General Information


The MDPI Sustainability Foundation and the MDPI Journal Sustainability would like to encourage and support researchers who contribute to regional and global efforts towards a sustainable world by offering two awards:

  • The World Sustainability Award: a prize money of USD 100’000, entirely funded by the MDPI Sustainability Foundation
  • The Emerging Sustainability Leader Award: a prize money of USD 20’000 funded by the MDPI Journal Sustainability


Nomination Criteria

What will the Selection Committee be looking for?

  • A unique, sustained and outstanding achievement based on strong pure or applied research in any appropriate discipline
  • Achievement that addresses at least 2 pillars of sustainability* and demonstrates measurable impact within those particular pillars
  • Novelty and feasibility of real-life applications of the research 
  • Entrepreneurial potential of the research
  • Alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

*The 3 pillars of sustainability are as follows:

  • Social (Standard of Living, Education, Community, Equal Opportunity)
  • Environmental (Natural Resource Use, Environmental Management, Pollution Prevention)
  • Economic (Profit, Cost Savings, Economic Growth)


World Sustainability Award Nominees & Selection

Nominees for the World Sustainability Award may be Senior Individual researchers or groups of researchers from the international research community.

Please note that self-nominations are not accepted.

The Selection Committee will review the nominations and select a winner.


Emerging Sustainability Leader Award Nominees & Selection

Nominees for the Emerging Sustainability Leader Award Nominees may be Individual researcher or start-ups founded by researchers under the age of 35 at the time of the submission deadline from the international research community.

Candidates may be nominated by third parties or self-nominated.

The entrepreneurial and sustainable potential of the research will be considered in addition to the academic quality.


Selection Committee

Permanent Members:

  • Dr. Shu-Kun Lin, founder and President of MDPI and founder and chairman of the MDPI Sustainability Foundation
  • Prof. Dr. Ed Constable, Former Vice President for Research of the University of Basel

Non-Permanent Members:

  • A university professor from the Scientific Board of Sustainability
  • An unaligned university professor with expertise in sustainability
  • A representative of either an intergovernmental organization, a civil society or the business sector

Up to three non-permanent members of the selection committee may be appointed for each World Sustainability Award. Re-appointments are possible three years after having served on the Selection Committee.


Terms and Conditions

  • The right to the World Sustainability Award and/or the Emerging Sustainability Leader Award is not transferable.
  • A recipient can receive the World Sustainability Award and/or Emerging Sustainability Leader Award only once.
  • The recipient/s of the World Sustainability Award and/or Emerging Sustainability Leader Award is/are required to participate in the award ceremony at the World Sustainability Forum. The associated costs are covered by the organizers to an extent that will be communicated to the recipient.


Previous Awards Ceremonies

The first awards ceremony was held during the 6th World Sustainability Forum (WSF6) in Cape Town, South Africa, in January 2017. The recipients of the second awards were announced at the 7th World Sustainability Forum (WSF7) in Beijing, China, in September 2018. During the 8th World Sustainability Forum (WSF8) in September 2020, the recipients of the third awards received their awards virtually. The recipients of the fourth awards were announced at the 9th World Sustainability Forum (WSF9) in September 2021.


World Sustainability Award 2021

Prof. Dr. John Elkington and Prof. Dr. Jianguo Liu are the joint recipients of the 2021 World Sustainability Award.

Prof. Dr. John Elkington is a world-renowned author, advisor, and entrepreneur who has advocated and promoted sustainability for more than four decades. He is Visiting Professor at the Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility, Cranfield School of Management, Imperial College, and University College London (UCL). Over the years, he has promoted sustainable development as an advisor to many governments, business, and civic institutions around the world. In 2008 he became the Co-founder and Chairman of Volans, a think tank and “future-focused business working at the intersection of sustainability, entrepreneurship and innovation”. One of his most significant contributions to the field of sustainability was the introduction of the triple bottom line in his 1997 book entitled Cannibals with Forks: The Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business. The concept of the triple bottom line, which promotes the idea that business should balance economic pursuits with social and environmental outcomes, has by now become a gold standard within the field of sustainability. Notably, it has been used as the benchmark for the development of global initiatives such as The UN Global Compact, the Global Reporting Initiative, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Prof. Dr. Jianguo “Jack” Liu is a world leader in systems integration and sustainability (e.g., integrating ecology with social sciences, policy, and technologies for understanding and promoting global sustainability). He holds the Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability, and is University Distinguished Professor and founding director of Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability at Michigan State University (USA). He has translated many research findings to effective policy and management for global sustainability, especially in China. Furthermore, he has amplified the impacts through helping numerous others. Liu’s pioneering research has opened up new frontiers in sustainability and greatly advanced the fundamental understanding of global challenges. He coined the integrated concept of telecoupling (socioeconomic-environmental interactions over distances), and has been leading the development and applications of the award-winning telecoupling framework. This framework helps disentangle the complexity of globalization and systematically expand sustainability science from focus on specific places separately to human-nature interactions across distant places. It provides a powerful tool to uncover hidden impacts of human activities within specific places on sustainability elsewhere. Many of his research findings have been translated into effective policies and management interventions, which have helped the recovery of a global wildlife icon (giant pandas), improved management of protected areas, and revolution of China’s environmental protection.

