Education for Sustainable Development

group of students holding Sustainable Development Goals cubes

Many definitions exist for Education for Sustainability (EfS), or Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) as it is also known. However, the general principles are to allow for everyone to have the appropriate knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to shape a sustainable future. 

As detailed by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO):

“Education for Sustainable Development means including key sustainable development issues into teaching and learning; for example, climate change, disaster risk reduction, biodiversity, poverty reduction, and sustainable consumption. It also requires participatory teaching and learning methods that motivate and empower learners to change their behaviour and take action for sustainable development. Education for Sustainable Development consequently promotes competencies like critical thinking, imagining future scenarios and making decisions in a collaborative way."

Industry collaboration

One of the principles of the University Industry Collaboration Strategy is to ‘promote sustainability and social responsibility’. As a higher education provider we have a major role to play in enabling our students and staff to respond positively to global challenges.

In our teaching and learning, one of our principles of a curriculum for Industry Collaboration is ‘Education for ethical behaviour’, which presents an approach to student education that seeks to balance human and economic well-being, knowledge, and competencies with cultural traditions, respect for other people, and for the earth and its natural resources. In practice this requires design of academic programmes with consideration for sustainability including all the Sustainable Development Goals.

Academic colleagues are supported to do this by the Quality Enhancement Office. The Quality and Enhancement Office (QEO) is responsible for developing and maintaining a robust institutional regulatory framework for the management of academic quality and standards. The framework requires programmes to be committed to producing ethically aware and socially responsible graduates who possess the relevant skills and values necessary to solve the complex problems of our age. Programmes should integrate relevant ethical issues, issues of sustainable development, and a wider commitment to social justice.

This principle provides more opportunities for students to engage with sustainable development, in a way that allows them to get a real world understanding of sustainability issues and empowers learners to change their behaviour and take action for sustainable development.

The Environmental Sustainability Team are also able to support academic colleagues to introduce sustainability into their programmes through;

  • guest lectures
  • provision of live briefs
  • supporting student projects


See how we have integrated sustainability into our teaching

School of Science, Engineering and Environments - Environmental Management

Staff within the School of Science, Engineering and Environment have developed collaborative learning projects involving MSc students from the environment, health, safety and wildlife disciplines working on real world sustainability projects with private, public and third sector organisations. Students either work in teams on professional practice projects or as individuals on practice-based dissertations.

They develop a range of real-world skills that are essential for the sustainability professional including negotiating terms of reference with clients, project planning, collecting and analysing data relevant to the project aims, reflecting on performance and writing reports. Throughout the project students keep a ‘reflective learning journal’ to provide insight into the learning process and to inform action planning for future learning and partnership working.

Since 2009 this programme of work-based learning has resulted in over 100 team and individual projects involving around 60 different organisations and over 100 individual contacts. Projects range from assessing the feasibility of implementing sustainable technologies and management measures in business through evaluating health programmes delivered by partner organisations to assessing baseline ecological conditions at key sites. 

 Some examples of projects are: 

  • Students worked with a local authority to examine local issues of sustainable food production and consumption. The project assessed the value of ‘food miles’ as an indicator of sustainability and undertook community engagement on the awareness of food sustainability issues to inform the local authority strategic framework.
  • Students worked with a multinational manufacturing company examining sustainable technologies. The project assessed the feasibility of applying rainwater harvesting technology within a carpet tile manufacturing company by determining the economic and environmental benefits. A proposed rainwater harvesting system was developed informing company policy on water management on site.
  • Students worked with a large bulk chemicals manufacturing company to develop competency management systems for workers in high hazard industries. This work provided the basis for a system that the company later implemented at their plant in the North West of England.

The MSc programme has also worked with the Environmental Sustainability Team to support the development and maintenance of the Environment and Energy Management System through students supporting internal audits and specific projects such as energy conservation, pollution prevention and waste reduction.

School of Arts and Media - FIMS

We recognise that the environmental impact of the fashion industry is enormous. Level 4 students in Fashion Image Making and Styling (FIMS) worked on a 6-week environmental brief CARING SHARING, set in tandem with the University of Salford’s Environmental Sustainability Team and linking with an Extinction Rebellion take over day. The work was then exhibited as part of Go Green Salford.

The 60 students collaborated together in small groups of 8 –10 and were challenged with ethical environmental consciousness at the core and progressing sustainable solutions to fashion industry waste creating responses with a zero-waste anchor.

