Dr Caitlin McElroy
Departmental Research Lecturer, Enterprise and the Environment and Programme Director, Executive Education
Dr Caitlin McElroy is a Departmental Research lecturer in Enterprise and the Environment at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment (SSEE) and the School of Geography and the Environment. Her research addresses improving the sustainability and development of resource driven economies, advancing the circular economy of mineral resources, and the complicated relationships between finance, equality, and environmental services (cooling and water) in developed and developing economies.
Caitlin is an economic geographer and her research has engaged with institutional theory, financial geography, science and technology studies, and environmental justice. Current research includes leading on Circular Resourcing, a related circular economy focused workstream as part of the Future of Cooling programme, and ongoing research on Sharing Resource Prosperity. She is also involved in partnerships to create tools to assist corporations, governments, and investors in the management of their environmental and social risks and opportunities such as with DAMSAT, a satellite-based dam monitoring project funded by the UK Space Agency. Support for her research has also come from the Oxford Martin School, The John Fell Fund, and as part of UpGro (NERC/ESRC/DFID).
Caitlin established and is the director of the Smith School's executive education programme. Started in 2014, the programme has run bespoke courses for a range of organisations such as environmental judges selected by the Supreme People's Court of the People's Republic of China, institutional investors, and energy majors. It also runs a range of open-enrolment courses across the research areas of the SSEE.
Caitlin holds a BA (with Honours) from the University of Pennsylvania in History and Environmental Studies, an MSc in Nature, Society and Environmental Policy (with Distinction) and a DPhil in economic geography (Clarendon Scholar), both from the University of Oxford.
Caitlin is a tutor in human geography at St Peter's college and lectures on Economic Geography as part of the undergraduate courses Human Geography (1st years), and Space, Place, Society (2nd years). She co-leads an MSc elective on the Circular Economy with Dr Micol Chiesa.
Caitlin also contributes teaching on various master's courses within the School of Geography and the Environment. Her subjects have included economic geography, extractive industries and development, corporate environmental management, and fieldwork methods. She also supervises DPhil students, MSc dissertations, and serves as an assessor in both programs.
Previously, Caitlin has also co-taught an MSc elective on the Politics of Oil and Gas with Dr Kärg Kama. She also served as the SSEE project manager for curriculum development for the Saïd Business School's GOTO programme in Water Management and Markets and has been the acting director of the MSc in Nature, Society, and Environmental Policy.
Current graduate research students
- Konstantin Born | Nature-based technologies for the mining sector
- Marcel Metzner | Taking Planetary Boundaries Seriously: The Role of Accounting Practices in Corporate Climate Change Mitigation
Recent graduate research students (since 2006)
- Micol Chiesa | Completed DPhil in 2020 | Do firms forget about the environment? Evidence from publicly listed corporations
- Elizabeth Harnett | Completed DPhil in 2018 | The diffusion of responsible investment discourses and practices: the role and impact of investment consultants
Circular Economy Research
The circular resourcing programme focuses on metals and mineral resources as the underpinning of a future circular economy in a net-zero world. These resources connect us to the technological innovations necessary for a sustainable future from the batteries of our electric vehicles to sustainable urban infrastructure. There is tremendous undeveloped potential for the extensive re-use and continued circulation of our metal and mineral resources. This research explores ways through policy, science, and corporate engagement to rapidly advance the circular economy of metals and minerals.
While existing circular economy research focuses on resource reduction, resource efficiency and hierarchies of waste, the circular resourcing programme also emphasises how these resources themselves are extracted in sustainable ways - environmentally and socially and processed with minimal to zero carbon emissions.
Future of Cooling
The Future of Cooling is an interdisciplinary programme of the Oxford Martin School. It seeks to understand how to meet the rising global demand for cooling in order to improve the health and livelihoods of people around the world without exacerbating climate change through the related increase in energy demand and use of greenhouse gases in AC and refrigerants. It aims to steer the cooling system towards sustainable cooling for all, and to establish cooling as a global priority for the successful implementation of the SDGs.
Caitlin leads the workstream on the global production network of cooling. This research seeks to understand how to develop a circular economy for cooling by mapping unaccounted-for impacts of the global cooling production network. This includes examining refrigerant gases; material inputs; energy efficient production; and re-use, re-manufacturing, and recycling for waste reduction.
Sharing Resource Prosperity
Sharing Resource Prosperity addresses the challenges of environment and development related to the mining sector. There are three different research projects in this area:
- DAMSAT, a satellite-based dam monitoring project funded by the UK Space Agency to develop a tool to better manage and avoid the risk of dam failures.
- Developing guidelines for evidence based social investment strategies for the mining industry. Through the John Fell Fund and working as part of the UpGro team this research addresses ways in which corporate social investment can be directed towards water and energy infrastructure for long-term sustainable development. Research has been conducted in Kenya and Mongolia.
- An offshoot project on the financialisation of urban water infrastructure, with a focus on equality and environmental justice.