Prof. Dr. Manfred Max Bergman

Professor (Professur Bergman)


Rheinsprung 21
4051 Basel


Social Transitions Research (STR) Group

Manfred Max Bergman is Chair of Social Transitions Research at the University of Basel, Research Councillor of the Swiss National Science Foundation, and member of the Uganda National Academy of Sciences and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a global initiative for the United Nations. He is President of the Swiss Academic Society for Environmental Research and Ecology, Section Editor in Chief of Sustainability, and Editor in Chief of World. He chairs the World Sustainability Forum and the Basel Sustainability Forum since 2014.

Prof. Bergman studied at the Universities of California (BA), Geneva (MA), and Cambridge (PhD). Previous academic affiliations include the Universities of Cambridge, Florence (European University Institute), Geneva, Loyola Chicago, Notre Dame, Oxford, Stellenbosch, St. Gall, Texas A&M, the Witwatersrand, and Zurich.

The research of the Social Transitions Research (STR) Group is on sustainability and the business-society nexus in India and China. The STR Group is currently collaborating with UNDP on their Plastic Waste Management Programme, and with the Institute of Public Enterprise on financial inclusion programmes by the Department of Posts and the Government of India.

The STR group researches, teaches, and supervises on topics relating to the sustainability of the business-society nexus (BISON).

Updated information on publications are available at and at

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BISON: A Sustainable Business-Society Nexus for the 21st Century

Many textbook propositions on sustainability emphasize the transfer of knowledge, skills, technology, funds, and social values from higher to lower and middle income countries. Furthermore, they make untested assumptions about raw materials and technologies, financing, consumer adaptation, value change, and political resolve. Yet India and China, among most other middle income countries, increasingly influence geoeconomic and geopolitical shifts, accompanied by sociocultural and environmental consequences. Their increasing agenda setting capacity, as well as their capabilities to institutionally coordinate and execute programs toward economic and social development within and well beyond their national borders tend to be underestimated.

We are at the end of an era marked by cheap labour, externalization of costs, and a seemingly unlimited access to natural resources. Instead, our time is marked by an accelerated depletion of resources, destruction of the environment, concentration of wealth and privilege within and between societies, and a decline of trust in leaders and institutions by citizens around the world. But our time is also marked by new ways to collaborate and to co-create. Never in the history of humankind has there been such great access to food, health services, education, information, and technology. As an economic ideology, shareholder capitalism is now competing with state capitalism and stakeholder capitalism. Large-scale geopolitical and geoeconomic shifts threaten the status quo but they also provide opportunities for new ventures, models of cooperation, and stakeholder participation. Businesses, societies, and governments are searching for a more sustainable trajectory.

What would an economy, a business sector, an enterprise, a household, a community, and a place of employment look like that is economically prosperous, socially engaged, and environmentally responsible? What if such sustainability concerns would cover the entire value chain, from extraction, processing, and manufacturing to consumption, reuse, and recycling? And what could be a sustainable business-society nexus for the 21st century? The BISON research program examines the opportunities and challenges in emerging trends, exploring new ways of interacting in the interest of mutual survival and prosperity. Whether instigated by the private, public, or civic sectors, BISON studies relatively successful projects, programs, and institutions at the center of the business-society nexus in India and China, given their limited access to sustainability technology, support, and funding. We are particularly interested in business-society projects and programs beyond state subsidies, regulatory frameworks, and philanthropy. We focus on business-relevant, societally beneficial, solution-driven, resource-efficient, future-oriented, context-specific, and culture-sensitive projects and programs that contribute to the benefit of people, planet, prosperity, partnerships, and peace. BISON aims to improve our understanding of sustainability models and theory, geopolitical dynamics associated with business-society interactions, and sustainability interests and capabilities in India and China.

BISON research program partners:
Aston Business School, Birmingham, UK
Centre for International Business Ethics, Beijing, China
Centre for Responsible Business, Delhi, India
Global Values Alliance, Basel, Switzerland
Institute of Public Enterprise, Hyderabad, India


Case Study 1: UNDP’s Plastic Waste Management Programme in India

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (2018), we produce more than 300 million tons of plastic waste every year. A significant proportion of is single-use plastic, which is discarded in cities, rivers, and oceans. Plastic pollution damages land and water ecosystems, which in turn effects the health and quality of life of individuals, communities, and nations. Lower and middle income countries suffer a double burden because individual plastic consumption continues to rise while large-scale waste management systems are underdeveloped or absent.

In close partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in India, we are conducting a case study on the UNDP Waste Management Programme (2018-2024). It brings together different actors from the private, public, and civic sector to create India’s circular plastic economy. Specifically, the program is helping more than 30 000 Safai Sathis (waste pickers) to enter the formal economy through collecting, segregating, and recycling plastics. As part of this program, skills, technologies, and industries are developed in the process of sorting, recycling, shredding, and remanufacturing plastic products. This not only addresses the problem of plastic waste, but also provides opportunities for people across a wider section of Indian society. The UNDP Waste Management Programme is part of a sustainable 21st century India. Our project aims to better understand the strengths and challenges associated with implementing such a program, and how and why actors and institutions have formed partnerships toward sustainable solutions that benefit India economically, socially, and environmentally.