(List #83) How to Engage Faculty in Sustainability and the SDGs

Five ways to engage faculty in sustainability.

(List #83) How to Engage Faculty in Sustainability and the SDGs
Photo by Trnava University / Unsplash

Two key areas which I belive business schools should be focusing on are faculty and student engagement. Despite increased activity around the SDGs and sustainability more broadly in business schools around the world, too often this seems to be coming from a select group of faculty within the institution and not spread around. Most business schools don’t seem to have a coordinated approach to engaging and supporting their faculty in this regard.

I have put together quite a long list of examples focused on faculty that I’ll share over the next few weeks. While I feel that some approaches aren’t without their challenges, it is hard to judge not knowing the state of the university or the culture in the faculty. Ultimately each school needs to take the approach that works best for them. What is generally lacking is any attempt to systematically engage faculty at the school level rather than being driven by what often seems like one passionate (and probably exhausted) individual.

While mapping the SDGs and changing your mission statement (and other time consuming activities) have value, unless you are focused on your faculty these risk being just words on a page or PowerPoint. Coverage is dependent on faculty being interested and able to teach this, and in a way that is useful and relevant to students. The words can’t be turned into actions unless you engage all faculty.


At Nova School of Business and Economics, faculty were asked “what are the SDGs and Why do they matter for Nova?” Faculty and staff were asked to propose idea on how the school could engage further with the SDGs and six ideas are now being worked on by the groups that proposed them. The individual groups are being mentored by the Faculty Team before presenting their ideas to Nova SBE’s Executive Committee to ensure that they are meaningful and sustainable initiatives that “directly contribute to the SDGs, that can be supported and implemented by NOVA SBE”. They plan to continue these workshops on a regular basis for new staff and teaching assistants as they are welcomed to the community.


At Sheffield Business School, staff were surveyed to understand awareness levels and also how they were embedding sustainability into their course offerings. The surveys received indicated a steady increase in the inclusion of these topics within modules and courses. One of the reasons for this is that course coordinators now have to report on how sustainability is embedded into their module. The survey indicated that 87% supported or led the creation of educational experiences that develop responsible leadership. Faculty also indicated whether they were doing so through case studies (60%), consultancy projects (16%), changes to the curriculum (43%), public events (22%), exam questions (16%) and 30% through research.


Faculty at Gerarld Schwartz School of Business in Canada developed a brochure that was given to all faculty to summarize the rationale behind their support of responsible management education and to invite all faculty to respond and engage. The full text of the brochure, which is two pages long, is available here (p. 10).

4.    Teaching Fellow

The Teaching Fellows program at Rowan University helps faculty integrate discussion, assignments, and analysis of responsible leadership focus areas into their courses. Teaching Fellows develop ‘learning modules’ – collections of pedagogical materials focused on a single issue, concept, or question – that can be readily adapted and integrated by college faculty into their courses. For example, Dr. Ted Howell's Project - "A Climate Policy Primer”: Introduces students to a top-level overview of climate change solutions and their costs/benefits through the lens of market- based policy interventions. It is designed specifically as a 75-minute module that can be plugged-in to a class period by any instructor.


The Southern Colorado Higher Education Ethics Champion Programme, run by the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS), invites college presidents to select one faculty member to be an Ethics Champion for their campus. These champions then engage with the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative Collegiate Program at UCCS to spread learning opportunities to their respective campus as well as develop materials. UCCS conducts workshops for all champions and provides additional support.  Several schools choose to have multiple Ethics Champions as part of the programme. UCCS offers many opportunities during the year for Champions from different schools to get together and share lessons and successes.