Research at the interface of the environment and development is often hampered by traditional academic boundaries. New ideas and fresh research approaches are required to meet such challenges. Young researchers in particular play a key role in doing so. To address these important research challenges and help overcome these structural barriers within academia, the five German research institutes ATB, GIGA, IGZ, ZALF and ZMT have initiated the Leibniz Environment and Development Symposium (LEADS). The aim of LEADS is to foster exchange on interdisciplinary and international research and stimulate collaboration on global societal challenges among early career researchers and senior scholars. As such LEADS also understands itself as a contribution by the research community of the Leibniz Association to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by the United Nations.