What is the role of business in education and training for sustainable development?

Join us for a live written discussion with a panel of experts to discuss the role of business in education and training for sustainable development.

Live Panel
Date 29 November, 11am-12pm EST (4pm-5pm UK)


Education is at the heart of human progress and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It enables people to build better lives and equips business and society to address our world’s interconnected issues and opportunities.

Business has a strong incentive to invest in strengthening skills and knowledge for sustainable development. Companies’ performance and progress on the SDGs are increasingly linked to opportunities and risks driven by environmental and social trends. Skills for sustainable development are vital for business leadership, innovation and a productive, adaptable workforce. Companies can gain a competitive advantage by equipping their employees with the skills and knowledge needed to make the most of the opportunities ahead.

Our new report offers examples of how business can help people gain the skills and knowledge to advance sustainable development, navigate the future of work and create a more prosperous society. Following recent interviews with educators and companies, the report shares insights and recommendations for business to promote education and training for sustainable development. The project was led by a consortium of partners, including Business Fights Poverty, Pearson, Arizona State University and PRME, an initiative of the United Nations Global Compact.

Business, educators and learners all have a stake in the future of work and job skills. The ability to adapt to the changing needs of the economy and workforce is closely connected to progress on the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The role of business in education and training for sustainable development plays a significant part in delivering on this ambitious agenda.


Alison Taylor, Managing Director, BSR

Jason Franz, Senior Manager, Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, ASU

Jason Walters, Director of Sustainability, Pearson

Al Rosenbloom, Co-Chair, PRME Working Group on fighting poverty as a management education challenge

Florencia Librizzi, Senior Manager, PRME

Levan Pangani, President, oikos International

Daphne Halkias, Professor, International School of Management Paris

Moderator: David Norman, Challenge Director, Business Fights Poverty


Q1. How should business collaborate better with partners to advance education for sustainable development and connect it to job skills and career paths?

Q2. What kinds of training investments work best to deepen employees’ sustainable development skills and knowledge?

Q3. What does it take for companies to open up and share more of their internal business learnings on what works and what doesn’t for sustainable development?

Q4. What should companies do differently to highlight the business demand for sustainable development skills and knowledge?

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Hello I would like to listen to the webinar. How do we register to attend or view ?

Hi Jennifer - just sign up to the Business Fights Poverty online community using the link in the last paragraph above, then join us on this page at 11am EST / 4pm UK on Thursday. Looking forward to seeing you then! David

How do I know if I have joined the forum? I have updated my community profile, but I haven’t found a direct link to join other than arrive on this page at the specified time.
Best wishes,


Hi Jennifer - this is a written discussion, and you’ll be able to read the discussion without registering. If you’d like to share your insights and post a comment, then you will need to sign in / sign up.

Hi Kelly - as you have posted here, you are definitely registered. Just come back to this page in time for the live segment of the discussion!

We’re looking forward to welcoming you to this written online discussion. Our panel will join live from 4pm UK time / 11am EST today.

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Welcome everyone! We’ll be starting the live segment of this discussion in a couple of minutes.


Hi everyone - welcome to the live segment of this online discussion.

Can I start by asking our panellists to introduce themselves.

Hi, I’m Alison Taylor, I’m a Managing Director at BSR and a Professor at Fordham Law School and the Gabelli Business School

I see a couple of our panellists are having difficulty posting: let me introduce the first question for those of you who can contribute and the rest will be online shortly.

Here’s our first question:

Q1. How should business collaborate** better with partners to advance education for sustainable development and connect it to job skills and career paths?

The first priority is for business to consider its role and priorities in sustainable development over the long term, via strategic foresight, scenario planning, workforce development and other areas. This will enable businesses to consider the skills they need for the future in a more strategic and systematic way.

Once there is a clearer understanding of the skill sets and associated career paths needed over the long term, companies can establish dialogue with academic and training institutions to ensure that the focus of academic course development is these skills – otherwise, the breadth of sustainable development can make it difficult for business to focus. While the establishment of specialty sustainable business programs is a wonderfully encouraging development, there is an exponentially bigger opportunity to build sustainability (and related questions of integrity and ethics) considerations into mainstream education in a wide range of disciplines from law to business to engineering to marketing. Sustainability teams in business generally remain small and opportunities are limited, so the inclusion of sustainability approaches into other career paths is very important.

Internships and training partnerships are another great angle – as the report notes, the Bard MBA includes a real opportunity for business to work with companies on a live sustainability challenge.

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Hi, I’m Jason Franz, Sr. Manager with the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service at Arizona State University. We were established through an investment by Rob and Melani Walton to develop programs and co-create projects and solutions that address global challenges and apply the expertise and research of ASU’s faculty and students into the world. We developed both the Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership degree program and the Starbucks Greener Apron sustainability certification program that are referenced in the recent report.

Hi everyone, I’m Jason Walters, Director, Sustainability at Pearson. We really appreciate everyone’s participation. Looking forward to our discussion.

Hi everyone, I am Levan Pangani, oikos International President 2017&2018. oikos is an international student-driven organization for sustainability in economics and management.

As the report mentions, there are many great opportunities for business and educators to partner more often and more closely to advance education for sustainable development. We see great examples of this happening at ASU and many other higher education institutions across the US and internationally. Of the top 100 US MBA programs, 46 percent have specific academic programs on business sustainability. Some ways this is happening include working together to:

–Design and teach business courses and programs on sustainability and sustainable development;
–Integrate content and skills for sustainable development and lessons from business into other subjects, courses and programs; and
–Offer experiential learning (like innovation challenges and consulting projects), internship and employment opportunities.

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Overcoming the major and pressing societal or environmental problems of our time is beyond the reach of even large companies.

We are simply consuming resources, creating waste, increasing pollution, increasing carbon emissions, increasing inequality, deteriorating health and malnutrition, etc at rates that far exceed our planet’s ability to cope.

The world has not got until 2030 to adopt the new 17 SDGs. It is not only governments who should be concerned, but each citizen of the world, each of us living on this planet should take ownership of our actions for the better world.

How can we achieve this? In oikos, we see empowerment through Education. Education is at the core of all systemic changes the society requires.

The challenges are huge and need collaborative strategies across supply chains and sectors and integration of private, public and civil society actors (like many faculty members say and e.g. Prof. Dr. Thomas Dyllick mentions in his lecture).

Business ought to expand its purpose. The idea advanced by Milton Friedman in the past century - “The business of business is business” - is being actively replaced by a new approach: The business of business is more than business.

Business needs to play a crucial role in shaping the world. If we want higher education institutions to equip students with the tools, knowledge, and skills suited for sustainability, business needs to request that.

  • Concrete proposals from business to higher educational institutions on their needs in terms of sustainable skills and knowledge.
  • Businesses can provide universities with the best practices and business cases which can be used by the professors to teach with. Also involve academia to tackle challenges of the company related to sustainability.
  • Actively support and engage with student initiatives on sustainability, that bring different stakeholders and perspectives together, also for students to experience real-life scenarios they will have to deal with in companies.
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As with anything a business places as a priority, they should understand their needs and goals. As we have become a truly global economy, biz’s interests must reach further and deeper to both reach their customer/client base as well as protect their long-terms interests and sustainability. At ASU, we have engaged with professionals and organizations, both corps and NGOs, to help drive an understanding of sustainability from the three pillars approach (sustainability solutions MUST engage economic, social AND environmental needs).

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Hi. Al Rosenbloom here. I am both a faculty member teaching International Business and Marketing at Dominican University, River Forest, IL, and I co-lead the Principles of Responsible Management Education working group on fighting poverty as a management education challenge.