I think the most critical challenge is that thinking on sustainability remains nascent and insufficiently tied to business growth in most private sector organizations - this despite the increase in external focus via SDGs, UNGPs, Paris Agreement etc. Inside the organization, thinking has not caught up - this by definition makes it difficult for many businesses to communicate their needs to academia coherently
Companies can take more advantage of opportunities to partner with community colleges and vocational and technical education programs. Through their close involvement with local communities and learners of different ages, many of them are well positioned to partner on local needs for sustainable development and meet the growing demand for upskilling, retraining and lifelong learning. There are some good examples from Santa Fe Community College and TU Dresden in Germany in the report.
Business can partner with education providers to help students prepare for millions of jobs that are being created by the shift to a low-carbon economy. As an education company, Pearson collaborates closely with college instructors and other educators to develop learning materials that suit their needs. When Everglades University identified student interest in careers in green energy and building design, they worked with Pearson to create a customized curriculum that includes content aligned with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The course helps improve students’ preparation for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifications in growing fields such as construction management; alternative and renewable energy management; and crisis and disaster management.
This is a great example of the need to get more specific than broad sustainability in business courses
Thank you for all your rich insights and examples. Let’s move onto the next question:
Q2. What kinds of training investments work best to deepen employees’ sustainable development skills and knowledge?
I’m Humberto Cardenas from AKE lab Colombia.
The real productivity led by the business world is not so much related to education itself. Productivity increases on a large scale when beneficiaries receive the knowledge applied to their environment and context.
People do not need to know, they need to have the right knowledge, at the right time and in the right way.
We must not confuse the transmission of knowledge (traditional education) with the application of knowledge.
Hi Alison: Agreed. There is a growing body of research that confirms what many already know: The CEO and the C-Suite team play a critical role in embedding sustainable development into a firm’s enterprise strategy. A really interesting MultiLatina company, Grupo Familia from Colombia, illustrates the power that the CEO can have is making sustainable development the “strategic DNA” in a global company. They are in the commodity business of toilet paper, napkins and personal hygiene products. It can be done.
It is a pleasure to meet you! How do you measure success in your programs? How are your measurements used to enhance teaching and learning?
A2: We find that Biz has interests in developing ed opportunities on three primary fronts:
- Training sustainability-specific personnel. At ASU, we have developed our Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership to provide sustainability professionals the skills they need to help propel sustainability programs and initiatives through their org and gain buy-in from executives and other stakeholders and leadership.
- Sustainability education for their entire org. This is what Starbucks looked to create with their Greener Apron program and NRG is now engaging as well. They are looking to turn their entire workforce into sustainability advocates and change agents to help drive an entire organizational culture around the notion of doing what is best for their company, for their customers, for their community and for the planet.
- Partner education and planning. We have developed an Ethical Circular Economy certification workshop where an entire ecosystem of biz partners can work together to better understand their entire supply and recovery chain as well as how to create a circular model to move forward to alleviate environmental pressures while improving biz outcomes.
A2: I think this depends on the goal and the level and function of the employee. Engagement and discussion around sustainability and ethical issues is a great investment for employee motivation and developing a more healthy, resilient business culture. Interactive training to explore the wider societal context of business, and real life examples of business value all have the advantage of being tangible and concrete. It is important to demystify sustainable development which can seem dry, confusing and jargon-heavy.
Internal change management skills are also extremely useful.
Other than that, specific skills for specific functions – like the green energy example above – are likely to be of most benefit
I love this example - senior leadership and board training is really critical and can be broad and systemic
It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance! How is/was your framework crafted to ensure the teachers and learners have the right knowledge, at the right time and in the right way? How are you measuring it? And how do you make shifts ensuring the results you are hoping to find?
In addition to real-life examples, volunteering/involving in community programs and training on specific sustainability topics (please read more details in the report), I believe we need to concentrate on soft skills as well.
Leadership training should be built around sustainability and have a holistic approach. It should involve personal, professional and societal levels in order to be relevant and productive. At oikos, for example, we developed a leadership program - LEAP: 1. On a personal level, we ask participants to reflect and understand what their core values and purpose are, how are their actions are aligned with their ideas, what aspects they consider contradictory and how can they align their activities with the ideal? 2. On a professional level, we organize workshops to provide them with knowledge and skills relevant for their work in sustainability, we try to inspire them to develop new initiatives that reflect their attitude towards sustainability and does not oppose to it. 3. On a societal level, we encourage them to share their learnings, value teamwork, and collaboration. We want them to see their activities as part of a bigger picture, we want to make sure the program participants understand, that their actions have influence at a societal level.
Hi Kelly, thanks, that’s a great question. We conduct and report on efficacy studies for our products to measure and makes sure they’re improving learning outcomes. We also work with educators to conduct and publish case studies on how they are using products and what’s getting results for them.
Hello everyone! My name is Florencia Librizzi and I am Senior Manager, Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), United Nations Global Compact Office. I have a tracked record but also a huge passion for education and sustainability!
Bianca from the Pearson sustainability team here as well.
We’ve certainly found that specific skills for specific functions are key. For example, teams producing content for our digital and print textbooks are undergoing training on being sensitive to diversity and looking for ways to integrate sustainability in content, while our operations team would benefit more from training around environmental efficiency.
Most of our, oikos community is composed of millennials. We are therefore able to learn about Millenials’ feelings and attitudes towards sustainability. We know that they are operating with a mindset of proactivity instead of the reactiveness.
Our generation wish to find meaning in what they do. Millennials want to be involved in a purposeful work and also have a meaningful experience. The report also says that “leaders and employees across the business also need to understand the company’s approach to sustainable development and how it relates to their roles and responsibilities”. That shows that there is a need for training investments on sustainability skills and knowledge for sustainability.
As you can see in the report, there are three elements of education for sustainable development: Skills, competencies, and capabilities, also knowledge of sustainable development and methods for learning and teaching. Businesses should ensure trainings given to their employees are composed of all those elements to be efficient and useful to them and the company.
Are you able to share the qualitative and quantitative results with me (us)? I would like to better understand your methods and results. I am a researcher and deeply interested in in the nuts and bolts of the measurement techniques
Anglo American shared an example in the report. The company developed its Advanced Sustainability Management Program in partnership with the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and the University of Queensland’s Center for Social Responsibility in Mining. The program is designed to build the sustainable development management capacities of senior managers and is embedded in the company’s suite of management development programs.
The program has played an important role in helping senior managers to understand and respond to the expectations of host societies. It integrates theory, case studies, site visits and group working, emphasizing the importance of engaging directly with on-the-ground projects that address pressing sustainable development challenges facing the company. The program strengthens the ability of participants to see these challenges through the eyes of their stakeholders and to explore what leadership on social performance would look like within their own context.
Kelly, some examples of how Pearson is measuring the learning efficacy of our products are available here: https://www.pearson.com/corporate/efficacy-and-research/reports.html
And for more on how we’re looking at our sustainability impact broadly, I’d recommend checking out our annual sustainability report: https://www.pearson.com/corporate/sustainability.html