Education for Sustainability at LSE

How can we equip our students to build a sustainable future?

Embedding sustainability across our teaching and learning experiences is the commitment of the Education strand of LSE’s Sustainability Strategic Plan and part of delivering LSE 2030 Priority 1: Educate for Impact. Learn more about this initiative and how you can get involved below.

Why Education for Sustainability at LSE?

Education for Sustainability is an opportunity for:

  • LSE to act on its Education for Impact commitments and ensure social sciences makes its critical contribution to sustainability.
  • LSE educators to engage and motivate students with a topic they are passionate about and develop students’ critical and systems thinking.
  • LSE students to be prepared for the complex challenges they face and a workplace where sustainability will be a shared responsibility regardless of one’s role.

Here, Dr Abby Innes from the European Institute tells us how embedding sustainability in her courses has led to improved learning outcomes and wellbeing benefits. Watch the video.

Sustainability lenses

Sustainability provides a variety of lenses which can be used to stimulate reflection. Here we outline some of the more commonly used:

Brundtland: Balancing Society, Environment and Economy

The Brundtland definition of sustainable development as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, is the basis of various sustainability frameworks promoting the need to balance environmental, social and economic factors (e.g. the triple bottom concept: People, Planet, Profit). At a global level, it has driven the sustainability agenda for many years, and is an invaluable reflection point for anyone interested in understanding, questioning, stimulating or implementing a sustainability agenda.

Circular Economy

The transition to a circular economy is critical to tackle global environmental challenges including climate change. Circular economy is relevant to all sectors of the economy and LSE disciplines: be it finance, cities, artificial intelligence, fashion, plastic, food, behaviour change and many more. LSE is an active member the Ellen MacArthur Foundation for circular economy and is committed to work with the Foundation to raise awareness of its principles and benefits within LSE and beyond.  

Climate change

Climate change presents complex and interlinked social, cultural and geo-political challenges, providing excellent material for system thinking critic and reflection.

Among the wealth of resources available on the topic, the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment series of explainers provides a summary on:

  • Climate change science - The evidence for climate change, the role of natural factors, and the contribution of humans to global temperature rise.
  • Impacts of climate change -How climate change will impact on the places we live, the wider environment, the economy, society and human health.
  • Climate and the economy - The economic measures that can be taken to tackle climate change and the cost and benefits involved in implementing them.
  • International action on climate change - How international cooperation, agreements and forums are helping to tackle climate change and promote sustainable development.
  • Energy and climate change: Policy measures and technological solutions that can help reduce carbon emissions from energy generation and use.
  • Climate change policies: What governments, policymakers and business can do to tackle climate change and its impacts.
  • Climate change and the UK: What the UK is doing to reduce its carbon emissions and how climate change will impact on the country.
  • Business and climate change: How companies are responding to climate change by reducing carbon emissions and managing climate change risks.

Just transition and Climate justice

Social sciences have a critical part to play in mapping a politically and economically feasible path to sustainability: one that recognises the need for a transition that doesn’t impact disproportionally the most vulnerable in society. To do this, policy makers and practitioners must carefully consider and mitigate the social consequences of environmental and climate policies in order to secure society-wide acceptance and buy-in. At a global scale, the challenge is to deliver a zero-carbon world together with climate justice for developing countries. In many cases, developing countries are most impacted by the effects of climate change, yet they have historically contributed least to the problem. However, crucially, they are arguably amongst the fastest-growing emitters - although not necessarily the largest emitters per capita!

  • Why a just transition is crucial for effective climate actionShort readFull report (GRI/UNPRI, 2019)
  • The opportunity for a Just Transition - Podcast (London First, 2021)
  • The energy that Africa needs to develop and fight climate change - TED Talk video (Rose Mutiso, 2020)

Natural Capital

The concept of Natural Capital as an extension of the economic notion of capital to goods and services provided by the natural environment provides complex systems thinking reflection linking natural resources, environmental assets, ecosystems services, biodiversity and ecosystems.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals as a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to be a ‘blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all’, provides a useful and widely recognised framework for reflection.

Are sustainability concepts too 'anthropocentric'?

A valuable question to ask is how ‘anthropocentric’ most concepts of sustainability are, including Brundtland. Are we incapable of valuing certain forms of life and nature without relating them to how they serve humanity?  Two articles to reflect:

Pedagogic approaches for teaching sustainability

Sustainability can be a rewarding but destabilising topic. You can support students and their learning by choosing pedagogic approaches to suit both the material, and your intended outcomes. Eden Centre departmental advisers are available to discuss possible approaches and activities. 

Content adapted from University of Plymouth with thanks.

Some pedagogic approaches and tools

  • Critical reflection Reflexive accounts, learning journals, discussion groups
  • Systemic thinking and analysis Real-world case studies and critical incidents, project-based learning, stimulus activities, campus as a learning resource
  • Participatory learning Group or peer learning, developing dialogue, experiential learning, action research/learning to act, and developing case studies with local community groups and business
  • Collaborative learning Guest speakers, work-based learning, interdisciplinary/ multidisciplinary working
  • Thinking creatively for future scenarios Using role play, real-world inquiry, futures visioning, problem-based learning

Join our Education for Sustainability leads network

A volunteer network of LSE academics to help raise the profile of this initiative to colleagues across the School, with an informal approach and a fully flexible commitment.

The network is open to all LSE educators and researchers, and is an opportunity to:

  • Shape the Education for Sustainability agenda at LSE.
  • Network and explore collaboration opportunities across LSE disciplines.
  • Share and showcase approaches and lessons learned.
  • Access tools and support to spread the message in your department.
  • Connect with fellow colleagues across the School.

Join our Teams channel to be part of the conversation and know about future events.

Further resources

Educators

Students

The LSESU Sustainable Future Society is working with students to support the Education for Sustainability agenda at LSE. Visit the society’s dedicated webpage for more details.