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About the Centre for Sustainable Finance

What is the purpose of the Centre?

CISL's Centre for Sustainable Finance explores the complex, long-term and systemic challenges to the financial system presented by social and environmental trends. Its aim is to inform, educate and ultimately adjust the behaviour of financial markets to catalyse progress towards a sustainable financial system.


What does the Centre do?

The Centre for Sustainable Finance builds on the extensive work of the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) with the finance industry, through its finance sector leadership groups, and research activities over the last three years. The Centre exists to initiate a broad research, engagement and capacity-building programme to deliver its goal.

As well as providing lateral connectivity across departments within the University of Cambridge, the Centre works with academic institutions, industry bodies, authorities and NGOs from around the world.

The core activities of the Centre are:

High calibre independent academic research

The Centre contributes to the evidence base through undertaking independent academic research for publication in major academic journals, alongside commissioned research to address specific business and policy problems.

The Centre is currently developing research in the efficacy of regulatory standards and practices in promoting the movement of capital into sustainable business; the governance of the financial system with respect to the Sustainable Development Goals; the potential gains and losses in financial markets as a consequence of climate change, inequality and ecosystem degradation; events that could trigger changes in market sentiment that threaten financial stability; whether responsible investment practices create more stable and profitable institutions; and the impact of active ownership and engagement on corporate sustainability performance.

External engagement

From traditional seminars and conferences for the academic and student body, to advice, dialogue and partnership with business, regulatory and policy organisations, the Centre interacts with a wide variety of stakeholders within the academic, regulatory and practitioner communities.

Commissioned research and capacity building

To address specific business and policy problems.


How does the Centre fulfil the mission of CISL?

In July 2015, CISL launched Rewiring the Economy, its ten-year plan to lay the foundations for a sustainable economy. The plan sets out ten interconnected tasks requiring collaborative action from the three key economic actors: business, government and finance. The success of the plan can be stated very simply: economic alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Finance tasks
Finance system tasks in Rewiring the Economy (click for pdf)
The role of the finance system in ‘rewiring the economy’ is to steer capital towards economic activities that support the future we want rather than one we do not. Its purpose is to incentivise and reward long-term thinking. The Rewiring the Economy plan sets out three tasks to achieve this.

The Centre is developing a research, engagement and capacity building programme around three core areas of expertise: risk and resilience, positive impact and digital finance. The first two themes relate directly to implementing Tasks 4 and 5. The third is a powerful example of putting Task 6 into practice.

Task 4: Ensure capital acts for the long term

Investors of capital should demand more from their money, using their influence to drive long-term, socially useful value creation in the economy in the interests of their beneficiaries.

Task 5: Price capital according to the true costs of business activities

Capital providers, and those who regulate them, should jointly consider how to reflect social and environmental risk factors in the cost of capital.

Task 6: Innovate financial structures to better serve sustainable business

Financial intermediaries in particular should apply their influence and creativity to ramping up the flow of capital into business models that serve society’s interests.


If you are a potential research partner, funder or could shape and use the Centre’s outputs, please use this contact form to start the conversation.

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