Professor John B. Robinson

Curriculum Vitae – short version

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Current Positions:

University of Toronto

  • Professor, Munk School of Global Affairs and Pubic Policy
  • Professor, School of the Environment
  • Presidential Advisor, Environment, Climate Change and Sustainability
  • C-Chair, President’s Advisory Committee on the Environment, Climate Change and Sustainability
  • appointed to graduate faculty: Department of Geography and Planning; and Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design


  • Adjunct Professor, Copenhagen Business School (2017-)
  • Honorary Professor, Institute for Environment, Resources and Sustainability, The University of British Columbia (2016-)

Address: 1 Devonshire Place, Toronto Canada M5S 3K7

Google Scholar listing: 

Awards and Honours

  • Utrecht University Visiting Professor on Transdisciplinarity, Utrecht, the Netherlands, 2019
  • Recipient, 2018 Samuel Wiener Distinguished Visitor Award, University of Manitoba
  • Green Ribbon Award – Faculty, University of Toronto Sustainability Office, 2018
  • Clean 50 Award, Education and Thought Leadership category, Delta Management Group, 2018
  • Metro Vancouver Architecture Canada Architecture Advocacy Award, 2012
  • Canadian Geographic Environmental Scientist of the Year, 2012
  • Canada Green Building Council, Education Leadership Award, 2011
  • BC Hydro’s Larry Bell Award for advancing energy conservation in British Columbia, 2010
  • Pierre Elliot Trudeau Fellowship, 2008–2010
  • Share of Nobel Peace Prize for being a Lead Author in the 1995, 2001 and 2007 assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007

 Research Contributions

Book (2020)

Maggs, D. and Robinson, J. Sustainability in an Imaginary World – Art and the Question of Agency. London: Routledge, 2020

Journal Articles (2010-21)

Robinson, J. “Sustainability as transmutation: an alchemical interpretation of a transformation to sustainability”, Sustainability Science, (2021).

Slater, K. and Robinson, J. (2020), “Social Learning and Transdisciplinary Co-Production: A Social Practice Approach”, Sustainability, 12, 7511; doi:10.3390/su12187511. link

Jost, F., Dale, A., Newell, R., and Robinson, J., (2020) “Climate action assessment in three small municipalities in British Columbia: advancements vis-à-vis major neighboring cities”, Current Research in Environmental Sustainability, 2, 100010.

Jost, F., Dale, A., Newell, R., Robinson, J. (2020), “Evaluating development path changes using a novel climate action assessment framework in three municipalities in British Columbia, Canada”, Environmental Science and Policy, 114, 410–421.

Williams, S. and Robinson, J., (2020) “Measuring sustainability: An evaluation framework for sustainability transition experiments”, Environmental Science and Policy, 103, 58-66.

Dale, A., Robinson, J., King, L., Burch, S., Newell, R., Shaw A., and Jost, F. (2019) “Meeting the climate change challenge: local government climate action in British Columbia, Canada”, Climate Policy, DOI: 10.1080/14693062.2019.1651244

Brugmann, R., Côté, N., Postma, N., Shaw, E., Pal, D., and Robinson, J. (2019) “Expanding Student Engagement in Sustainability: Using SDG- and CEL-Focused Inventories to Transform Curriculum at the University of Toronto”, Sustainability, 11(2), 530.

Coleman, S., Touchie, M, Robinson, J., and Peters, T. (2018), “Rethinking Performance Gaps: a regenerative sustainability approach to built environment performance assessment”, Sustainability, 10(12), 4829.

Newell, R. and Robinson, J. (2018) “Using decomposition methodology to gain a better understanding of progress in and challenges facing regional and local climate action”, Journal of Cleaner Production 197, 1423-1434.

Coleman S. and Robinson, J. 2018. “Introducing the qualitative performance gap: stories about a sustainable building”, Building Research & Information, 46(5), 485-500.

Potvin C, Sharma D, Creed I, Aitken S, Anctil F, Bennett E, Berkes F, Bernstein S, Bleau N, Bourque A, Brown B, Burch S, Byrne J, Cunsolo A, Dale A, de Lange D, Dyck B, Entz M, Etcheverry J, Faucher R, Fenech A, Fraser L, Henriques I, Heyland A, Hoffmann M, Hoberg G, Holden M, Huang G, Jacob AL, Jodoin S, Kemper A, Lucotte M, Maranger R, Margolis L, Mauro I, McDonnell J, Meadowcroft J, Messier C, Mkandawire M, Morency C, Mousseau N, Oakes K, Otto S, Palmater P, Palmer TS, Paquin D, Perl A, Potvin A, Ramos H, Raudsepp-Hearne C, Richards N, Robinson J, Sheppard S, Simard S, Sinclair BJ, Slawinski N, Stoddart M, Villard M-A, Villeneuve C, and Wright T. 2017. Stimulating a Canadian narrative for climate. FACETS 2: 131–149.

