Promoting Sustainability in Education

Ken Fullerton

September 2015 was a momentous occasion in the history of the United Nations as it marked the occasion in which governments around the world agreed upon, and accepted, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a replacement to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The United Nations acknowledges this and says that “2016 presents an unprecedented opportunity to bring countries and citizens of the world together to embark on a new path to improve the lives of people everywhere.

Yet despite this many people exist across the world – particularly in developing countries – do not know how they can adopt and practice sustainable measures. Sustainability Agents, a Berlin based organisation is working to change this. Speaking at the most recent Sustainability Drinks event on 27 April 2016, organised by GreenBuzz Berlin, Dr. Maren Knolle, the company’s Managing Director confirmed the above statement and outlined exactly how they are working to effect sustainable changes and make meaningful change while working all over the world. On the importance of the need to do this, Carolin Kruse, board member of Green Buzz Berlin, says “the way people act is based on the education they receive.”

Their four foundations for success include action learning, the use of a top-down, bottom-up approach, local ownership and ensuring continuity so that changes are continued after the expiry of a particular project. Central to their approach is the need to enable and foster “creative dialogue” so that all parties can engage in constructive dialogues. Having worked across Germany, Canada and China one area in which they have enjoyed great success is in industrial factories through brining workers and managers together (a difficult challenge in many workplaces) together to help improve working conditions. By enabling a platform for dialogue and an atmosphere where people dare to talk and can be open it results in a situation where, challenges and problems can be discussed and debated in a constructive manner. All stakeholders can participate enabling changes and finding solutions to overcome them, conflict situations can be effectively managed and future ones potentially avoided and new skills can be learnt. The benefits are not only ecological but also economic and social and are felt by both the workers and the managers. Commenting on why they were selected and invited to participate at the Sustainability Drinks event Kruse says “their approach is unique. They actually go into the factories and work with the workers as well as the managers directly a couple of weeks in a row and over a time of at least two years.”

Everyone has the potential to make a difference even if they have never heard of the SDGs. Little actions – which often do not have to be complicated or expensive to enact – that enable or improve sustainability add up can result in huge benefits. Kruse, also acknowledges this, and says a key reason for them organising regular Sustainability Drinks events in Berlin is to enable awareness to certain topics and initiatives in Berlin, next to bringing the players together so that more and optimised projects which allow a more sustainable economy / world can be implemented. Often the noteworthy actions and projects implemented by individuals and organisations like Sustainability Agents, amongst many others, go largely unnoticed. Yet if they “unprecedented opportunity” that the United Nations mentions is to be met, or exceeded, such dialogues, increased exchange of ideas and knowledge and changed measures and approaches are most certainly required.

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Ken Fullerton holds a Master degree in Development Studies and is currently studying towards his second Master degree in Public Management in Potsdam, Germany. Ken has over 5 years of professional work experience in development consulting and has also regularly written for journals and blogs. You can find some of his published articles here.