Into a world of sustainable innovations

Sustainopreneurship should be embedded in the curriculum if our students are to become well-informed decision-makers of tomorrow

Published - December 19, 2020 05:27 pm IST



The concept of Sustainopreneurship (entrepreneurship and innovation for sustainability) emerged from earlier concepts like social entrepreneurship, ecopreneurship and sustainability entrepreneurship. It means using creative business skills to solve problems related to sustainability and create social and environmental sustainability as a strategic objective and purpose. At the same time, it also involves respecting the boundaries set in order to maintain life support systems. In other words, it is a business with a cause; in which world problems are turned into business opportunities by the deployment of sustainability innovations.

Sustainopreneurship may bring about necessary transformations to current products, processes and behavioural patterns and help face the challenge of reducing the negative environmental and social impact of current unsustainable business practices. Despite its relevance and conceptual appeal, the conditions, processes, features and outcomes that define this form of entrepreneurship are yet to be defined.

Listen to the youth

Today’s youth population is larger than ever, with 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24, of whom approximately 90% live in less developed countries. The Sustainable Development Agenda (2030 Agenda) is the United Nations’ blueprint to assist countries in economic development, community well-being, and sustainable development. All the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are important opportunities to improve the quality of life and health of mankind. However, their long-term effectiveness depends on the efforts to make the youth aware of and develop their knowledge of environmental well-being. In essence, young people are the pillars of and the driving force behind the success of the SDGs.

The 2030 Agenda recognises that young people have a strong ability to drive change, and more than one-third of the SDGs’ targets involve youth explicitly or implicitly. Also, this is often the group most affected by changes within their communities. However, they are rarely offered a seat at the table and, consequently, left out of the decision-making processes that impact their lives. Given that young people are the guardians of the planet’s future, it is imperative to listen closely to their concerns and take heed of what they have to say.

Since the idea of sustainopreneurship is based on innovative ideas about how to create a more sustainable way of living, it is necessary to listen to what young people and entrepreneurs have in mind and the action plan that they propose.

Building it into educational structures

Currently we cannot rely just on NGOs, government agencies and other organisations to take action towards sustainability. Disjointed efforts like small science projects or recycling drives at schools are no longer enough. Sustainability has to be made a valuable part of standard curricula and the metrics of good teaching need to reflect this inclusion. Adjusting from the micro to the macro will not only bring people’s world into immediate focus, but will also spread the understanding that we do not exist in a vacuum. In a global society, sustainability is a macro-scaled issue that supersedes the boundaries of specific study areas.

Students should be able to attend insightful sessions, conferences and workshops through which they get a chance to understand the various aspects of sustainability and exchange ideas for a better future. The curriculum must have subjects that revolve around sustainability and address issues like ‘how we can live and operate sustainably in the future and make current global issues such as environmental pollution, discrimination, fair working and living conditions the reason for our economic action’. It should also focus on breaking down the ingrained processes of short-lived economic activity and bringing about a change in society.

To make a change, not only should sustainability be brought into the school curriculum, but students should also be given opportunities to work with experts and change-makers. Schools can create partnerships with NGOs and bring the idea of sustainability into all subjects. Many schools follow project-based learning, where children think about and find solutions to real-world challenges. Together with NGOs from different fields, they can conceptualise ideas and prototypes, which can be used and developed further.

The writer is a teaching expert and Head of PASCH South Asia, Goethe Institut.

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