We’re always a fan of women supporting women, and this year we’re marking International Women’s Day by introducing two brilliant BSc Human Geography graduates. Heather Cadden graduated in 2015 and mentored Amelia Harper, who graduated in 2018; both are now working in in Corporate Social Responsibility/Ethics.

Find out more about where they are now, what they do, why it matters – and how they’re paying it forward to current students.


Heather Cadden works in ethical business/CSR at Marks & Spencer.

“I always loved social sciences and understanding different cultures and I felt like human geography at Reading was the right mix of the social aspects I loved of sociology at A-level and the international aspect of Geography. When I came to visit on an open day I fell in love with the campus and the course, especially the Erasmus program which I completed at the University of Groningen in my final year.”


Career inspiration

“I remember being so inspired when I was young when we did a project on Fairtrade. We all had to bring a Fairtrade product in – this was about 2000/2001 so it was mainly bananas, chocolate and coffee – and we then spent the show and tell being told all about the experiences of people in global supply chains and that initially caught my attention.

Fast forward to my time at Reading and I did two modules on development in second and third year, which studied life in the global south, considered child labour and the ILO conventions. We did a project presenting as H&M and our stance on child labour in the supply chain, which was such an eye opener to the world of CSR and what a career path might look like.

After a brief stint in Geography teaching I set my heart on a role in CSR. I was fortunate to get an Ethical Assistant role at George @ Asda’s Head Office, working with clothing supply chains, and about 18 months after that I moved to M&S Food to work in their Ethical Trade and human rights team.”


Working for a better future

“All my roles have had the rights of workers in supply chains as our focus, which means that every area we work on impacts women in many different ways. In my current role we work closely with our suppliers to monitor their ethical standards but also encourage them to share best practice together and support each other if they have any issues.  From the events we run to the day to day reports we grade, all the elements of work are to ensure we’re improving the experiences of workers in supply chains and by doing that we impact the women who work in those chains. We also work closely with other retailers to ensure we are working to similar goals and supporting workers.

One thing we did last Christmas was as a team, instead of doing a team secret Santa, I helped organise a box of hats, gloves and scarves for the Snowdrop Project – a charity that works to support and empower victims of modern slavery in the UK. This was a very small impact but I hope we keep working closely with charities and initiatives like this!”


Paying it forward: student mentoring

“Since graduating I’ve stayed in close contact with my lecturer Dr Sally Lloyd-Evans, and she’s been my referee. As I kept in contact when changing jobs we got to speaking about me coming into a lecture and chatting about my job. The first year I felt really underqualified so I offered to mentor a student instead. So from October 2017 I’ve been mentoring Amelia who was a final year student and now works in the CSR team at New Look. So this academic year we thought it would be great for us both to come back to Reading, talk about our jobs, the different ways companies approach CSR & Ethical and also how our mentoring relationship worked.

I’m currently speaking to quite a few students from Reading, and have offered my help and experience to any of them if they need it. I recently held a brand, retailer and supplier event on Responsible Recruitment at M&S’s offices and offered volunteer places to the students I’m in contact with so they could get some day-to-day ethical experience, but also be in a room full of brands, retailers and suppliers that are from a varied industry background so they’re not just hearing from me. I hope to offer this out to students for all events I manage as it’s a big part of my role.”


Ambitions for the future

“I hope to never leave this field! I’m really keen to travel and visit more factories and growers in global supply chains, I’d like to work between fashion and food as the similarities and differences are so interesting to me. I really want personally to look into ways technology can support us to help workers better and get more opportunities to heard their experiences.”


Amelia Harper works in Corporate Social Responsibility/Ethics at New Look.

“I enjoyed geography at school as I found it interesting learning about the world – especially places I hadn’t visited. I chose to focus on Human Geography because I wanted to learn more about human relationships with the world, different cultures, international development and University of Reading was one of the universities that offered just a Human Geography degree. On the Open Day, I got the impression that there was so much opportunity for me at Reading and the modules that they offered were so diverse. I also had never been to Reading before so was excited to experience somewhere new.”


Career Inspiration

“Throughout my studies I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do after graduation, but I always knew I wanted it to be centred around sustainability or helping people. My interest in sustainability developed at quite a young age – I remember that in year 7 I was on the green council and would spend my break times talking to the headmistress about recycling bins!

