Social aspects of environmental policy

Autobahn A 40 im Ruhrgebiet (© Robert Poorten -

Environmental, social and societal policies are closely linked. On the one hand, environmental policy measures frequently face resistance because they may entail or exacerbate actual or presumed social hardships. On the other hand, environmental burdens such as traffic noise or air pollution hit many already disadvantaged groups particularly hard. Ambitious environmental policies can therefore only succeed if their societal benefits are recognized and appreciated, and if conflicting goals are identified at an early stage and addressed within the framework of appropriate policy mixes. 

Research approach

The project pursues the overarching goal of contributing to the scientific foundation of a “social environmental policy strategy”. The research project focuses on the interactions between environmental and social policy objectives. The project team analyzes social aspects in different policy fields that are relevant to an environmental policy and identifies potential synergies and conflicts between ecological and societal goals. This knowledge shall then be used to find ways of reducing or constructively dealing with conflicting goals in order to make better use of synergies, to communicate them proactively and to actively create them. In this project, specific proposals are developed for the implementation of socially just transformation processes in various environmental policy fields of action.


For a social-ecological transformation, environmental policy measures are needed that are widely accepted by society. Prominent examples such as the coal phase-out or the end of the combustion engine show that such transformations entail great potential for conflict. They often face opposition, particularly in cases where entire industries or regions are affected by the consequences. A social environmental policy must therefore promote environmental, climate protection and sustainable development while simultaneously taking social policy goals into account. In addition to financial distribution and labor market effects, social participation, cohesion and empowerment play an important role. 


The researchers first explore the social impacts of environmental policies and pressures through literature, discourse and trend analyses. Building on a systematics of social goals, they develop an analysis and evaluation approach with which to conduct status quo analyses in environmentally relevant fields of action. That way, knowledge gaps and needs for action can be identified. 

ISOE’s contributions address the further development of the methodology that helps determine and evaluate social effects of environmental policy instruments from a social policy perspective. Taking the field “Building and Housing”, ISOE also analyzes trends, relevant actors, fields of discourse, lines of conflict and potential synergies between environmental and social policy goals. Based on this analysis, the scientists formulate proposals for solutions that can be translated into suitable environmental policy measures that are both ecologically ambitious and socially acceptable. 

The project is flanked by dialogical and participatory events that involve stakeholders from the fields of environmental, social and societal policy. A transdisciplinary advisory board advises the research project. In a final step, the project results will be compiled and recommendations for policy action will be developed.

Project partners 

  • Öko-Institut e.V. (project lead)
  • Forum Ökologisch-Soziale Marktwirtschaft (FÖS) (Green Budget Germany)
  • Eberhard-Karls-University Tübingen
  • Zebralog


The research project “Social Aspects of Environmental Policy – Subproject 1: Analysis and Environmental Policy Implications” is funded by the German Environment Agency.


Cludius, Johanna/Tanja Kenkmann/Sibylle Braungardt/Katja Hünecke/Katja Schumacher/Malte Bei der Wiede/Immanuel Stieß/Simon Meemken (2024): Sozialverträgliche Dekarbonisierung im Gebäudebestand. Anreiz- und Verteilungswirkungen von Instrumenten für die energetische Sanierung im Bestand. Teilbericht. UBA-Texte, 5. Dessau-Roßlau

Kenkmann, Tanja/Johanna Cludius/Katja Hünecke/Katja Schumacher/Immanuel Stieß/Thomas Friedrich/Luca Nitschke/Luca Raschewski/Simon Meemken/Ann-Cathrin Beermann (2024): Soziale Aspekte von Umweltpolitik im Bedürfnisfeld Wohnen. Status quo: Gesellschaftliche Trends und bestehendes Instrumentarium. Teilbericht. UBA-Texte, 44. Dessau-Roßlau


2020/09 – 2023/08