Domaines de recherche de l'unité :

Politiques publiques comparées et politiques de l'environnement et de la durabilité

  1. Analyse et évaluation de politiques publiques dans différents domaines (politiques de l'environnement et politiques à incidences spatiales)
  2. Régimes institutionnels de ressources naturelles
2018-2023 Laboratory for circular economy (LACE) – NRP 73

LACE is part of the National Research Programme "Sustainable Economy: resource-friendly, future-oriented, innovative" (NRP 73), which aims to generate scientific knowledge about a sustainable economy over a period of five years (2018-2023)


The focus of research of LACE is on the circular economy (CE), a new paradigm aiming at transcending the current “take-make-dispose” linear economic logic. Overuse of natural resources, price volatility of raw materials, increased consumption and population growth, as well as negative effects of waste on ecosystems are encouraging the search of more viable alternatives in the long run. This lead to an increased interest in the principles of the CE, which inspired by the way ecosystems are organized and regulated, intends at closing the loops of materials, thus reducing the need for raw materials and energy and avoiding waste. In addition, alternative industrial systems and associated business models in Western economies with highly competitive and saturated markets are seen as drivers of innovation.


The project intends to study under which economic, legal, political, ecological and technical conditions a sustainable economy in the form of a CE can be both ecologically beneficial and economically profitable for companies. As the project intends to confront the principles of the CE with the possibility of implementation in the Swiss economy, it involves a close cooperation with partner companies from different sectors. In order to enable a comprehensive view of the problematics at stake, the project adotps an inter- and trans-disciplinary approach, combining the perspectives of economy (sustainable business models – HSG), environmental sciences (sustainability of CE with Material Flow Analysis – EMPA), as well as law and political science.


The institutional and regulatory aspects will be addressed in a research taking place at the University of Lausanne (Center of Public Law and IDHEAP). This contribution aims at identifying main factors enhancing or blocking the transition towards CE from a legal/institutional perspective, with focus on the Swiss context. It will prove interesting to have a closer look at following questions: what does CE mean and how is it linked to sustainability? who are the main actors interested in CE in Switzerland and what are the different understandings of CE among them? What are their representations, interests and strategies and the impact of their actions on the transition towards CE? What are the main policies and regulations (private law, public law, self-regulatory agreements) affecting technical, social and economic activities among chosen sectors? What influence do these have on the transition towards CE? Should the regulatory framework be reformed in order to favour the transition towards CE? If so, why and how?


The combination of an abstract and top-down approach (overview of the main legal domains, general legal principles and notions: e.g. notion of waste, polluter-pays principle, proximity principle, waste hierarchy, principle of limitation of waste, extended producer responsibility, etc.) and a bottom-up approach, based on empirical data collected within collaborating companies, should allow to gain a better understanding of the institutional and regulatory context affecting CE in Switzerland. Based on these recognitions, it will be possible to identify and prioritize transversal legal topics (e.g health protection and security regulations, international framework and free-trade agreements, property-regimes and leasing law, taxes and other legal economic instruments, competition law and cartels) to be further developed and analysed, in order to transcend an approach by silo. At first sight, it seems that a transition towards an “authentic circular economy” will require a global and deep paradigm change that would transcend mere adaptations and isolated reforms. Incremental changes within the current system might however represent important steps and help to gradually shift mentalities towards a new model.




