Research assets

The activities of the centre are organised along the following research assets: 

  • Programme architectures are designed to facilitate exchange among corporations and other stakeholders. Exchanges are segmented according to the following concepts of: Field experiments; Co-labs; Learning programmes; Stakeholder platform; and System dynamics simulations.

  • Sustainability data development  of a unique digital database of five million sustainability initiatives by 13,000 companies across all key sectors and countries, categorised by the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The dataset development is designed along the following research programmes: AI application; Sustainability portfolio optimisation; ESG comparative analysis; Indices and rankings; and Sustainability reports.

  • Research network connects and integrates scientific knowledge in business, social, technological, natural and life sciences. In particular, Leonardo utilises its unique position within Imperial’s network of expertise and coordinates the global Golden network.


Read more about programme architectures

Programme architectures

Programme architectures are designed to facilitate exchange among corporations and other stakeholders. Exchanges are segmented according to the following concepts.

1.Field experiments

Change experiments are pilot projects at the firm level that study the impact of transitioning to a stakeholder-oriented organisation and aim to further the organisation’s sustainability journey.

Projects are co-designed by organisational stakeholders and thought leaders to develop new processes, systems and, most importantly, a new organisational culture. They are unique in that these projects boast:

  • Interdisciplinary knowledge from experts in management, finance, engineering, environmental science, and neuropsychology;
  • Scientific rigor of the experimental methods
  • Action-oriented engagement with firms and their stakeholders.

Areas of application include but are not limited to leadership development, integrated strategy, incentive and control systems, and supply chains.

2. Co-laboratories

A Co-Laboratory is a 3-year global, cross-disciplinary, cooperative program that brings together business leaders and academia experts through thematic workshops and experimentations within organisations. The aim of the program is to speed up and facilitate the emergence of innovative forms of enterprise capable of moving the frontier of business beyond narrow sustainability concerns.

The Co-Lab program designed by the Leonardo Centre enables the participants to explore, share, co-design and assess solutions to rethink the logic of the enterprise across all its key dimensions: leadership mindsets, cultural change, governance models, strategic decision making, R&D strategy and sustainable innovation, incentive and control systems, value chain partnerships.

3. Learning programmes

Drawing upon expertise across Imperial, bespoke 1-year educational programs can be developed for senior management within an organisation. The program will allow the participants to explore, share, co-design and assess solutions to rethink the logic of the enterprise across all its key dimensions: leadership mindsets, cultural change, governance models, strategic decision making, R&D strategy and sustainable innovation, incentive and control systems, value chain partnerships.

The experiential journey is designed to shape a new generation of conscious leaders capable of steering systemic transformational change toward global sustainability and well-being.

4. Stakeholder platforms

A digital innovation platform for stakeholder consultation and engagement in innovative, transformational projects. The aim of building this platform is that of integrating the aspirations, knowledge, and perspectives of the full array of a firm’s stakeholders (employees, customers, investors, academia, etc.) in the creation of the sustainable enterprise.

The platform will allow stakeholders to contribute to all phases of the innovation process: sensing, ideation, selection, and implementation.

5. System dynamic simulations

The Leonardo Centre is developing policy-informing, user-friendly, simulation tools for business and public organisations that evaluate the efficacy of alternative sustainability strategic stances and theorise the impact on economic and non-economic objectives.

These simulation tools will allow organisations to integrate sustainability behaviours into the strategic roadmap devised to achieve their financial and non-financial goals.


Sustainability data development

At the core of the Leonardo Centre’s activities lies the GOLDEN dataset, a unique digital database of five million sustainability initiatives by 13,000 companies across all key sectors and countries, categorised by the UN sustainability goals.

The database is the first to distinguish intention from action, providing an objective assessment of the financial and sustainability performance implications of corporate behaviours.

Analytical focus on sustainability initiatives allows both organisations and stakeholders to make informed decisions on the type of initiatives that are more likely to create value for the various stakeholder groups. Analysis of the value creation implications of different types of initiatives can, in turn, ignite learning for organisations and stakeholders on how to best address crucial sustainability issues in a value-enhancing way for all key stakeholder groups.

The dataset development is designed along the following research programmes with other research centres to study and experiment with corporations, policy makers, investors and civil society: 

Read more about sustainability data development

1. Digital dataset development

The Leonardo Centre is building the first database on global corporate initiatives designed to address the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs). It leverages the most advanced linguistic analytical techniques, such as machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) to identify and codify all the sustainability initiatives worldwide from the public and sectors, including institutions, cities, and universities.

These initiatives are screened through several sense-making lenses:

-             What the company has realised or is currently doing

-             Who is taking action and their background (e.g., sector-level). This allows for further inquiries based on more aggregate data (sector or sector-country reports)

-             Why the initiative is being pursued. Specifically, the sustainable development goal (SDG) and societal issues identified as the rationale for organisational action is specified

-             How the initiatives are implemented, both in terms of internal change required and stakeholders involved in the implementation of the initiatives

2. Sustainability portfolio optimisation

The Leonardo Centre is developing a model, inspired by natural language processing (NLP), to determine the relationship between sustainability behaviours, financial, and sustainability performance. Once a relationship between initiatives and performance is verified, an optimal portfolio of sustainability initiatives that maximises both financial and non-financial performance will be derived.

