Leeds Business School

Sustainability and the higher education curriculum

The UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are, to varying degrees, interlinked and designed to help shape and inform a better and more sustainable future for all.

Students sat within the lecture theatre

Each SDG has specific targets assigned along with indicators to measure progress toward each target. The SDGs were set in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly and are intended to be achieved by the year 2030.

Today, sustainability is an issue that is a priority for citizens, businesses, and governments. There is a recognised need for university educators to address the challenges posed by, and to help seize the opportunities presented by, sustainability.  The Erasmus+ funded ISSUE (Innovative Solutions for Sustainability in Education) project ran from November 2018 to August 2021 with eight partners delivering a series of theoretically informed and practice focused intellectual outputs.

The main objective of the ISSUE project was to develop various education tools based on principles and goals of sustainable development and adapt them for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). Sustainability, in any organisation, should be embedded through knowledge, engagement, collaboration and innovation. HEIs should ensure that their governance, faculty, staff and students not only understand sustainability, but also have the capacity to act sustainably and promote sustainable practices.

Project partners developed content and tools with modern pedagogical approaches, adapted to the different target groups of a university. The educational tools and pedagogical techniques sought to address different aspects of sustainable development and were informed by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The ISSUE project European partners with their respective Work Package (WP) leadership responsibilities were:

  • Budapest Business School, University of Applied Sciences, Hungary, who led on WP 1 General Project Management, and WP 4 Sustainability Toolbox Development;
  • Leeds Business School, Leeds Beckett University, UK, had responsibility for leading WP 2 Integrated Reporting;
  • IEDC Bled School of Management, Postgraduate Studies, Slovenia, led on WP 3 Preparatory Analysis;
  • Cologne Business School, Germany, were WP 5 leaders with responsibility for Piloting of tools developed from WP 4;
  • CEEMAN the International Association for Management Development in Dynamic Societies, Slovenia, and Business Council for Sustainable Development in Hungary, who acted as co-WP 6 leaders for Dissemination;
  • Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland, were leaders of WP 7 Exploitation and Sustainability;
  • INFODEF Institute for the promotion of development and training, Spain, was responsible for WP 8 Quality Assurance.

In more detail, the different work packages of the project included:

  • A manual on integrated reporting for the higher education sector;
  • An exploratory study of sustainable development-focused curriculum development, including best practice examples and teaching case studies;
  • Sustainability toolbox development for HEIs: 21-Day Challenge training program, Future Sustainability Managers training program, Green Office Strategy toolkit and guidelines, Escape Room experience based on SDG topics;
  • Several regional and international events that will be organized to disseminate project results among various stakeholders.

This exciting project has added value to the HEI sustainability curriculum offer. It appeals to those already versed in the practices of, and discussion around sustainability, and offers an opening to those new to this area of work. The outputs from the project are refreshing, current and insightful. They enrich and further drive forward the agenda and issue of sustainability. The project is most helpful to educators in the HE sector.
If you would like to learn more about the ISSUE project, and how your HEI might benefit from the tools we have created, you can book onto our free online training event taking place on Monday 5 July, from 10:00 – 11:30.

Dr Brian Jones

Senior Lecturer / Leeds Business School

Brian joined Leeds Beckett University in 2004 as Senior Lecturer in Marketing. Since joining Leeds Beckett University Brian has been engaged in teaching and lecturing, academic and applied research, funded projects (e.g. Erasmus plus) and consultancy (e.g. ERDF).