Financing: SNF (PNR)



LACE Project leaders

Dr Roland Hischier, Empa

Prof. Dr Karolin Frankenberger, Executive School of Management, Technology and Law, St.Gallen (ES-HSG)

Prof. Dr Stéphane Nahrath, Institut de hautes études en administration publique (IDHEAP), Université de Lausanne

Prof. Dr Anne-Christine Favre, Faculté de droit, des sciences criminelles et d'administration publique, Université de Lausanne


LACE Project partners

Prof. Dr Peter Knöpfel, Institut de hautes études en administration publique (IDHEAP), Université de Lausanne

Dr. Nils Moussu, sanu durabilitas

Prof. Dr Suren Erkman, Faculté des géosciences et de l'environnement, Université de Lausanne


LACE Partners companies: Dr. Gabs, Logitech, Losinger Marazzi, Nespresso, Tisca Tiara, SV Group, V-Zug


PhD Researchers:

Harlad Desing, Empa

Fabian Takacs, HSG

Dunia Brunner, Centre de droit public et IDHEAP Politiques publiques et durabilité UNIL

2016 - 2020 SCALES Sustainable Commons Adaptations to Landscape Ecosystems in Switzerland

Le projet de recherche SCALES (2017-2020) porte sur la gestion des ressources exploitées en commun (common-pool resource CPR) en Suisse, en se concentrant principalement sur les pâturages et les forêts. Fondé sur une approche interdisciplinaire mobilisant cinq disciplines (Histoire, Anthropologie, Géographie humaine, Economie rurale et Sciences politiques), le projet a notamment pour objectif d’étudier l’évolution des usages et de la gestion de ces ressources communes durant les trois derniers siècles en Suisse. Plus particulièrement, il vise à comprendre les effets de la gestion de ces ressources sur la durabilité économique, écologique et sociale. Il s’intéresse également aux transformations de leur mode de gestion résultant d’une intervention croissante de l’Etat, par exemple au travers de l’introduction du Code civil fédéral en 1912 ou du développement des politiques publiques fédérales et cantonales depuis le milieu du XIXe siècle.

Stéphane Nahrath, associé à Jean-David Gerber (Docteur en administration publique de l’IDHEAP et Professeur assistant à l’Université de Berne), est responsable du volet Sciences politiques du projet. Sa recherche portera sur l’analyse des politiques publiques en œuvre dans la gouvernance des CPR. Rémi Schweizer (également Docteur en administration publique de l’IDHEAP), qui a déjà travaillé sur l’irrigation et les politiques environnementales, est le chercheur post-doc engagé dans ce projet.

Les résultats attendus du projet portent notamment sur les conditions de viabilité économique et sociale de la gestion des ressources communes, ainsi que sur les conditions de perpétuation des institutions de gestion communautaire inventées il y a parfois plus de cinq siècles.

En savoir plus


Mandant/Financement : FNS

Requérant principal : Haller T.

Co-requérants, volet Sciences politiques du projet : Nahrath S. et Gerber J.-D.

Collaborateur : Schweizer Rémi

2013 - 2016 SUMSOR - Sustainable management of soil as a resource

The project involves a prospective and comparative evaluation of the redistributive capacity of ecological and economic added and reduced values for about ten regulatory, economic and fiscal instruments. These instruments are likely to be implemented in Swiss land use planning and qualitative soil protection policies in the future.

Fact is that one of the main conditions for a more sustainable soil management, as much in a quantitative (urban sprawl v concentration)  as in a qualitative (maintenance of ecosystem services) perspective, consists in a fair redistribution of land driven economic and ecological added and reduced values, matter that can be addressed by land use planning and qualitative soil protection policies.

Our project focuses on four objectives:
(1) Understand processes of land driven added and reduced value creation (and how they interact with each other) within two types of functional spaces that are problematic in terms of sustainable soil management in Switzerland, i.e. agglomerations and periurban areas;
(2) Create the most exhaustive typology possible of land management, economic and fiscal instruments allowing redistribution of economic and ecological added and reduced values;
(3) Test and compare redistributive capacities of about ten instruments (selected on the basis of the typology) in three prospective case studies. This step consists in analysing quasi-experimental scenarios policy implementation scenarios in the agglomeration of Lausanne and the periurban area of Oberaargau;
(4) Based on the case studies' results, make recommendations on integrating the new instruments in land use planning and qualitative soil protection policies and on suitable adaptations of property rights regime.