During my time at university, I chose modules which looked at environmental issues, development, labour markets, economic geography, and cultural geography. Sally Lloyd-Evans’s third-year module Global Justice, Labour and Development first introduced me to the idea of corporate social responsibility/ethical trade. In the module we looked at the responsibility that corporations have for their complex supply chains, welfare of all workers (head office to factory workers) and their impact on the environment. I was shocked to learn about the environmental and ethical issues within supply chains and as I was now aware of these issues, I wanted to be a part of solving them. It was this, and Sally’s passion, that inspired me to work in CSR – I wanted to help those that are often invisible to consumers/corporations and not given an opportunity to voice inequality.”


Meeting Heather

“In one of our lectures Sally mentioned that she knew a Reading graduate that now worked at M&S in the ethical trade department, so I asked to meet her. I met with Heather and I asked her what she did day to day and how she got into ethical trade. After our coffee, Heather would check how I was getting on and send me any job roles/work experience that she felt I would be interested in; I eventually landed work experience at New Look in their CSR department soon after graduation.

During my work experience, I was shown the basics such as the Ethical Trade Initiative Base Code (the ethical trade/CSR Ten Commandments!), different country risks, registering factories and suppliers, getting to know the supply base, looking at factory audits, looking at country minimum wages and minimum working ages etc. After two weeks, I was offered a job and have been working at New Look since August 2018. It is definitely an interesting area to work in as there are new challenges emerging all the time and I think as consumers become more aware, ethical trade and sustainability jobs will become vital to all businesses.”


Working for a better future

“I’m fortunate that I have been involved with both ethical trade and sustainability aspects of CSR. Most recently my role has focused on the sustainability side of the business, which has involved looking for more sustainable alternatives for our most used materials such as cotton, polyester and viscose. I have spent time engaging with the product teams to educate them on the positive impacts of these alternatives and encouraging them to increase their uptake of more sustainable alternatives in their products.

During my lectures with Sally, I remember learning about the inequalities that female farmers are often subject to, such as financial exclusion and reduced access to land, fertilisers, seeds, training and education. So, by increasing our organic cotton uptake, we are encouraging local farmers to use less toxic pesticides/fertilisers which are damaging to their health. We have also been working with Better Cotton Initiative, a not-for profit, which invests in projects that educate local farmers with better agricultural methods such as more efficient irrigation systems that ultimately increase their cotton yields and provide farmers with a better wage to provide for their families. This impacts women as in many developing countries the majority of agricultural workers are female.”


Paying it forward: student mentoring

“In the talk Heather and I recently gave to students, I discussed all the projects that we work on at New Look and what a normal day would be like for me. I think it was interesting for students to see the differences between my job in fashion, more sustainability-based, to Heather’s role in food, more ethical trade based – it highlighted that there is not a one size fits all approach to CSR, each corporation takes a slightly different angle. I also talked about how I got into CSR and what students could do to improve their CVs for a CSR job.

After giving the talk at Reading, I connected with students on LinkedIn so that I could forward job roles/ work experience to them and make sure I was available for students to ask me any questions they may have. Heather and I are hoping to return to Reading in the future to give lectures to more students to help them understand the realities of the industry and give advice on how to get into it. Or at least, raise awareness of the industry and encourage people to make more sustainable and ethical decisions in everyday life.

I think a part of being a mentor is often just being a friendly face as leaving university can be daunting if you don’t know what you want to do or where to start. Most students just need a push in the right direction of where to look for jobs or what a sort of job to apply for then everything falls into place. I also think it’s useful to be in contact with someone that you can relate to as it is likely that you will experience similar setbacks and you are also more likely to approach them for advice. I hope in the future when I am more experienced and established, I could potentially offer students a job or work experience to get them started in the industry. I just feel so grateful for Heather and Sally helping me get to where I am today that I wanted to support other students in a similar way.”


Ambitions for the future

“I plan to continue working in ethical trade/CSR within the fashion industry for a few more years as I think so much will change in the near future and enjoy the fast-paced environment. But I think looking further into the future, I would like to work for an NGO or charity which works directly with those in the supply chain such as, farmers, factory workers or homeworkers, as I would love to be involved with the projects that can positively impact them and create fairer working conditions.”

This week’s Human Geography Research Cluster seminar – Dr Sarah Neal on Conviviality & Community

sarah_neal_thumbnailWe are pleased to welcome Dr Sarah Neal (University of Surrey) as this week’s speaker in the Human Geography Research Cluster seminar series.  She is a Reader in the Department of Sociology at the University of Surrey, and has researched and published widely in the fields of race, ethnicity, multiculture, community, belonging, place and policy-making.  She will be speaking about ‘Elective conviviality and community imaginings: the social and ethnic dynamics of social leisure organizations in diverse urban places’.

