How can we equip students with the necessary tools to shape a sustainable future?

Christine Gilligan, Katie Stead
Sheffield Hallam University, SBS and FD

Sustainable development cannot be achieved by technological solutions, political regulation or financial instruments alone. We need to change the way we think and act. This requires quality education and learning for sustainable development at all levels and in all social contexts (UNESCO, 2017).

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is about enabling students to constructively and creatively address present and future global challenges to create more sustainable and resilient societies. It empowers learners to take informed decisions and responsible actions for environmental integrity, economic viability and a just society, for present and future generations, while respecting cultural diversity. It is about lifelong learning, and is an integral part of quality education.

ESD is holistic and transformational education which addresses learning content and outcomes, pedagogy and the learning environment to achieve its purpose of transforming society.

Learning content: Integrating critical issues, such as climate change, biodiversity, disaster risk reduction, and sustainable consumption and production, into the curriculum.

Pedagogy and learning environments: Designing teaching and learning in an interactive, learner-centred way that enables exploratory, action oriented and transformative learning. Rethinking learning environments to inspire learners to understand and act to support sustainability.

Societal transformation: Empowering students to develop the capabilities to be future generators of sustainable value for business and society at large and to work for an inclusive and sustainable global ‘green’ economy.

Learning outcomes: Stimulating learning and promoting core competencies such as critical and systemic thinking, collaborative decision-making, and taking responsibility for present and future generations.

The paper will showcase Sheffield Business School’s faculty-wide approach to embedding education for sustainable development using the international Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) initiative.

PRME is a UN directive structured around six key principles;

  1. Developing students as generators of sustainable value for business and society
  2. Embedding the concept of responsible business into all educational curricula
  3. Creating educational experiences that develop responsible leadership
  4. Underpinning its educational programmes with research on responsible management
  5. Creating corporate/ community partnerships to advance responsible business
  6. Facilitating critical debate on social responsibility amongst multiple stakeholders.

PRME will assist the business school in achieving AACSB accreditation; an international business school specialist accreditation in quality.

Participants will learn how SBS refreshed its faculty-wide mission to incorporate corporate social responsibility (CSR) and ethics into its strategic core, and how cross-faculty resources have been allocated to ensure all areas of SBS can respond to the new requirements. Every course taught within the faculty now includes a learning outcome to increase students’ understanding of CSR and ethical issues, with sustainability literacy surveys being undertaken to measure impact.