Last Week's List (#16): September 6, 2021

Last Week's List (#16): September 6, 2021

. 4 min read

This week is focused on how universities are mapping the SDGs internally, with a particular focus on student engagement.


(REPORTING) A recent article published by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (by yours truly) explores how business schools are mapping the SDGs internally.  The most interesting part of the research was seeing what percentage of courses or research were listed as covering an SDG. Most mapping is done by identifying SDG related keywords in titles and or content. Given how all-encompassing SDG keywords are (including terms such as work, economics, growth, industry), shouldn’t 100% of your courses and research relate to an SDG already? If they don’t, shouldn’t you question their relevance in a business school more generally? And how does identifying keywords tell us anything about whether the SDG issues are actually covered including how? Therefore, is a school that reaches 100% worth celebrating or are they perhaps missing the point?  So many questions…stay tuned for the full article.

+ What percentage of your courses and research actually connect to an SDG or, perhaps more interestingly, which don’t and why?  Click here to share your thoughts.


(STUDENTS) The Students for Environmental Advocacy partnered with UC Berkeley to expand a previous mapping done by the Office of Sustainability of 600 sustainability courses, by mapping the list to the SDGs. Some 613 courses from 47 departments, from Public Health to Law, were included. The project was inspired by research conducted by students at the University of Toronto who mapped sustainability courses by SDG. At ISEG in Portugal, a Masters student conducted similar research as part of their Dissertation in Management. Information Systems. They looked at the schools’ contributions, over the last decade, to the SDGs. This information is updated annually and feeds into the school’s 2030  Sustainability Strategy.

+ A lot of mapping is conducted of sustainability courses, but what about “normal” courses? Are sustainability messages being reinforced or contradicted? Click here to share your thoughts.


(STUDENTS) Back in 2019, BI Norwegian Business School engaged three bachelor students to conduct face to face interviews with 196 students and staff on campus to gauge their knowledge on the SDGs. This was used as a starting point to develop KPIs and to benchmark student awareness and knowledge. At the time, 54% of respondents knew about the SDGs, 39% could name one or more SDG and SDG 13 was the top answer. The school also did an extensive mapping of events and research. The next step could be to bring this information to life.  This report with examples of projects that aimed to raise awareness and engage citizens in the SDGs has lots of other interesting examples of how to have an impact with limited budgets.

+How do you measure awareness, and what do you do with that information afterwards? Click here to share your thoughts.


(REPORTING) Countries are encouraged to “conduct regular and inclusive reviews of progress at the national and sub national levels, which are country-led and country-driven”. Inspired by these, city councils began publishing Voluntary Local Reviews (in part using this handbook produced by the European Commission). Cities who have filed these reports include Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Taipai, Oaxaca, and New York City. Now, Universities are publishing Voluntary University Reviews. The first to do so was Carnegie Mellon University in the US. While the university recognises that there is no systematic or comprehensive process in place (yet) to collect information as it relates to the SDGs, it is a step in the right direction.

+ Are VUR’s the new sustainability report or are they and could they be something more than that?  Click here to share your thoughts.


(STUDENTS) Back in 2018, FEA-RP in Brazil conducted an interesting experiment where they considered the relevance that student organisations (sustainability and non-sustainability focused) have in promoting the SDGs within their university. They sent a questionnaire asking respondents to associate individual SDGs with the most relevant student entities. For example, AIESEC (as seen in the visual above), a student club focused on social impact, was associated with SDG 10, 17, 1, 2 and 4. The results were plotted and can be viewed from here (p. 48 onwards). It is also interesting to see how these perceptions can be influenced by the groups themselves. For example, they found that the community connected the Athletics Association with SDG 5 because it had recently promoted women’s empowerment and the fight against harassment in the university environment.

+What role do your student clubs have in your university’s impact on the SDGs (and not just the sustainability focused ones)?  Click here to share your thoughts.


(REPORTING) Stockholm School of Economics conducted an audit of their curriculum using the SDGs. Schedules, lecture slides and materials for all courses were screened for keywords relevant to each SDG including sub targets and indicators. Considering that seminars might not be entirely dedicated to a particular SDG topic, the percentage of content per session was outlined. They found, for example, that many courses dedicated to SDG 9 - Innovation rarely mentioned specific societal or environmental problems and therefore the students may not be aware that such methods and concepts can be used for sustainability.  The mapping results were used as the foundation for a workshop series for interested faculty to share best practices for incorporating sustainability content through small adjustments.

+How do you explore HOW the SDGs are included, not just whether or not they are?  Click here to share your thoughts.


(JUST BECAUSE) After going through dozens of University SDG mapping results, I was interested to see how others are mapping the data they collect through their audits. I ended up looking at maps that show the distribution of lions in the wild, most peaceful countries, corruption, 111 years of Australian temperatures, freedom of press, countries by paid maternity leave,  the world in 1595, access to electricity and Harvard University’s sustainability data. Want more? Ok here are big foot sightings in the US, all the bicycle lanes in Europe, chocolate consumption per person, and distribution of drop bears in Australia. When it comes to the SDGS, explore the SDGIndex Dashboards and this map of best practices.

+ Any other favourites? Click here to share your thoughts.

P.S. This week's soundtrack was from Otto Ohm in Italy. Good driving around music (even though I have no where to drive around to at the moment...). Wishful thinking.


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