Sustainable development. Educational programmes and ‘green projects’

On April 23, the conference “Prospects of educational programmes development and “green” sustainable development projects in Russian universities” took place in the National Research University Higher School of Economics. The subject of expert discussion was education for sustainable development.

The topic – initially in an environmental context and later in its broader sense – in interconnection of environmental, social and economic aspects, breakthrough nature of such education, its mission and models are being discussed worldwide, and in this or that way have been treated at different platforms for several decades. Education for sustainable development is perceived today as a necessity, as one of key conditions for intellectual, inclusive, fair modernization of approaches to economy, business activities, systems of nature use, consumption, world as it is, which considers interests if future generations.

‘Other side is a degree of distribution of such values, their promotion and implementation, in particular in our country’, comments Larisa Ovchinnikova, Chair of the Steering Committee of the UN GC Local Network in Russia, Managing Director of the Institutional Development Department of the State Corporation "Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs (Vnesheconombank)".

‘We continue searching for efficient tools to form an educational system for sustainable development. It’s too early to speak about final success, and this problem is acute for higher education, systems of compulsory and additional education, for business-education, retraining, refresher courses according to current demand. Following the conference, we will be able to make a new step on this way by forming suggestions and form of further mutual work’.

Pursuing these practical objectives, conference participants discussed demand of various parties for models of sustainable development education, key problems and prospects of education on sustainable development and ecology, as well as best ‘green’ projects and initiatives of Russian universities.

Experts from scientific-educational community (Institute of Natural Resources Economics and Environmental Policy of NRU HSE, MSU and MSU Open University, RANEPA, MGIMO, RUDN, MSTU named after Bauman, MISiS etc.) presented regulative aspects of education on sustainable development, models of educational management, existing courses and programmes on sustainable development, experience of Russian universities participation in international ‘green’ universities and SDGs promotion ratings.

Business-community (Unilever, Severstal, Segezha Group, MTS, Tetra Pak) and experts working with a private sector on sustainability (Skolkovo Sustainable Development Center, Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), WWF Russia, FBK Grand Tornton, PwC Audit) shared experience of applying sustainable development principles in strategic planning, management and business models of companies, spoke on demand for sustainability professionals of various specialization (in strategic planning, communications, investor relations, responsible marketing, etc.), confirmed importance of developing responsible marketing topic for large Russian companies, presented international experience of implementing educational programmes on sustainable development, as well as practices of international universities and schools in the area. Such practices are being developed in Russia too, and partly they were presented at the conference by eco-leaders from MSU (Unversity Eco Festival, Department of Econoimics), NRU HSE (‘Green Vyshka’), MGIMO (‘MGIMO Goes Green), movements ECA and ‘Green Universities of Russia’).

Following the discussion, conference participants committed to form suggestions for final resolution and for forming consortium of leading Russian universities to develop programmes of sustainable development and ecology.

Conference organizers were NRU “Higher School of Economics” and SGM Agency in partnership with UN Global Compact Local Network Russia and “ECA” movement.

Marina Vashukova, Executive Director of the Association ‘National Network of the Global Compact’.

UN Global Compact Local Network considers its participation relevant and useful, and offers partnership out of advantages of which we can underline the following ones.

First. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is for a moment the most broad and full-covering agenda on sustainable development. Business here has one of the key roles in achieving global well-being. At the UN level, also using the experience of MDGs, preceding SDGs, it is admitted that addressing exclusively governments, authorities doesn’t bring result needed, and business, its innovational potential and need for advanced technologies, approaches, professionals, is a key partner for all interested in sustainable development. Global compact, uniting responsible companies, is called among the key platforms for such partnership.

Second. System of education for sustainable development assumes broad intersectoral and interdisciplinary cooperation, reflecting new holistic approach to interrelated development of society, economy and environment. At the same time, according to certain experts including Tatiana Akimova, author of a study book ‘Sustainability economics’, economic education can help to form a scientific basis for comprehensive study of accumulated problems, related to further development of civilization. Quoted: ‘Economic education for sustainable development is a step to reform an educational system and informational policy based at a new scientific paradigm. As a result, we should receive knowledge on new development strategies, in economy which can balance scale and nature of economic activities in accordance witl capacitiesof nature and necessary quality of the environment’.

Third. Considering the abovementioned facts, we can say that business, which we got used to calling ‘responsible’, in the world (largely) and in Russia (at a lower scale, but still) sets these extra-goals. It studies ways of transforming business models for the interest of society and nature, integrates in its activities internationally recognized principles of human rights, labour relations, anti-corruption. It speaks about its climate responsibility. It takes systemic approach to charity, volunteers, territorial sustainable development based at the efficiency assessment of its social projects. Jointly with stakeholders it prepares and publishes non-financial reporting. Takes specific responsibilities of achieving SDGs and more.

All this is perceived today as elements of commercial sustainable development strategies, and is included into common global context of world economy transformation. More and more companies are involved. Their demand for a system of general and professional educational standards is more evident. At the same time, inside the private sector the most advanced approaches and norms are formed, which consider demands of the UN< international community of responsible investors, stock exchanges, current standards of reporting and public activities. All these elements form the thematic projects portfolio of Global Comact Local Network and its partners.

Thus, Global Compact local platform can be used – in particular as an intersectoral and interdisciplinary one – to discuss and form uniform approaches to the topic in a form of expert groups or under the framework of enforcing specific programmes and projects.

As an example, we can look at our current educational project - the Youth Contest ‘Impact of Business. Local Solutions to Global Problems’, which is run by a national community of the UN Global Compact participants in Russia this year. The key goal of the Contest is to attract attention of students, young scientists, teachers, specialists and other relevant categories of young Russian citizens to discuss the mission, issues and ways to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals up to 2030 with an emphasis on the role of business in developing effective ways to promote and implement them. We would like to provoke discussion among youth on problems and scenarios of sustainable development considering the potential of Russian business in achieving Sustainable Development Goals, to facilitate introduction of youth audience to current practice of responsible business, with progressive approaches to form and enforce business-strategies considering sustainable development values.

Our key partner is SUMAS Sustainability Management School, which provides as Grand-prix educational certificates for sustainable development programs, in which it specializes. Headquarters of School are located in Gland, Switzerland, in the buildings of IUCN and WWF. SUMAS is a unique educational facility, it is a first business school that has opened bachelor and master programs on sustainability management. Out of the School programs, there are such as general sustainability management, responsible finance and investment, sustainable tourism and nature conservation, health and even sustainable luxury management. The School example illustrates once again level of demand for sustainability education and a successful model of meeting such demand.

Thus, we as UN Global Compact Local Network, based on our objectives and pursuit to facilitate formation and promotion of sustainable development values in Russia. Including in education and awareness raising, hope that our abilities and openness for collective actions in the context named – partnership with the UN, business, target international educational facilities, etc. – will be considered and demanded.

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