How to develop it?

The Sustainability Mindset Principles

The 12 Sustainability Mindset Principles provide a scaffolding for educators in any discipline to design sessions that gradually develop a mindset for sustainability.

Professors using the Sustainability Mindset

The UN PRME Working Group on the Sustainability Mindset is a network of scholars from over 135 universities in 45 countries, who share the common interest in developing a mindset shift with their students. They are successfully embedding activities to develop this new mindset. Many are designing new courses and modules, tailoring their syllabi? paying attention to the balance between head, heart and hands. Collectively we are reaching over 20.000 students in to mention the untracked ripple effects these students have in their communities, families, social media and workplaces and even with other professors! We are accelerating the tipping point towards a new mindset. If you want to participate, join this free network.

Three Vignettes

AMELIA NAIM from Indonesia teaches Business Ethics, Good Corporate Governance and Outstanding Values at Sekolah Tinggi Manajemen Ipmi popularly known as Ipmi International Business School, in Jakarta. She invited me to facilitate a 90 min webinar for her students to become change agents on the SDGs. She ended up extending the invitation to other students and we had 141 who signed up for the programs, but sadly could only accommodate 100 students. They came up with initiatives on how they would act to contribute to the SDGs and posted their commitments on social media. Then her students replicated the webinar for 260 high school teenagers but focusing specifically on Anti – Corruption, a challenge in Indonesia.

The college student facilitators and the high school teenagers came up with their own commitments and talked about how they would extend the campaign to give even more influence to others (this is because the commitments from the high school and college students varies not only giving the webinar themselves for younger elementary school children). That is a way of accelerating change of a mindset shift. Read more in Students Shifting Mindset, Ivanova & Rimanoczy, Eds., forthcoming 2021).

HENRIETTA ONWUEGBUZIE leads sessions on Entrepreneurship in the MBA and Executive programs at Lagos Business School, Nigeria. She believes that the high youth unemployment rates can be curbed if schools emphasize entrepreneurship training, and the importance of purpose in starting a business. As a result, every year her MBA students are required to start a venture during her course.

The venture is expected to solve a problem, using a profitable business model. She gives each student a loan of only the equivalent of US$ 40 as seed money to create a business and they are not allowed to add any other funds of their own. Instead, they have to come up with creative ways of either growing their capital or starting the business with that loan. This is intended to prove you can start lean. In addition, they have to return the loan with interest at the end of the semester, to remind them of the time- value of money.

Despite the small seed capital, every year the students end up creating profitable business initiatives that serve the community. An example is the first online furniture store in Nigeria that has significantly grown the businesses of what were before road-side furniture artisans and sellers, who now employ more workers, and everyone is earning better.

Many of the students continue with their business beyond the semester, and the most important lesson is the mindset shift: Understanding that business can be profitable and solve real needs when social sensitivity meets imagination.

AYAKO HUANG is Professor of Management and director of the online sustainable MBA program at Maharishi International University, Iowa, USA. Back in Taiwan, she led a Kindergarten, where she focused on 3 goals: developing in children the courage to face challenges , helping them develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and developing appreciation and gratitude attitudes. Now teaching young adults, her focus remains similar.

To provide a sense of reality, she engages students with community challenges, and every student has to find an opportunity to help the community. This was a challenge for two students from Africa. She suggested they put their accounting knowledge to good use, and in order to raise their self-confidence they practiced greeting a prospective client by shaking hands and making eye-contact.


The two African students visited all the businesses in the town square and came back the next day with five prospective clients who needed help with their accounting. Ayako was surprised, since small businesses are often reluctant to trust a stranger from another country who walks in off the street. The students focused on teaching their clients QuickBooks accounting software. They spent half a day working with the clients and by the end of the course, they had created a 30-page manual for the entrepreneurs.

Prof. Huang said that not only were the clients thrilled with the help they received, but also the Fairfield Economic Development Association was excited about the project and has indicated an interest in sponsoring similar projects in the future. Prof. Huang achieved several results: integration of foreign students in the community; development of courage, self-confidence and appreciation; support to small businesses and entrepreneurs, and strengthening the connections between university, students and community.