Sustainability education and why it should be everyone’s priority


In my regular work in the academe, one of the things we’ve recently done is create a syllabus draft of a new sustainability management course. It consists of five main topics: (1) an introduction of the current global sustainability landscape, (2) integrating sustainability into business, (3) integrated sustainability management, (4) product life cycle management, and (5) sustainability strategy and action plan.

The main goal of the course is to present sustainability as a complex system with social, economic, and environmental factors intermingling in business. It promotes the practice of systems thinking, and attempts to enrich the students’ learning experience through timely and relevant class activities and examples.

Initially, it was rather difficult to design the course considering it is new practically in most colleges and universities in the Philippines. They may not admit it, but management education is too old school in the country, which is why shifting the focus on emerging and critical topics such as sustainability call for a more forward-looking and progressive education.

Since it is new for most educational institutions in the country, as a benchmark we turned to the sustainability management courses being taught in other countries. Their courses are already well-developed and consisted of challenging and interesting topics. It was the perfect pool for us to pick up ideas and transform them based on our needs locally.

It’s also important to note that sustainability has no universal definition, and that each educational institution would share different perspectives and topics. But for the spirit of having a center point for discussion, we turned to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which is a framework being used globally to achieve the sustainability agenda.

With over 17 goals, the SDGs are essentially a blueprint to ‘save the world’ by 2030. We have 11 years, or around 4,000 days left before we reach climate change levels that would be too difficult or nearly impossible to mitigate. The fact that the world is forcing a deadline to save itself tells a lot already. What could be done in that time frame to practically overhaul the world?

Sustainability education is one of them, but the academe should not be the only one teaching and enriching this into the minds of people.

It’s important to note that sustainability is multi-faceted, as represented by the 17 SDGs. This means that it penetrates every fiber of society, from technology down to people and education. Considering the changes we’re seeing in the world today, it should go without saying that everyone has to take part in understanding and contributing to the sustainability agenda. After all, this is the only livable world we have, unless our space explorations and current technologies would allow us to finally find the nearest, most apt, and most habitable planet next to earth.

Educating one another on sustainability involves changing one’s lifestyle and mindset. From our excessive usage of plastic, the amount of paper we’re using to print our documents, the carbon emission caused by our flight to another country, the electronic waste that gets dumped in landfills, and many, many more, a sustainability mindset goes a long way. It’s not easy to implement such changes, but they are definitely doable.

So whenever we think about sustainability or try to educate others and ourselves, we should look into it beyond just a trend or buzzword. It’s also a lifestyle and mindset.

Let’s take the conversation forward. Find out how we can collaborate for a sustainable future:

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