Emerging Sustainability Leader Award 2021

The joint recipients of the 2021 Emerging Sustainability Leader Award are Dr. Lela Mélon and Prof. Dr. Anet Režek Jambrak.

From the beginning of her academic career, Dr. Lela Mélon has been focusing on path-breaking insights into corporate sustainability, arguing against a noncritical application of the shareholder primacy in the light of environmental and social sustainability challenges the corporate sector poses. With the SCOM project, Dr. Mélon achieved a remarkable impact with her work in academia and beyond, connecting the private and the public sector, opening science to broader society and created far-reaching strategic connection, which have been further fostered all up to today. She devoted her time and efforts to place sustainability as a guiding principle in the field of higher education and brought together the private and public sector through her work, assuring that the scientific findings are aligned with the needs of the society as a whole.



Prof. Dr. Anet Režek Jambrak is a Professor from the Faculty of Food Technology and Biotechnology of the University of Zagreb, Croatia. She is also a scientific advisor in food engineering (biotechnical sciences). From 2019, she founded the Laboratory for Sustainable Development at the Faculty of Food Technology and Biotechnology. She is member of Global Young Academy (GYA), European Union of Food Science and Technology (EFFoST) and International Academy of Food Science and Technology (IAFoST). Her field of research is food chemistry, food physics, nonthermal processing, advanced thermal processing, sustainability, food processing, Industry 4.0, digitalization, etc.




World Sustainability Award 2020

Prof. Dr. Michael E. Mann and Dr. Antonella Santuccione Chadha are the joint recipients of the 2020 World Sustainability Award.

Prof. Dr. Michael Mann is Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science and Director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. His research focuses on climate science and climate change. He was selected by Scientific American as one of the fifty leading visionaries in science and technology in 2002, was awarded the Hans Oeschger Medal of the European Geophysical Union in 2012 and the National Conservation Achievement Award of the NWF in 2013. He made Bloomberg News' list of the fifty most influential people in 2013. In 2014, he received the Friend of the Planet Award from the National Center for Science Education. He received the Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication from Climate One in 2017, the Award for Public Engagement with Science from the AAAS in 2018, and the Climate Communication Prize from the American Geophysical Union in 2018. In 2019, he received the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. He is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, American Meteorological Society, Geological Society of America, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He is co-founder of the award-winning science website, author of more than 200 peer-reviewed and edited publications, numerous op-eds and commentaries, and four books: Dire Predictions, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, The Madhouse Effect, and The Tantrum that Saved the World. His fifth, forthcoming book “The New Climate War” is due to be released January 2021.  

Dr. Antonella Santuccione Chadha is a medical doctor with expertise in clinical pathology, neuroscience, and psychiatric disorders. She is head of stakeholder engagement for Alzheimer’s disease at Biogen. She is co-founder and CEO of the non-profit organization “Women’s Brain Project”, which is addressing the influence of sex and gender on mental and brain diseases. As a medical doctor, Antonella has decades of experience in preclinical research, patient treatment, clinical development, medical affairs, and setting up the international regulatory framework for Alzheimer’s disease. Always focused on solving the puzzles related to Alzheimer’s and other psychiatric diseases, she has worked with Swissmedic, Roche, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, several European universities, the EU Commission Directorate for Health and Food Safety, the World Health Organization, the CEO and several Alzheimer’s’ disease Organizations. In 2018 and 2019, she was among the top 100 Women in Business in Switzerland and in 2019 she was elected Woman of the Year in Switzerland by the Magazine "Women in Business". She is the Vice-president of Euresearch and acts as a scientific advisor for several start-ups and scientific institutions. Dr. Santuccione Chadha is keenly interested in removing bias when developing solutions for mental and neurological diseases to achieve precision medicines. She is advocating and involved in the creation of an Institute for sex and gender precision medicine in Switzerland.


