Zoe Robinson is a Professor of Sustainability in Higher Education and Director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures at Keele University. She also held the role of University Director of Education for Sustainability for 10 years (from 2012) with responsibility for embedding sustainability across the curriculum and student experience. Zoe is a Sustainability Scientist with 18 years of experience around sustainability transformations, working across the natural and social sciences boundaries, and with a background of working in sustainability and climate change education, community engagement and supporting Local Authorities and other organisations around climate change and energy transitions.

Research and leadership

Professor Robinson is currently leading research on user and community-centric design approaches to smart local energy system design and place-based decarbonisation and consumer perceptions of low carbon energy technologies including perceptions of blended hydrogen in domestic settings. She positions herself as a practitioner-researcher aligning research with generating real progress on sustainability challenges. Zoe currently Co-Chairs the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Climate Commission, bringing together leaders in organisations from different sectors across the region to collaborate on accelerating and aligning action on climate and nature recovery. Zoe’s research leadership position as Director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures, focuses on bringing together transdisciplinary teams to drive real change on real sustainability challenges.

Education and leadership

 Zoe has a strong educational background, having been shortlisted as THE Innovative Teacher of the Year in 2019, awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in 2012 for expertise in education for sustainability and employability, and Principal Fellow of the HEA in 2015 for her institutional sustainability leadership. Zoe co-ran an Environmental Education group for nine years and has significant experience of schools outreach and public engagement work around climate change and sustainability. Zoe has also been involved in delivering training in ‘greening business’ for un- and under-employed graduates taking on short-term sustainability-focussed placements with local employers; developing a programme on climate change for business leaders; as well as developing educational resources for Veolia and Valpak. Zoe has received funding from the WMCA to deliver skills bootcamps in Net Zero and Smart Energy and Place-based Decarbonisation. These bootcamps have been awarded Ofsted Outstanding in 2023.  

Zoe has led new programme design for undergraduate programmes in Environmental Science and Sustainability, including a transnational educational programme in China. Zoe has worked in an advisory capacity on education for sustainability for a number of national organisations and is Co-Chair of the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges.

Zoe has been at Keele a long time! With a BSc in Geography and Geology, and PhD in the Geochemistry and Behaviour in Glacial Groundwater Systems, before some time in environmental consultancy, and a return to Keele and academia. Her work has been funded by NERC, ESRC, EPSRC, Defra, InnovateUK, RCUK, Institute of Physics, NEA, HEFCE, HEA and the Learning Skills Network.

Research and scholarship

As a sustainability scientist Zoe’s research and scholarship takes a transdisciplinary approach to creating real change to real sustainability challenges. Her current research is focused in two related areas:

Place-based decarbonisation: socio-technical approaches

Through these projects Zoe has developed a niche at the researcher-practitioner interface of ‘community-centric design for place-based decarbonisation’, working between project implementors and local communities to support a just energy transition. Key recent projects include:

Net Zero Neighbourhoods: Dudley (2023-2025)

Funded by WMCA, led by Equans, this project aims to create the first Net Zero Neighbourhood in the West Midlands, combining housing retrofit, mobility solutions and green space development. Zoe’s work leads the community-centric design approach and community engagement for the project, bringing community insights to the project design, and helping the local community benefit from the project.

Zero Carbon Rugeley (2019-2023)

Funded by InnovateUK as part of the Prospering from the Energy Revolution programme, this project aimed to design a town-scale Smart Local Energy System (SLES). Zoe led the Keele team leading the user-centric design work package, to bring community insights to the project design, and developing a legacy for the community. See outputs here.

HyDeploy (2018-2024)

Zoe led independently-funded research as part of the Ofgem funded national HyDeploy programme which aimed to establish the safety and technical case for blended hydrogen in domestic, commercial and industrial settings. The team explored the perceptions of consumers experiencing blended hydrogen in the home for the first time in the UK. See report findings here.

Sustainability skills

Staffordshire Net Zero Skills for Growth (2024-25)

Funded by InnovateUK Net Zero Living Pathfinder Places, led by Staffordshire County Council, this project aims to co-develop a net zero supply chain and related skills for Staffordshire, through mapping supply chain and skills development needs.

Climate Ambassadors (2024-2025)

Keele will host the West Midlands Regional Hub as part of the National Climate Ambassadors programme, funded by Department for Education, which will provide support for educational settings (from early years to higher education) to design and deliver climate action plans through volunteer Climate Ambassadors.

Unmaking single perspectives: A listening project (2016-2018)

Funded by HEFCE this project developed a ‘pedagogy of listening’ to support transdisciplinarity and sustainability, moving rhetorics of ‘communication skills’ away from one-way didactic presentation skills to one of meaningful dialogue and listening skills. See project website here.

Previous research and scholarship

Zoe’s earlier research and scholarship focused on addressing sustainability through educational strategies - areas of interest include student attitudes towards environmental citizenship, pedagogies of climate change, the development of sustainability as an educational ‘discipline’, supporting interdisciplinary learning on sustainability focused programmes, and the pedagogies of listening for sustainability. Zoe has been involved in research relating to energy use in communities, and evaluating in-home fuel poverty interventions, as well as water and carbon footprinting of higher education institutions.

Zoe has also worked on groundwater and surface water systems in glacial environments, and how the ecological evolution of proglacial surface water bodies links with the geomorphological and hydrological evolution of these dynamic and sensitive regions. 

Long gone (!) projects include

Reducing Energy Consumption through Community Knowledge Networks (EPSRC-ESRC Energy in Communities funding, 2011-2013)

Living what we’re learning: Comparing the financial and environmental costs of ‘normal’ and ‘sustainable’ student living. (HEA funding. 2011-2012)

Living what we’re learning: A sustainable house and its impact on the university community. (HEA funding, 2011-2012)

‘Hybrid PBL: A sustainable approach to education (HEA, 2010-2012)

Making the transition to interdisciplinarity: Effective strategies for early student support (HEA, 2010-2011)

Greening Business: Employability and Sustainability an online resource for delivering linked sustainability -employability skills within he curriculum (HEA funded, 2008-9)

Graduate employability skills: environmental responsibility and the workplace (HEA funded, 2007)


Zoe has taught a wide range of different environmental science, sustainability and geography modules as well as leading Environmental Science and Sustainability programmes, and international transnational education partnerships in China. Zoe has recently received funding from the WMCA to deliver skills bootcamps in Net Zero and Smart Energy and Place-based Decarbonisation. These bootcamps have been awarded Ofsted Outstanding.  

Previous areas of teaching include: business and sustainability; water resources management; hydrology; field skills; climate change; environmental and sustainability impact assessment; concepts and debates in geography; environmental analytical methodologies. Zoe has led/co-led field courses in Iceland, Bordeaux, Switzerland, SE Spain, Mid-Wales, North Wales, and the English Lake District.

She currently leads the following modules:

GCP-10009 Climate Change and Sustainability: Global Perspectives

GCP-20009 Climate Change and Sustainability: Action and Activism

ESC-30060 Sustainability Consultancy


School of Geography, Geology and the Environment
William Smith Building
Keele University