The Environmental Sustainability Team underpinned the brief with facts and statistics and FIMS were inspired by major influencers from Greta Thunberg, Collina Strada, More or Less magazine amongst others. Working with major industry game changers Matty Bovan and Cecily Ophelia, the students mobilized and acted sustainably to create a showcase in the atrium of the New Adelphi building of collaborative responses drawing upon the urgent need to address the ongoing climate crisis. They created new discourses and rhetoric around the ecological disaster asking others to act now before its too late.

The exhibition ran for a month and showcased everything from trainers with the soles carved into patterns to spread the message, to patchwork blankets made from boiler suits from oil rigs, to engaging with local green Politicians to write speeches on youth voices, to soundtracks, to hand dyeing all our wardrobe, to making luxury sculptural dresses out of plastic waste, to re-creating the iconic LV Louis Vuitton logo as a green party collaboration. One group took it to the next level, contacting a local school made mini magazines and taught schoolchildren how to reconnect to core skills, such as sewing, dying, spreading the environmental message beyond our wildest realms – this group has been asked back to do more with the children. The group said it was the best day of their lives-young people helping young people is super empowering and inspiring -these will be the future industry game changers. 

FIMS also participated in a XR takeover day with the students helping run a non profit clothing swap shop offering styling advise, restyling and face painting sessions and running a mini photo studio to record new looks as they happened – this was a truly exciting day resulting in widening participation with FIMS now being given the chance to run more swap shops on a regualr basis for the University. 

FIMS staff take their responsibility so seriously as a staff team embedding and encouraging students to have good ethics. At the heart of the curriculum this module proves what young people can do if given the support. 'We would not be doing our jobs if we let them continue blindly on ignoring all the evidence when the fashion industry is desperate for next level thinkers and solutions that are creative and original. We are equipping each and every one with the tools they need to help make the changes needed in the industry and beyond with facts and solutions. Sustainability is a journey not a destination and we are fully committed to this path we are on as a staff team with our amazing student cohort -as one ethical caring family. Tomorrows employees and game changers not afraid to stand up for issues believed in passionately helping others understand the situation we are faced with but in positive and dynamic ways – joining forces for change having the confidence to speak up and care, because we care.'

Salford Business School - Business, Ethics & Sustainability

Recognising that sustainability is just good business the Salford Business School has supported the Business Ethics and Sustainability (BE&S) module team to empower and inspire our next generation business leaders to make lasting environmental, social and economic benefit.

The BE&S module within the Salford Business School (SBS) is a super module for level 6, and reaches around 350 students every academic year, our future business leaders. The module has been delivered in SBS in various appearances for a number of years and it has been recently redesigned to be a real-world student learning experience by partnering with the Social Enterprise Visits Initiative (SEVI) and the UoS Sustainability team. The delivery of teaching has a combination of pedagogical approaches including workshops, guest talks and field trips to social enterprises with a keen focus on skills and knowledge that is vital for professional practice and employability.

The key partnership is with the UoS Sustainability Team, not only delivering lectures that provided the foundation on how UoS is trying to be more sustainable and what the main challenges are, but also meaningfully engaging with the students to help develop the University Sustainability Strategy. Taking the principle of students as partners wider than just teaching and learning but in development of a University wide strategy and tackling some of the sustainability issues on campus. Through a group assessment students have to critically assess how the UoS is addressing one of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and identify the main strengths and weaknesses of how the UoS is tackling the SDG. Based on their analysis they present recommendations and a project plan, which would assist the UoS in tackling the selected SDG in the future. Furthermore, students have to investigate and select one charity in Manchester or Salford area that they would like to support and incorporate in their presentation. The best presentation had a chance to win a monetary price that would be donated to the selected charity. The winners of The Best Sustainability Project Idea are announced at the end of every semester where students meet with their charities and pass on their donation.

The UoS ST is a relatively small team with limited resources for engagement. The partnership through BEST enables ongoing dialogue with students that would not otherwise be possible. This also presented the opportunity to deliver information on environmental management at the University such as waste and recycling and provided a barometer of awareness to measure changes in knowledge and attitudes. 


Students can learn from each other, learn from the University and provide recommendations for how the University could be more sustainable...

Romas Malevicius Lecturer in Sustainability and Ethics