Emerging Sustainability Leader Award 2020

The joint recipients of the 2020 Emerging Sustainability Leader Award are Dr. Jing Meng and Dr. Natalia Mykhaylova.

Dr. Jing Meng is a Lecturer at The Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management, University College London (UCL), and a fellow of the Cambridge Centre for Environment, Energy, and Natural Resource Governance at the University of Cambridge.
Her research focus is on sustainable production and consumption, including theories and modeling of environmental economics, climate change and air pollution policies, energy decarbonization, and trade policies. Jing received her Ph.D. degree in Environmental Geography from Peking University. Jing's research focuses on the impact of international trade on the distribution, climate, and health impacts of black carbon. Jing also holds a bachelor’s degree in Building Environment and Energy Engineering from Huazhong University of Science and Technology. Jing is an associate editor of the Journal of Cleaner Production and a guest editor of the Journal of Environmental Management and Sustainability.

Dr. Natalia Mykhaylova
has a background in engineering, chemistry, and design. Natalia is passionate about the environmental sustainability field. Her Ph.D. work involved the development of novel sensor devices and adaptable wireless networks for air pollution monitoring and smart city applications. She founded four ventures and three non-profit initiatives. She provided consulting services to community organizations working with environmental data sources and conducted community air pollution research projects. She also developed a software solution that makes use of traffic data to reduce city congestion and the associated carbon emissions, winner of Climate Hack-To-Action as well as Climathon. She led the development of a modular solution to add more green space to the impermeable city core as well as manage stormwater run-off in dense urban environments, winner of Green Infrastructure Hack-a-thon. She co-founded Cleanopy Inc. and has developed a unique portable device for children that offers continuous indoor and outdoor protection from air pollution. More recently, she is a founder and CEO of WeavAir, which develops sensor modules that improve the indoor air quality and energy efficiency of HVAC systems. She leads WeavAir teams in North America and Asia and the company received 15 awards in North America, Asia, and Europe. The company was incorporated in Canada and Korea and has received many awards and a large amount of interest in North America, Asia, and Europe.

World Sustainability Award 2018

The second World Sustainability Awards and the second Emerging Sustainability Leader Awards were presented by:

  • Prof. Youfu Xia, Director of International Trade at UIBE, Beijing, China;
  • Prof. Ed Constable, former Vice-president and Professor of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Basel;
  • and Dr. Franck Vazquez, CEO of MDPI

The ceremony took place on 19th September 2018 as part of the Sustainable Development Education Forum in China of the 7th World Sustainability Forum in Beijing, China.

Dr. Mathis Wackernagel and Dr. Zhifu Mi are the joint recipients of the 2nd World Sustainability Award. Dr. Mathis Wackernagel is the main winner and gets 2/3 and Dr. Zhifu Mi gets 1/3 of the prize.

Dr. Mathis Wackernagel is the co-creator of the Ecological Footprint and President of the Global Footprint Network. After his mechanical engineering degree from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, he completed a Ph.D. in community and regional planning with Professor William Rees at the University of British Columbia, where his doctoral dissertation developed the Ecological Footprint concept in the early 1990s. Since 1997, he has advanced the Ecological Footprint for countries through the National Footprint Accounts which continue to be the world’s only comprehensive metric able to compare human demand on nature to what the planet can renew. They inform about countries’ exposure to core sustainability challenges, including climate change and resource constraints.

The Global Footprint Network reaches over 3 billion media impressions ever year with its Earth Overshoot Day, which marks the date when humanity has used more from nature than the earth can renew in the entire year. In 2018, this date fell on August 1st.

Dr. Zhifu Mi is a Lecturer at The Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management, University College London (UCL), with research interests in the fields of climate change economics and energy policy. He is co-developer of the China Emission Accounts and Datasets which provides the most up-to-date, comparable, verifiable, and free emission-accounting inventories of China. His doctoral dissertation about Climate Change Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) was honoured with the Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award on economics research in China. He was invited to write a review article about climate change IAMs for Oxford Bibliographies. He has published over 40 papers in peer-reviewed journals, including Science Advances, Nature Geoscience, and Nature Communications.

 He serves as an associate editor of the Journal Cleaner Production and as guest editor of the Applied Energy Journal. Since joining the UCL in 2017, Dr. Zhifu has won several early career prizes and awards.