Bendor, R., Maggs, D., Peake, R., Robinson, J., and Williams, S. 2017. The imaginary worlds of sustainability: observations from an interactive art installation. Ecology and Society 22(2):17.

Maggs, D. and Robinson, J. (2016) “Recalibrating the Anthropocene: Sustainability in an Imaginary World”, Environmental Philosophy, 13(2), 175-194.

Munro, A., Marcus, J., Wahl, J., Dolling, K., Robinson, J., (2016) “Combining Forces: Fostering Sustainability Collaboration between the City of Vancouver and The University of British Columbia”, forthcoming in International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 17(6) 812-826.

Fedoruk, L., Cole, R., Robinson, J., Cayuela, A., (2015) “Learning from failure: understanding the anticipated-achieved building energy performance gap”, Building Research & Information, 43(6): 750-763.

Coops, N., Marcus, J.,Construt, I., Frank, E., Kellett, R., Mazzi, E., Munro, A., Nesbit, S., Riseman, A., Robinson, J., Schultz, A., and Sipos, Y., (2015) “How an entry-level, interdisciplinary sustainability course revealed the benefits and challenges of a university-wide initiative for sustainability education”, International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 16 (5): 729 – 747

Marcus, J., Coops, N., Ellis, S. and Robinson, J., (2015) “Embedding sustainability learning pathways across the university” Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 16:7–13.

Robinson, J. and R. Cole, (2014) “Theoretical Underpinnings of Regenerative Sustainability’” Building Research and Information 43(2): 133-143.

Burch, S., Yuill, H and Robinson, J. (2014): Meeting the climate change challenge: a scan of greenhouse gas emissions in BC communities, Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability, 20(11): 1290-1308.

Wiek, A., S. Talwar, M. O’Shea, J. Robinson, (2014) “Toward a methodological scheme for capturing societal effects of participatory sustainability research”, Research Evaluation, 23(2): 117-132.

Shaw, A., S. Burch, F. Kristensen, J. Robinson, A. Dale, (2014) “Accelerating the sustainability transition: Exploring synergies between adaptation and mitigation in British Columbian communities”, Global Environmental Change, 25: 41-51.

Miller, T.R., A. Wiek, D. Sarewitz, J. Robinson, L. Olsson, D. Kriebel, D. Loorbach (2014). The Future of Sustainability Science: A Solutions-Oriented Research Agenda, Sustainability Science 9(2): 239-246.

Haas Lyons, S., M. Walsh, E. Aleman, J. Robinson (2014). Exploring Regional Futures: Lessons from Metropolitan Chicago’s Online MetroQuest Technological Forecasting & Social Change., Technological Forecasting & Social Change, 82: 23-33.

Burch, S., A. Shaw, A. Dale, J. Robinson, J., (2014) “Triggering transformative change: A development path approach to climate change response in communities”, Climate Policy, 14(4): 467-487.

Cole, R.J., A. Oliver, J. Robinson. (2013) Regenerative design, socio-ecological systems and co-evolution. Building Research and Information 41(2):237-247.

Bendor, R., S. Haas Lyons, J. Robinson. (2012) What’s There Not to ‘Like’? The Technical Affordances of Sustainability Deliberations on Facebook. eJournal of eDemocracy and Open Government 4(1): 67-88.

Robinson, J., S. Burch, S. Talwar, M. O’Shea, M.Walsh, (2011). Envisioning sustainability: Recent progress in the use of participatory backcasting approaches for sustainability research. Technological Forecasting & Social Change 78: 756-768.

Sheppard, S., A. Shaw, D. Flanders, S. Burch, A. Wiek, J. Carmichael, J. Robinson, S. Cohen. (2011). Future visioning of local climate change: A framework for community engagement and planning with scenarios and visualization. Future43: 400-412.

Talwar, S., A. Wiek and J. Robinson. (2011). User engagement in sustainability research. Science and Public Policy 38(5): 379-390.

Salter, J., J. Robinson, A. Wiek. (2011). Participatory methods of integrated assessment – A review. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change 1: 697-717.