In this she notes that there has been something of a ‘convivial turn’ in the research approaches to understanding contemporary urban social life and everyday social relations. In its early formulations conviviality emphasised the social processes of multicultural populations getting along in an unstable, adapted, contingent living together and recognized the contradiction of both resentment and resilience around ethnic tensions and conflicts. However, conviviality has more recently drifted towards a focus on passing civilities, light socialites and ‘low social demand’ interactions of disconnected, diverse but proximate populations. In turn this thinking has been questioned for overstating these interactions and their connective possibilities. In this critique conviviality is defined more as an urban etiquette or civility for managing and masking older hostilities and racialised anxieties.

Her paper asks how then might it be possible to go beyond these positions and argue for the revival and relevance of the concepts of community to conviviality thinking?  The paper uses qualitative data from Living Multiculture, a two year, ESRC funded research project (2012-2014) to explore how membership of, and relationships within, a variety of social leisure groups in three different English urban geographies can throw light on the dynamics of sustained encounters of cultural difference and social care over time, within localized and affective geographies, emphasizing a collaborative doing and social exchange within a variety of (semi-formal) social leisure groups.

She will be speaking in the Sorby Room, Wager Building from 13.00-14.00 on the 4th February.


Research Profile: Dr Agatha Herman

Dr Agatha Herman

Dr Agatha Herman

Dr Agatha Herman is Lecturer in Human Geography with interests in ethics, geographies of justice and international development.  In September 2014 Agatha began her Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship in which she is exploring ‘the power of Fairtrade’ to bring about sustainable and empowering development both to and beyond its producer communities.

In recent years there have been growing criticisms of the certified Fairtrade movement both in academia and the media. However there has been a significant lack of research actually exploring the impact which Fairtrade has on the producer communities.   Thanks to a British Council Researcher Links Travel Grant, since January Agatha has been in South Africa working with the Fairhills Association at Du Toitskloof Cooperative Cellar and Bosman-Adama (both Fairtrade wine producers) to really understand their experiences; focus groups and photo elicitation exercises with the farmworkers have illuminated the progress which has been made but also the continuing challenges they face.

Fairtrade Grape Processing.  Taken by a photograph elicitation participant (Feb 2015)

Fairtrade Grape Processing. Taken by a photograph elicitation participant (Feb 2015)

She says, ‘I think that what makes my research so useful is that it helps producers identify their strengths and areas for improvement, and will give consumers a clearer idea of what their Fairtrade purchases are actually supporting.  The need for Fairtrade and the context in which it finds itself varies from country to country so my research will take me to all of the current Fairtrade wine producing countries – South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Lebanon and Tunisia – in order to fully understand the system and its developmental impacts.  In turn, this will help to strengthen the Fairtrade system itself by making it more effective, transparent and responsive.’

Agatha’s research interests in resilience and development in production systems as exemplified here connect into broader interests in food politics, ethics and power relations.

Valentines Day Event at the Crèche.  Taken by a photograph elicitation participant (Feb 2015)

Valentines Day Event at the Crèche. Taken by a photograph elicitation participant (Feb 2015)

In recognition of her dedication Agatha  has been invited to return as a visiting scholar to the Ruralia Institute at the University of Helsinki (Finland), where she will further her research on social resilience and cultural connections within agriculture through new writing collaborations as well as speaking about her findings so far in both the Mikkeli and Seinäjoki units. On route she will be stopping off in Bonn (Germany) to develop new connections with Fairtrade International in order to better understand the global systems and relations of Fairtrade in terms of its standards, how they are put into practise and how they connect into the international development aims of the organisation.  To learn more about the contemporary fair trade movement, take a look at her forthcoming co-authored chapter with Mike Goodman in The Handbook of Research on Fair Trade, which will be published in June 2015.

GES PhD students present topics to the Human Environments Research Group

image2At the latest HERG meeting a research seminar took place in which we had the following PhD speakers talking about their projects prior to a group discussion:

Abu-Bakar Siddiq Massaquoi

“Topic: Addressing tenure and livelihood matters for REDD+ in Sierra Leone: Exploring the problems and prospects of an Adaptive Collaborative Management (ACM) approach.
My research examines the issues, options and outcomes of collaborative and adaptive management strategies for forest and natural resources management in three protected areas (national parks) in Sierra Leone. The purpose is to explore the possibility and value in blending the two approaches for addressing local tenure and livelihood concerns and for producing incentives for enhancing adaptive capacity, social learning and meaningful participation. Essentially, the study will guide the application and operationalisation of adaptive collaborative management for addressing various local concerns for REDD+ and other forest management regimes.”