Emerging Sustainability Leader Award 2018

The joint recipients of the second Emerging Sustainability Leader Award are Dr. Bradley Hiller and Dr. Xiaodong Zhang.

Dr Bradley Hiller is an emerging global sustainability leader. He has a strong academic foundation, upon which he is boldly applying sustainability principles and solutions across multiple sectors. Dr. Hiller has four sustainability-relevant qualifications – a PhD and Master’s degrees from the Centre for Sustainable Development at the University of Cambridge, and two Bachelor degrees in Environmental Engineering (1st Class Honors) and Environmental Science from the University of Western Australia.His university research contributed to evidence-based decision-making at the World Bank; a BBC World documentary; and a debate in Western Australian State Parliament.

 Dr. Hiller currently has academic affiliations with the Centre for Sustainable Development at the University of Cambridge (Lead Research Consultant), the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (Associate Research Consultant), the Global Sustainability Institute, the Anglia Ruskin University (Visiting Fellow) and the Asia Global Institute at the University of Hong Kong (AsiaGlobal Fellow). Dr. Hiller also serves as Lead Consultant at the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), where he supports strategic and operational activities within the Sustainable Development and Climate Change Departments. Dr. Hiller contributes to academic and quasi-academic knowledge pieces and investments intended to improve social, economic and environmental conditions. Recent examples include the co-development and operationalization of ADB’s strategic climate change framework to 2030 (including a US$6 billion annual climate financing commitment), the presentation of the University of Cambridge findings on one of the world’s largest diversified food and beverage companies (ultimately contributing to a sustainability commitment of 1 billion USD); and recommendations to improve the resilience of the global agrifood system to extreme weather events (as part of a UK-US Research Taskforce). Dr. Hiller’s applied research findings have been directly presented to and actioned by high profile personnel, from the HRH Prince of Wales (on green investment potential), through to the World Bank Vice President responsible for a $65 billion poverty reduction portfolio in Sub-Saharan Africa. Dr. Hiller generates numerous academic outputs – 7 journal articles (plus 1 under review, and 1 under preparation) – including 2 Sustainability articles – 4 dissertations, approximately 40 formally peer-reviewed knowledge productions/reports, 4 book chapter contributions (or co-authorships), 6 conference papers, 2 television documentaries (produced or contributed), and 2 supervised/advised postgraduate students. Dr. Hiller’s ongoing research aims to understand the dynamics of achieving transformational change at scales (around which he hopes to build a social enterprise focus on decentralized essential service provision).

Dr Xiaodong Zhang is a Professor at the School of Environmental Science and Engineering at Shandong University. He is a licensed professional engineer in the USA and in Canada. He has worked as an outstanding researcher, teacher and an emerging leader in research, teaching, leadership, and professional services toward sustainability at the Los Alamos National Laboratory of the University of Texas at Austin, USA, Environment Canada and the University of Regina, Canada. As a pioneer in addressing sustainability issues, Dr. Zhang has made significant contributions to development and application of systems-analysis, machine learning and data-driven methods, models, and technologies for sustainable management of environmental, water resources and energy concerns under climate change and the resulting complex uncertainties.

He has a strong record of publications with outstanding quality and quantity in top peer-reviewed journals, including Water Resources Research, Journal of Hydrology, Water Research, and Advances in Water Resources. He is a leader and coordinator for many major research projects with high quality of leadership. He serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Hydrology and the Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, and as an Editorial Board Member of Environmental Modelling & Software, Scientific Reports and Water. He is a Review Panelist and Reviewer for grant proposals for the National Science Foundation in USA, Canada and China. He is, furthermore, a primary convener and session chair for many international conferences including the AGU Fall Meeting, and an active member of many scientific committees and societies, including ASCE. He has won a number of international and national awards and honors.

Youfu Xia, Director of International Trade at UIBE, Beijing, China; Mathis Wackernagel, co-creator of the Ecological Footprint and President of the Global Footprint Network, Oakland, USA; Franck Vazquez, CEO of MDPI, Basel, Switzerland; Ed Constable, Former Vice-president and Professor Department of Chemistry University of Basel, Switzerland and Zhifu Mi, Lecturer at The Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management, University College London (UCL) and co-developer of the China Emission Accounts and Datasets, London, UK

The first World Sustainability Award and the first Emerging Sustainability Leader Awards were presented by Prof. Thandi Mgwebi, Director of Research at UWC, and Dr. Franck Vazquez, CEO of MDPI, during a ceremony on 27 January 2017 as part of the gala dinner of the 6th World Sustainability Forum in South Africa.