Brown, Z., R. Cole, J. Robinson and H. Dowlatabadi. (2010). Evaluating user experience in green buildings in relation to workplace culture and context. Facilities 28(4): 225-238.

Book Chapters (2010-20)

Yamagata, Y., Yoshida, T., Chang, S., Jittrapirom, P., Coleman, S. Robinson, J., Cremades, R. and Neumann, D. (2020) “Case Studies towards Smart Communities”, in Yamagata, Y. and Young, P., eds. Urban Systems Design, Elsevier.

Dale, A., Burch, S. Robinson, J. and Strashok, C. (2018) “Multilevel Governance of Sustainability Transitions in Canada: Policy Alignment, Innovation, and Evaluation”, in Hughes, S., Chu, E.K. and Mason, S.G. (eds.) Climate Change in Cities. New York: Springer.

Robinson, J., and Maggs, D. (2017) “At the Crossroads: Sustainability and the Twilight of the Modern World”, in Caradonna, J. L. (ed.) Routledge Handbook of the History of Sustainability. Routledge.

Cole, R., Robinson, J., and Westerhoff, L. (2016) “Regenerative Sustainability: Rethinking Neighborhood Sustainability”, in Steven Moore, Pragmatic Sustainability: Theoretical and Practical Tools. 2nd edition. London: Routledge.

Holden, M., Robinson, J., and Sheppard, S. (2016) “From Resilience to transformation via a regenerative sustainability development path”, in Yoshiki Yamagata, ed., Urban Resilience – A Transformative Approach, Springer.

Burch, S., Shaw, A., Kristensen, F., Robinson, J., and Dale, A. (2015) Urban Climate Governance through a Sustainability Lens: Exploring the Integration of Adaptation and Mitigation in Four British Columbian Cities, in Johnson, C., Toly, N., and Schroeder, H. (eds.) The Urban Climate Challenge: Rethinking the Role of Cities in the Global Climate Regime, London: Routledge.

Antle, A.N., J. Tanenbaum, A. Macaranas, and J. Robinson, (2014) Games for change: Looking at models of persuasion through the lens of design. (Nijholt, A. ed.) Playful User Interfaces: Interfaces that Invite Social and Physical Interaction, Singapore: Springer.

Cayuela, A., J. Robinson, A. Campbell, N. Coops, A. Munro, (2013) Integration of Operational and Academic Efforts in Sustainability at the University of British Columbia in Sandra Caeiro, Walter Leal Filho, Charbel Jabbour, Ulisses M. Azeiteiro, eds., Sustainability Assessment Tools in Higher Education Institutions – Mapping Trends and Good Practices Around the World, Berlin, Germany: Springer.

Robinson, J., T. Berkhout, A. Cayuela, and A. Campbell (2013) Next Generation Sustainability at The University of British Columbia: The University as Societal Test-Bed for Sustainability. Ariane König (ed), Regenerative sustainable development of universities and cities: the role of living laboratories, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Bizikova, L., S. Burch, J. Robinson, A. Shaw, S. Sheppard. (2011). Utilizing participatory scenario-based approaches to design proactive responses to climate change in the face of uncertainties, in Johann Feichter and Gabriele Gramelsberger, (eds.). Climate Change and Policy: The Calculability of Climate Change and the Challenge of Uncertainty. Springer-Verlag.

 Overall publications (1982-2018): 78 refereed journal articles; 7 books (written or edited); 49 book articles.

During the period from 1996 to 2013, I have been Principal Investigator in various research projects and grants totaling over $36 million dollars. Many have provided funding for graduate students.

Other Research Contributions:

Over the past decade, I have given over 150 presentations and talks to academic, professional, industry, public sector audiences at UBC, institutions and events throughout Canada and internationally.

Technology Transfer and Spin-Off Companies: Two former graduate students created a spin-off company, Envision Sustainability Tools Inc., in 1998 with exclusive license for all commercial applications of the QUEST modeling system we developed together. Envision has won both local and international support, and over the past 15 years the Metroquest software has been used in more than 20 Canadian and 50 American cities to engage their citizens in addressing sustainable urban futures.

