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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

Retail Organisations

In the context of austerity and growing inequalities between areas of relative wealth and those of increasing poverty and poor life chances, the need to better understand potential for change and sustainable change, derived from investments in community-engaged action, has never been more pressing. 


Applications in practice

  • Future risk and opportunity
  • Business strategies and models
  • Culture, capacity and leadership
  • Social and political change

Contribution to CISL’s core research themes

Inclusive and resilient societiesInclusive and resilient societies



About the project

This project will identify the breadth of activity by UK-based retail organisations in support of community wellbeing, with particular focus on tackling disadvantage and/or building resilience in disadvantaged communities. Identifying ‘promising’ initiatives, it will consider which activities are working for whom, under what circumstances, and why, developing proposals that will be tested through case studies and system-mapping with key stakeholders. Working with a retailer and members of the public, ‘grass-roots’ consultation will produce an understanding of what resources are available in the local area, what concerns, challenges and priorities people have, and what action they would like to happen as a result. 

The study combines scoping review, theory development, primary data collection through case studies and participatory, co-design of community-engaged actions.

Impact and relevance

This project will contribute to an improved evidence base to support decisions about engagement and investment in community activities and promote a systems-thinking approach to solutions which take account of the retail sector as a partner in population health and wellbeing.


Recent blogs:

Our response to the pandemic has been to absorb, and adapt – but might there now be an opportunity to transform?

Could supermarkets become the new superheroes by helping to build community resilience?

Anticipated 2020:

Lee, C. (2020). Inequalities, disadvantaged areas and potential of the retail sector. Working paper.

Lee, C. (2020). Concepts and theory in wellbeing and resilience. Working paper.

Collaborators and funding

This work is supported by a philanthropic gift from ASDA.

Research team

Catherine HammantCatherine Hammant

Catherine is a Research Associate investigating the nature of community interventions by retail organisations and their effectiveness in enhancing wellbeing. Trained initially as a chartered surveyor she has extensive experience of community-led regeneration focusing primarily on market towns. More recently her PhD considered the implementation of public realm schemes and the influence of policy and practice on the quality of outcome.


Caroline Lee

The Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellow in Retail Organisations Engagement Activities and Community Wellbeing, supported by ASDA


Twitter: @cazzerlee


“The Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellowship provides the opportunity to robustly research, and understand the potential impact of retail organisations in supporting community wellbeing, and addressing enduring inequalities between areas of the country.”

Caroline Lee

“At Asda, supporting our local communities is a key priority for us. Working in partnership with CISL we are keen to understand the effectiveness of our community programme designed to address deprivation, wellbeing and community resilience. At a point in time where we are focused on continuing to support local communities to navigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, this is more important than ever to ensure we remain focussed on the most effective ways to improve the lives of our customers and colleagues.”