World Sustainability Award 2017

Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs and Dr. Sonia Ehrlich Sachs are the joint recipients of the 1st World Sustainability Award.

Prof Jeffrey Sachs is a world-renowned professor of economics, leader in sustainable development, senior UN advisor, bestselling author, and syndicated columnist, whose monthly newspaper columns appear in more than 100 countries. He is the co-recipient of the 2015 Blue Planet Prize, the leading global prize for environmental leadership, and has been named among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential world leaders twice. Professor Sachs served as the Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University from 2002 to 2016. During that time, he led a university-wide organization of more than 850 research scientists and policy experts in support of sustainable development, championed the Masters of Development Practice (MDP) program, which is now offered at 30 universities around the world.


He also helped to introduce the PhD in Sustainable Development at the Columbia University, where he was appointed University Professor in 2016 and where he serves as Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development and Professor of Health Policy and Management. He was Special Advisor to the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for the Sustainable Development Goals, and previously advised Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria. Prior to his arrival at Columbia University in July 2002, Professor Sachs spent over twenty years as a professor at Harvard University, where he served as the Director of the Center for International Development and the Galen L. Stone Professor of International Trade. He received his B.A., summa cum laude, from Harvard College in 1976, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1978 and 1980 respectively.


Dr. Sonia Sachs is a paediatrician and public health specialist with a specialty in paediatric endocrinology. Dr. Sachs practiced medicine for over 20 years, 14 of which at the Harvard University Health Services. In 2004, she joined the Earth Institute and became the health coordinator for the Millennium Villages Project, overseeing all health related interventions and research. The goal of the project is to show that an integrated development approach is scalable and sustainable. She tirelessly contributes to the coordination and work that has made the Earth Institute a beacon of international sustainable development. She received a B.A. from Harvard University, an M.D. from the University of Maryland Medical School, and an MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health.


Emerging Sustainability Leader Award 2017

The joint recipients of the first Emerging Sustainability Leader Award are Dr. Esther Ngumbi and Dr. Xiaosong Hu.


Dr Esther Ngumbi is a 2007 recipient of American Association of University Women (AAUW) International Fellowship. She has been featured in the AAUW celebrating 125 years of fellowships and grants views and on the cover of AAUW’s acclaimed national research report, “Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics”. Dr. Ngumbi is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at Auburn University in Alabama. She is a Food Security Fellow with New Voices, The Aspen Institute, and has also served as a Clinton Global University Initiative Mentor for Agriculture. Esther was named by One World Action as one of the 100 powerful women who change the world. She continues to be a global leader, motivational speaker and is passionate about issues related to hunger, gender, education, youth activism and sustainability.


Dr Xiaosong Hu received a PhD degree in Automotive Engineering from Beijing Institute of Technology, China in 2012. He conducted scientific research and completed his dissertation at the Automotive Research Center at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA, between 2010 and 2012. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Swedish Hybrid Vehicle Center and the Department of Signals and Systems at Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden. His research interests include optimal control and dimensioning of electrified powertrains, modelling and management of energy storage systems. He is a recipient of the Beijing Best PhD Dissertation Award in 2013, and is a Member of IEEE.



What should the Nomination include?

The Nomination must include:

  1. Nomination for which award
  2. Nominee’s Details:
    • Title & Name
    • Position & institutional affiliation
    • Postal address of institution & of nominee
    • Phone numbers
    • Email address
    • Photo of nominee
  3. Nominator’s Details:
    • Title & Name
    • Position & institutional affiliation
    • Postal address of institution and of nominee
    • Phone numbers
    • Email address
  4. Nominee’s Achievement:
    • A detailed description – max. 2 pages – highlighting their contribution that would merit receipt of the World Sustainability Award or the Emerging Sustainability Leader Award.
    • The description must refer to the importance of the work, its impact, and its projected influence, as well as its measurable achievement by the time of the nomination.
  5. Nominee’s Detailed CV, including
    • Nominee’s List of Publications
    • Nominee’s List of Funded Projects
    • Nominee’s List of Awards
    • The use of the Prize Money by the Nominee
  6. Other Relevant Information

The Nomination must be submitted:

  • In English
  • In one single document, PDF format

Please send the nomination document to [email protected].

Deadlines for the 5th Awards

Information coming soon!