I have also been a member of numerous national and international Boards, and scientific committees, including the US NAS Board on Sustainable Development; the Canadian National Committees for SCOPE, IHDP and IIASA; the Boards of the Canadian Global Change Program, the Canadian Climate Program, Westcoast Environmental Law, and the Canadian Environmental Law Association; on the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Inter-American Academy of Global Change Research; the BC Climate Change Economic Impacts Panel, the BC Climate Action Team, the BC Hydro External Advisory Committee on Electricity Conservation and Efficiency, the Scientific Steering committee of the Industrial Transformation program of IHDP and the Program Committee of the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions. I currently sit on the Board of Mistra Urban Futures in Gothenburg, Sweden, of the Veissman Institute in Waterloo, Ontario, and the International Advisory Board of the International Institute for Applied Sustainability in Potsdam Germany. I sit on the Editorial Boards of  Ecology and Society, and The Journal of Industrial Ecology.

Much of my work focuses on the involvement of non-academic partners in research projects and direct contributions to policy and decision-making. Thousands of students and citizens have played various versions of the QUEST software I co-invented in various cities and I work actively with dozens of private, public and NGO sector partners, in contributing to the development of sustainability decisions.

From 2001-13, I was the Director of the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS), which opened its doors in Sept 2011 as the most sustainable building in North America, and the home of a globally unique research partnership with the private, public and NGO sectors.

 Most Significant Career Research Contributions:

  1. Robinson, J., S. Burch, S. Talwar, M. O’Shea, M. Walsh. (2011). Envisioning sustainability: Recent progress in the use of participatory backcasting approaches for sustainability research, Technological Forecasting & Social Change 78: 756-768. Recent review article on our work on the participatory backcasting of sustainable futures, which builds on 25 years of such projects; the backcasting approach has been widely adopted around the world.
  2. Robinson, J. (2004) “Squaring the Circle: Some thoughts on the idea of sustainable development”, Ecological Economics, 48(4): 369-384. This paper introduced the concept of procedural sustainability, which has had a major impact on my subsequent research (over 1300 citations on Google Scholar).
  3. Robinson, J., Berkhout, T., Cayuela, A., Campbell, A. (2013). Next Generation Sustainability at The University of British Columbia: The University as Societal Test-Bed for Sustainability. Ariane Konig, ed., Regenerative sustainable development of universities and cities: the role of living laboratories. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar. One of the first publications on our efforts to create transformational change in operational and academic sustainability at The University of British Columbia.
  4. Robinson, J. and R. Cole, (2014) “Theoretical Underpinnings of Regenerative Sustainability’” Building Research and Information 43(2): 133-143. This paper is the first of a series of papers on a new approach to building sustainability, based largely on the work I have done in the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability, which I was responsible for creating at UBC.
  5. Burch, S., Shaw, A., Dale, A., Robinson, J., (2014) “Triggering transformative change: A development path approach to climate change response in communities”, Climate Policy, 14(4): 467-487. Latest in a series of nine co-authored articles going back to 1998 on integrating climate change and sustainability.

I have included publications only in the preceding list. Beyond that, the design, construction and now operation of the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS; represents the culmination of many years work, and now offers the opportunity to use the whole building as a research instrument in the human and environmental dimensions of building scale sustainability. My role as a Lead Author in the Second (1992-5), Third (1998-2000) and Fourth (2004-7) Assessment Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also represented a major commitment and accomplishment. Finally, my appointment as Associate Provost, Sustainability at UBC from 201215 allowed me to extend the CIRS “living lab” concept to the whole UBC Vancouver campus and to apply, at an operational scale, much of the theoretical and applied learning from my career to the question of how to create transformative institutional change at the urban neighbourhood scale in a university. I plan to continue this process at U of T in my current role as Presidential Advisor, and Chair of the university-wide Presidential Advisory Committee on the Environment, Climate Change and Sustainability.

 Graduate Student Supervision (2012-14)

  • 5 current PhD students; 9 graduated 2010-16
  • 1 current MA student; 5 graduated 2012-16

Service to the University

  • 14 current memberships (since Jan 2016) on University of Toronto committees and councils which provide guidance and oversight to sustainable and interdisciplinary programs, partnerships, initiatives and MOUs. Effective Jan 1, 2017, I was appointed Presidential Advisor on the Environment, Climate Change and Sustainability.
  • 49  previous memberships at UBC, including chairs and fellow positions, for advisory, steering, awards and campaign committees, projects, design charettes, policy reviews and working groups.

Service to the Community

  • 20 current (as of 2021) memberships on expert panels, editorial, director and executive boards, advisory and steering committees and other groups providing oversight and guidance in sustainability related issues to academic organizations, foundations, societies and journals
  • 72 previous memberships