Mighty Ihesiulor

Topic: Geographies of health and well-being in West Africa: a case study of Nigeria’s Niger Delta region.

Brian Chirambo
My topic is: Addressing Drivers of Deforestation in Zambia: A methodology Critique of REDD+

The aim of the presentation was to share what my research was all about. Specifically I addressed my research questions, hypothesis, objectives and proposed methods.

Dennis Mailu

“My topic is ‘a critical assessment of governance of urban ecosystem services: A case study of Kibera slums, Nairobi Kenya.’

My study focuses on water governance in an urban poor context, demonstrating links between resilience principles and practice.”

Research Profile: Dr Giuseppe Feola

Giuseppe-FEOLA_1594_wDr Giuseppe Feola engages  in interdisciplinary research with a focus on  understanding how and why social-ecological systems transform along particular pathways, and under what conditions societal change towards sustainability may occur. Giuseppe’s research has three main foci, namely sustainability, resilience and transformation of agriculture and rural systems, alternative economies and grassroots innovations for sustainability, social change theory and sustainability.

Recent publications

Giuseppe has recently published two papers in leading international journals. In “Societal transformation in response to global environmental change: A review of emerging concepts”, published in AMBIO, Giuseppe contributes to the emerging scientific debate on societal transformation by discussing the potential and limitations of different transformation concepts, and by critically reflecting on the challenges of social research to support transformative change. Giuseppe explains: “There is a growing interest in societal transformation both as an academic concept as a goal for  public policy-making. However, there is no agreement on what societal transformation means, , what it should entail, and how best it can achieved. With this paper I seek to provide structure to the scientific dialogue and to reflect on the challenges of social research on the subject of social transformation.”

In, “Researching farmer behaviour in climate change adaptation and sustainable agriculture: lessons learned from five case studies”, published in the Journal of Rural Studies, Giuseppe and his co-authors have  developed an analytic framework that other scholars can use when designing future interdisciplinary studies on farmer behaviour. The framework facilitates interdisciplinary research on farmer behaviour by opening up spaces of structured dialogue on assumptions, research questions and methods employed in empirical research.

Giuseppe’s publications are available at: www.giuseppefeola.net/publications

International visit

Between January and March 2015 Giuseppe was visiting scholar at the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS) at Michigan State University, a visit that was funded by a British Council Researcher Links grant. Through this visit, Giuseppe has strengthened his collaborations with leading researchers in the interdisciplinary research field of human-environment interactions. Giuseppe was also invited to give a research seminar at CSIS. In his talk, titled “Do informal institutions adapt to the influences of environmental and economic changes? Insights from a Colombian peasant community”, Giuseppe presented the findings of the recently concluded research project ‘Adaptation between resilience and transformation: a Colombian case study’ funded by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust.

To find out more, visit Giuseppe’s staff profile.

Students learn about private sector resilience

Private Sector Resilience

Photo Peter McMannersPeter Mcmanners, who is a member of the HERG Resilience Research Cluster, presented a seminar to geography students on private sector resilience. He outlined the significance of sustainability in the context of a business response. The underlying rationale for the private sector to engage with sustainability was explained. He also pointed out the limitations on business to apply their capabilities to fashion significant change to the way they operate. Business is constrained by investors with short time horizons and an overall expectation placed on business to focus on bottom-line performance. Many of the changes required in society and the economy, to deliver sustainability and resilience, have the characteristics of long-term systemic change. This is something we are not very good at. The culture of short-term results is not conducive to the long-term strategic planning required to deliver a resilient economy alongside a sustainable society.

Current research into sustainability in aviation was used to discuss private sector resilience within a particular case study. This exposed a policy stalemate where the aviation industry is held back and unable to advance towards a low emissions future. There is the potential for a bright future for aviation but it requires radical change. In a global highly regulated industry with substantial sunk costs there is little appetite for transformational change. Current research into a new model for aviation was outlined and discussed with different passenger segments based on the premise that flying slower could be the catalyst to develop a new generation of low-carbon air vehicle.

Finally, the seminar returned to the big picture of the global economy and an examination of the macroeconomic policy which sets the context within which business operates. Discussion was around whether economic globalisation will continue of whether the imperative of resilience will be the driver towards a more proximized economy. The seminar did not arrive at a definitive conclusion but raised the possibility of a transformation in macroeconomics to provide business with a different macroeconomic framework within which to operate.  As sustainability and resilience rise up the policy agenda, we are likely to see much more consideration of transformational change as policy makers accept that the current state of affairs cannot continue indefinitely. If the private sector is to play an active role in such a transformation, it will have to be part of a wider initiative orchestrated by politicians and policy makers.