The modelling and optimisation exercises can be carried out at the corporate, industry, and country level in order to inform strategy formulation and promote best practices in these 3 realities.

3. ESG comparative analysis

To establish and validate the behavioural objective scoring model proposed, our iterative analysis evaluates the capacity of internally developed behavioural scores to both adequately capture the corporate sustainable behaviour of a firm and explain its stock risk, return models, and financial performance.


In particular, the scores derived using the Leonardo dataset are compared to existing ESG scores, which are widely adopted across different sectors and countries but still rely on some subjective assessments of a firm’s behaviour.

4. Indices and rankings

The Leonardo Centre is developing global sustainability indices at corporate-, sector-, and country-level to aid policy formulation and business strategic decisions. These indices are constructed using an objective, initiative-level analysis of sustainable behaviour and they are designed to also reflect financial and non-financial performance.

5. Sustainability reports

Leveraging on the Leonardo-Golden sustainability dataset, the Leonardo Centre designs corporate, industry, and country-level reports. These reports are produced to provide an in-depth analysis of the quality, degree of maturity, and effectiveness of transformational efforts towards more sustainable models. The reports can also offer a robust evolutionary assessment of the status of an organisation, industry, and country, through the analysis of its behaviour, i.e., sustainability initiatives.


Research network 

Synergies among the networks of Imperial College and GOLDEN enable the Leonardo Centre to create an innovative cross-disciplinary and cross-institutional laboratory for experimentation in alternative forms of business enterprise.

Imperial College Research Centres

Leonardo Centre has been conceived as a cross disciplinary bridge, federating the competencies and expertise relevant for the study of corporate sustainability in all research centres at Imperial College London, including the Grantham Institute, Energy Futures Laboratory, Centre for Health Economics & Policy Innovation, the Data Science Institute, Centre for Environmental Policy, and Centre for Process Systems Engineering.

Examples of the cross disciplinary projects the Leonardo Centre is involved with include:

  • BEST (Business Evolution for Sustainable Society), with 10 research centres at ICL
  • Corporate Climate Change Impact Calculator with Centre for Environmental Policy, and Centre for Process Systems Engineering
  • Grantham Institute-Obesity Business Impact Assessment with Centre for Health Economics & Policy Innovation and other European research centres.

Golden for impact

GOLDEN (Global Organisation Learning and Developing Network) is a community of 160 scholars from over 60 universities, including MIT, Harvard, London Business School and Oxford.

GOLDEN owns the original sustainability dataset that the Leonardo Centre is further developing and enhancing. The Leonardo Centre plays a global coordination role.


Impact areas

Leveraging the research assets described above, Leonardo’s research agenda aims to tackle three grand societal challenges, across various sectors, by involving different ecosystem players.

Read more about impact areas

Societal challenges


The Societal challenges that the Leonardo Centre helps to tackle can be grouped in 3 macro-categories that facilitate the regeneration of the:

1. Natural environment, including climate change risk reduction, net zero emission and resource use circularity.

2. Social environment, including the enhancement of physical and psychological well-being, social integration and fair treatment of consumers, employees and citizens in their communities.

3. Socio-economic environment, including the redefinition of the roles of the industrial, financial, civil and public sectors as core actors enabling social and natural regeneration.


Sector evolution

The Leonardo Centre’s research assets, in particular the collaborative cross-disciplinary experimentation activities, can help bring about the evolution of industrial sectors towards a more sustainable and stakeholder-oriented model. The Centre’s activities have the potential to benefit all industrial sectors but currently we are focusing primarily on the following sectors:

  • Finance: The Centre is working on defining the relationship between sustainable and financial performance and on integrating sustainability considerations into the decision-making processes of financial investors.
  • Technology: The Centre is leveraging novel technologies in order to make Leonardo’s sustainability dataset and expertise applicable across different challenges, sectors, business functions, etc. For example, the Leonardo Centre is using AI and machine learning to expand and enhance its sustainability dataset.
  • Energy: The Centre is working on establishing integrated reporting processes that adequately respond to the increasing environmental and social pressures faced by the Energy industry
  • Food: The Centre is helping firms in the food industry achieve responsible production and consumption and is promoting a strong product responsibility culture. For example, the Centre is studying the effectiveness of initiatives at tackling obesity at the corporate and country level.


Ecosystem players

All the Leonardo Centre’s activities require the involvement and result in a higher sustainability awareness of at least one of the following eco-system players: Corporations, Public administrations, Communities, and Investors. Here are some examples of how the Leonardo Centre can help various players:

  • Corporations – how to transform business strategy?

The Centre guides corporations on a transformational journey that aims to embed sustainability principles deeply into their products, processes, systems, strategies, governance, culture, and purpose and mission.  

  • Public administration – how to enhance policies’ impact?

The Centre collaborates with Government and Institutions to maximise the impact of their policies by developing innovative SDG delivery initiatives, designing and deploying field experiments for policy interventions

  • Communities – how to increase impact on communities?

The Centre helps social enterprises succeed by sharing their needs and solutions, connecting them with large corporates and a global ecosystem, and raising funds to scale business.

  • Impact finance – how to fund impact solutions?

The Centre promotes a deep internal transformation in the mindsets, culture, governance and operating processes of financial institutions to facilitate the transition to a successful impact investment strategy.