In order to spread the results more easily and strengthen their plausibility, the case studies will be conducted in narrow relationship with practitioners.

This project is part of the National Research Programme 68 "soil as a resource", subsidy number 406840_143057. It is conducted in partnership with PLUS from the ETH Zurich, the University of Geneva, the Institut für Wirtschaftsstudien Basel IWSB and the University of applied sciences HEIG-VD.

Mandant/Financement : FNS

Requérant principal : Nahrath S.

Collaborateurs : Viallon F.-X.

2014 - 2016 The Policy Laboratory for Institutional Regimes for Sustainable Resource Development

The three-year project – January 2014 to December 2016 – proposes to support excellent doctoral candidates during the preparatory phase of their research projects (doctoral scholarship) and during the first two years of the development of their doctoral theses. These (about 7-10) new (additional) thesis supervised by the applicants2  and other interested colleagues from Swiss and foreign universities, will share a common conceptual approach (“institutional resource regime approach” ) which is both actor- and resource-centred and draws on numerous studies dedicated to natural and manmade resources. This relatively new (from 1995 on) and innovative conceptual approach is increasingly recognised by the national and international scientific community associated with institutional conditions for sustainable development.

Contrary to the mainstream concept of sustainable development (based on a somehow arbitrary triangulation between environmental, economic and social goals and indicators) the applicants consider sustainable development as metabolic processes which shall guarantee the (self) reproduction capacity of all concerned resources (belonging to natural, manmade, human and social capitals) for the future generations (intergenerational equity) and a fair distribution of use rights to goods and/or services amongst present and future user-actors (stakeholders: intragenerational equity).

The laboratory aims to assist excellent doctoral students to develop qualified research proposals suitable to be accepted by research funding institutions (mainly: SNF or other public and private organizations) and to accompany them during the first two years of research works. Its’ main inputs consist of transferring empirically consolidated regulatory knowledge on one well known group of resources (e. g. water, soils and land, air) to other newly emerging natural (like climate, genome, underground (Reynard, 2002), wind) or manmade (like: information clouds, product labels, social networks) resources in terms of their geographical, physical and social definitions, their reproduction mechanisms, their reproductive stocks, the goods and services they provide, the related user-actors, their (actual and future) use-rights and the solution of potential use rivalries in a way that their reproduction capacity can be guaranteed in the present and in the future (= sustainable resource development: cf. a.o. Gerber et al 2009).

Mandant/ Financement : Académies Suisses des sciences
Requérant principal : Nahrath S.
Collaborateur : Bolognesi T.

2010 - 2013 Water channels - The traditional irrigation culture using water channels as model for sustainable water management

Ces prochaines décennies, les processus de changements climatiques et socio-économiques entraîneront, dans les régions sèches de l’arc alpin plus qu’ailleurs, une recrudescence de la pression sur les ressources en eau. Dans ce contexte, le projet veut démontrer la significativité écologique, touristique et socio-culturelle de l’exploitation traditionnelle des prairies et des canaux d’irrigation multiséculaires que sont les bisses. Il examine d’une part l’influence des canaux à ciel ouvert et de l’irrigation traditionnelle sur la biodiversité (sous-projet A), et d’autre part la durabilité des modes de gestion qui y sont liés (sous-projet B). Sur cette base, l’objectif sera d’élaborer un modèle de gestion durable de l’irrigation qui permette à la fois de sauvegarder la biodiversité et de pérenniser cet usage de l’eau.

Mandant/Financement : PNR 61

Type de projet : Water channels for biodiversity and tourism

Responsable : Knoepfel P., Rodewald R.

Collaborateurs : Schweizer R. Baur B.; Birrer S.; Rigling A.


Suivez nous:        


Prof. Stéphane Nahrath
Responsable de l'unité
+41 21 692 69 40

Rue de la Mouline 28 - CH-1022 Chavannes-près-Renens
Tél. +41 21 692 68 00
Fax +41 21 692 68 09