The seminar was a thought provoking session which produced lively discussion and debate.

For further information: McManners, P. (2014) ‘Reframing economic policy towards sustainability’, Int. J. Green Economics, Vol. 8, Nos. 3/4, pp.288–305.

HERG contributes to work on adaptation and urban resilience in the global South

The Human Environments Research Group is contributing to work on adaptation and urban resilience in the global South. Two items hot off the press include a paper based on CDKN funded work on climate compatible development in Mozambique by Castán Broto V, Macucule D A, Boyd E, Ensor J, Allen C, 2015, “Building collaborative partnerships for climate change action in Maputo, Mozambique” Environment and Planning A 47(3) 571 – 587

Emily Boyd with international collaborators Aditya Ghosh (Heidelberg) and Max T. Boykoff (Boulder Colorado) also contributed a chapter on Climate Change Adaptation in Mumbai, India in newly published book The Urban Climate Challenge: Rethinking the Role of Cities in the Global Climate Regime (Cities and Global Governance) by

Craig A. Johnson (Editor), Noah J. Toly (Editor), Heike Schroeder (Editor). Drawing upon a variety of empirical and theoretical perspectives, The Urban Climate Challenge provides a hands-on perspective about the political and technical challenges now facing cities and transnational urban networks in the global climate regime. You can purchase the book on Amazon here: http://amzn.to/1CpFrRC .

Professor Mike Goodman publishes two new books on food networks & transgressions

Professor Mike Goodman has had two new books published on alternative food networks and food transgressions – click the links to read more.

“Farmers’ markets, veggie boxes, local foods, organic products and Fair Trade goods – how have these once novel, “alternative” foods, and the people and networks supporting them, become increasingly familiar features of everyday consumption? Are the visions of “alternative worlds” built on ethics of sustainability, social justice, animal welfare and the aesthetic values of local food cultures and traditional crafts still credible now that these foods crowd supermarket shelves and other “mainstream” shopping outlets?”

Mike’s work examines questions such as:

“What constitutes ‘alternative’ food politics specifically and food politics more generally when organic and other ‘quality’ foods have become mainstreamed?

What has been the contribution so far of an ‘alternative food movement’ and its potential to leverage further progressive change and/or make further inroads into conventional systems?

What are the empirical and theoretical bases for understanding the established and growing ‘transgressions’ between conventional and alternative food networks?”

Palm oil plantations in Liberia – are buffer zones the answer?

Elaeis guineensis

Elaeis guineensis

Ahead of the launch of a report by Geoff Griffiths and Ruth Evans on the environmental and social impacts of a proposed Palm Oil plantation in Liberia, Geoff featured in two interviews for the BBC World Service.

The Newsday interview was broadcast at 6am on Monday 24 June (55 minutes into the programme). Listen to the Newsday programme (available until 29 June.)

The World Business Report with Mike Johnson, a ‘head-to-head’ between Geoff and a representative from Sime Darby (Malaysia Palm Oil Company) was broadcast at 22:32 on Monday 24 June (15.35 minutes into the programme).   Listen to the World Business Report programme.

“Our work suggests that buffer zones of 1 to 4 km around local settlements would help local people retain farmland and some access to forest resources. Our innovative environmental assessment also identifies key areas for biodiversity, carbon storage, water supply and livelihoods. Protecting such areas would help to reduce negative impacts.” says Geoff. Read more on Phys.org

Read the full report: Palm oil, land rights and ecosystem services in Gbarpolu County, Liberia

Read about Geoff

Read about Ruth

Photo credit: Marco Schmidt / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Gold star for Sally

Sally lecturingDr Sally Lloyd-Evans, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography has been awarded the ‘Gold Star Award for Best Lecturer in the Faculty of Science’ by Reading University Student’s Union.

Students nominate staff who they feel have had positive impact on their studies by supporting and inspiring them: “The winner of the Science Gold Star Award always gives enjoyable and interesting lectures, is incredibly enthusiastic and is always on hand to help students, whether that is via email or one to one meetings. Sally is praised by students for being supportive, patient and understanding, always being on hand to offer guidance and words of encouragement. When students were faced with a new style of working she takes time out to allow students to hand in drafts of their reports and offer hand written comments giving not only fantastic feedback, but motivational words of encouragement.”

Dr Steve Gurney, Senior Lecturer in Geomorphology, was short-listed for the award for the second year running which demonstrates how well-deserved Geography’s excellent reputation for teaching quality is.

Read about Sally

Read about Steve

More about the award