• Perspectives

June 6, 2023

Here’s Why UL Research Institutes Is Tackling Sustainability Issues

Building resilience for a sustainable future is the first of three grand challenges we are addressing

Dr. Chris Cramer
Dr. Chris Cramer 

By Dr. Chris Cramer, senior vice president and chief research officer for UL Research Institutes

As UL Research Institutes (ULRI) evolves to meet today’s urgent global safety risks, our work has been guided by our commitment to addressing three of the world’s grand challenges: 

  1. Building resilience for a sustainable future 
  2. Advancing individual and societal health in the 21st century 
  3. Promoting safety at the human-digital interface 

Today, I’d like to dig a bit deeper into our Grand Challenge No. 1 — building resilience for a sustainable future. Sustainability as a concept can be loosely defined as the ability to continue a process or activity indefinitely. In the specific context of human activities, something is sustainable if it avoids both the exhaustion of nonrenewable resources and the accrual of harmful byproducts associated with that activity. 

As a term, “sustainability” has become something of a buzzword, but it’s a buzzword for good reason! There’s strong scientific consensus that sustainability is essential for future prosperity, and I’d argue it’s essential for a future tolerable to most of us. In fact, that sentiment extends to the general public: More than two-thirds of Americans now assert that the United States should make developing renewable energy a priority, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Similar levels of commitment are documented globally. Little wonder, then, that we’ve designated sustainability the first of our grand challenges. 

Sustainability includes adapting to and living with new climate realities in ways that enable both people and the planetary ecosystem to prosper. At ULRI, we aspire to a world that safely meets current and future societal needs — that is, one that does so without endangering current and future generations through the introduction of new, unmitigated risks. In order to realize our aspiration, we give special attention to resiliency, which may be defined as the ability to continue to function in the face of challenges, whether expected or unforeseen. 

We see resilience and sustainability as intertwined; the former is critical for the latter, and both are thus essential to future well-being. 

As we work to build safety into sustainable technologies, whether newly emerging or already deployed, we at ULRI constantly seek to ensure that our solutions will be resilient to future challenges. Foremost amongst those challenges is a changed global climate and the increased environmental risk factors associated with that reality, though we’re mindful of many other challenges such as those derived from the complexities of human behavior. 

Based on our multidisciplinary expertise, which includes a special focus on fire safety, energy technologies, and human exposure to chemicals, we consider ourselves well positioned to forge holistic solutions to increasingly profound resilience and sustainability threats.

More information

See how we work to build resilience for a sustainable future:
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Explore our three grand challenges and see how we're addressing them:
Revolutionizing Safety Through Science