photo 1527586111811 0210b19af05b 2 5About Us


What we are

We are an environment think-tank, rooted in experience, with a clear commitment to promoting long-term sustainability through practical thought-leadership. We work on sustainability policy and practice for:

  • Energy
  • Water supply and water management

Within these subject areas, we currently focus on:

  • Promoting a ‘public interest’ agenda, focused on the inevitable trade-offs between managing near-term pressures against the need for longer-term thinking and actions for sustainability.
  • Economic regulation and sustainability duties. In the past, Sustainability First has shaped ground-breaking thinking on new sustainability duties for the water and energy regulators. This is an area in need of continued attention.
  • Innovation and how this can better serve sustainability policy and practice.
  • Social justice aspects of sustainability, in particular in terms of fair treatment for vulnerable and low-income consumers and citizens, and the broad agendas for affordability and efficiency.

We concentrate on GB practice and policy, but we look more widely in drawing comparisons and best-practice examples.

Historically, SF has had an interest in sustainable waste policy. If there was to be a logical ‘fit’ with our other interests, we could at some point return to waste-related matters.

Our values

Sustainability First is underpinned by the following values:

  We are strongly motivated by our charitable objectives to educate and inform a wider public on sustainable energy and water policy and practice.

  We seek to make a difference and exert influence via evidence-based work - from which to promote discussion and debate.

  We are a non-political and non-campaigning charity, independent of any particular lobby. We are non–partisan and non-dogmatic in reaching conclusions, and not seeking pre-determined outcomes.

  Once we reach considered conclusions from our analysis and research, we aim to make our voice heard with policy-makers, regulators, companies, other think-tanks and the wider sustainability community.


We are:

  • Forward-thinking. We aim to shine a light on neglected areas of policy. We have achieved success when other actors, including other NGOs and think-tanks, start to take forward SF thinking in more detailed policy development, practical implementation of measures, and wider campaigns: ‘A think-tank’s think-tank’.
  • Practically focused on commercial, regulatory, consumer, public interest and policy issues. Our strong ‘dual interest’ in consumer and public interest issues is our main anchor.
  • An independent orchestrator of a non-partisan space for others (regulators, companies, other actors) to ‘think’ and to formulate their own longer-term thinking on sustainability and long-run public interest issues.
  • An influence on our peers – through our own carefully developed thinking.




Our skills

SF has demonstrable strength in the following areas:

  • Identifying emerging sustainability topics in water and energy that may be neglected or overlooked, and which need greater policy, regulatory and practical attention.
  • A willingness to get to grips with difficult and complex issues at a detailed level.
  • Leadership in bringing together different parties with different agendas - for an open and informed dialogue.
  • Creating a common narrative over a sustained period in order to improve levels of understanding more widely.
  • We are trusted for our rigour, independence, integrity and fair-minded approach.
  • Expertise and depth in our subject areas.

How we work with others

We aim to promote good working relations with a large number of other organisations – through New-Pin and through our other projects.

We are open to collaboration with other suitable organisations as a one-off or on longer-term projects.

Our arrangements with our project partners make clear our independence and the basis on which any disagreement on content is to be resolved. Where Sustainability First has the role of a contractor on a specific project, and does not have explicit editorial control, the arrangements entail a presumption towards publication and promotion of wider lessons for sustainability and / or the public interest. There is also always a clear basis by which Sustainability First and its project partner might resolve any dispute on editorial content.

For an overview of Sustainability First’s recent work, find our latest Annual Review here.

Sustainability First is a registered charity.