The Duke Center for Sustainability & Commerce is a pan-university research and academic center housed within the Nicholas School of the Environment.  Housed in the Gross Hall for Interdisciplinary Innovation, the center was founded in 2010 by Dr. Jay Golden and includes a laboratory for life cycle modeling and Sustainable Innovations and Designs.

Our Mission

The mission of the Duke Center for Sustainability & Commerce is to address the complex sustainability challenges driven by global commerce faced by industry and government and to provide innovative and effective strategies, tools and solutions.

How We Implement

Collaboration: At the core of our work is the creation of meaningful partnerships.  We do this through two primary mechanisms.  The first is through student led Capstone Projects, where companies or government partners are provided a multidisciplinary project team of graduate students under the supervision of Center leadership.  

The second mechanism is a traditional research / outreach partnership where researchers at the Center provide contracted technical support on specific themes including life cycle assessment, supply chain modeling, economic modeling, sustainability benchmarking and strategies, energy and water modeling and risks analysis.

Education:  We provide our students a rigorous sustainable systems education founded in theory, tools and real-world experiential learning enabling them to build upon their overall Duke University education as they become the next generation of leaders in both the private and public sectors.


Climate and Energy

Global warming is arguably the most serious environmental issue of our time, and because the root cause is intimately tied to our energy infrastructure, it is also one of the most difficult. The challenges are to: (i) enhance our understanding of the global climate system and its dependence on the global cycling of greenhouse gases through marine and terrestrial ecosystems; (ii) develop adaptation strategies for the inevitable climate disruptions we will face in the coming decades; and (iii) map out a pathway for transitioning from our fossil-fuel dependent infrastructure to one that relies on renewables and low-carbon energy sources in a manner that avoids the most dangerous consequences of global warming.

Terrestrial and Marine Ecosystems

Ecosystems provide valuable services to society, such as clean water and air, timber, fisheries, food and fiber, irreplaceable gene pools, as well as natural vistas and diverse habitats that lift spirits and inspire creativity. Yet a recent assessment has concluded that upwards of 60% of the world’s ecosystems are degraded. Shrinking habitats threaten biodiversity, and toxic compounds endanger ecosystem function as well as human health are ubiquitous. Climate change is further disrupting ecosystem function worldwide, and rising populations and standards of living will place ever greater demands for natural resources and thus on the ecosystems that provide them. The challenges are to: (i) maintain ecosystem resources and biodiversity in the face of increasing pressures and demands on those resources; and (ii) understand how ecosystem function will respond to climate change and urbanization.

Human Health and the Environment

Every year we add myriad new chemicals to the environment. They include toxic compounds, such as endocrine disrupters, and chemicals such as nanoparticles for which we have little or no information as to how they affect human health and the environment. New insights obtained from the study of epigenetics suggests that exposure to these chemicals, especially in the early stages of life, can have profound, and even catastrophic effects. The challenges are to: (i) develop and apply a comprehensive methodology to identify hazardous compounds before they are released into the environment; (ii) map out pathways by which toxic compounds move through the environment, and how they are chemically altered as they do so; and (iii) identify the mechanisms by which toxic compounds disrupt ecosystem function, enter our food and water supply and affect human health.