change. The vicious cycle of resource scarcity, competition, conflict and instability currently challenging many communities, can be turned into a virtuous cycle of resilience, sustainable resources management, cooperation and security. Frexus (Nexus in Fragile contexts) aims at providing...

// more

Pocket Flyer // Water, Energy and Food for All A Nexus Approach

The 2017 BMZ Water Strategy, with its six intersectoral strategies, is a binding basis for German Development Cooperation and integrates cross-sectoral thinking for economically sustainable, integrated and climatefriendly development. The Water, Agriculture and Energy Nexus is one of six intersectoral strategies, highlighting the need to achieve water, energy and food security for well-being.

// more

Publication // What-If: An Open-Source Decision Support Tool for Water Infrastructure Investment Planning within the Water–Energy–Food–Climate Nexus

By Raphaël Payet-Burin, Mikkel Kromann, Silvio Pereira-Cardenal, Kenneth Marc Strzepek and Peter Bauer-Gottwein. This paper presents a new open-source hydro-economic optimization model, incorporating in a holistic framework, representations of the water, agriculture, and power systems. The model represents the joint development of Nexus related infrastructure and policies and evaluates their economic impact, as well as the risks linked to uncertainties in future climate and socio-economic...

// more