Including SDGs in the education of globally responsible leaders

Norman de Paula Arruda Filho (ISAE Brazilian Business School, Higher Institute of Administration and Economics, Curitiba, Brazil)
Marcia Cassitas Hino (ISAE Brazilian Business School, Higher Institute of Administration and Economics, Curitiba, Brazil)
Barbara Sueli Przybylowicz Beuter (ISAE Brazilian Business School, Higher Institute of Administration and Economics, Curitiba, Brazil)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 9 May 2019

Issue publication date: 17 September 2019

613

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to contribute to the discussion of the role of education in developing a new mindset for sustainability leadership by analyzing a project of a Brazilian business school that implemented a sustainability training module regarding the UN 2030 Agenda. Considering the purpose of signatory school of the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education, this analysis reflects on the student capacities to become sustainable future value generators for business and society in general.

Design/methodology/approach

This study is characterized as a quantitative research whose strategy is the investigation between variables to understand the learning evolution of the study participants in each of the topics addressed in the training module. The research has a positivist approach that explores data using statistical methods to detect possible behavior patterns in the analyzed data volume, based on secondary data sourced from the questionnaire that validated student knowledge at the beginning and end of the class.

Findings

The data show a considerable impact of education in developing a new mindset for sustainability leadership as there is a big variation students’ average knowledge of the themes that made up the sustainability mindset suggesting that the students’ exposure to the content in the school environment helps increase their knowledge.

Originality/value

This paper fulfills the need to understand the effectiveness of the creation of specific modules of sustainability for students from different areas of activity.

Keywords

Citation

Arruda Filho, N.d.P., Hino, M.C. and Przybylowicz Beuter, B.S. (2019), "Including SDGs in the education of globally responsible leaders", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 20 No. 5, pp. 856-870. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-01-2019-0032

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited


Introduction

Studies on education for sustainable development reveal several movements that seek to encourage educational institutions worldwide to adopt approaches based on a more global vision of development (Delors et al., 2006; Clugston and Calder, 1999; Heartle et al., 2017; PRME – Principles for Responsible Management Education, 2017; GRLI – Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative, 2005). The business world is going through changes that underpin tripolar governance and imply dynamic exchanges between government, business and civil society in a three-dimensional world, based on perspectives of the environment, the economy and the society (Vasconcelos et al., 2013).

It is important to understand how business schools can contribute to the sustainable development of our planet and qualify professionals with a more global and sustainable vision. By acknowledging the critical role of enterprises in the development of cities, it is important to understand which strategies can ensure future leaders are mindful of the demands of society and act according to values and principles that, in addition to yielding profit, guarantee a more just and equitable world.

Aware of the need for engagement between public and private initiatives, academia and civil society, the United Nations (UN) has played an important role in creating initiatives that draw attention to the urgent problems of nations and of the world. One of these initiatives is the Global Compact and the Principles for Responsible Management Education – UN PRME. The Global Compact, active since 2002, focuses on engaging companies with policies of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability. The PRME was founded in 2007 by representatives of educational institutions who understood the need to prepare the leaders of enterprises while they were still at school.

To broaden the vision of the projects created by signatories of both initiatives and encourage a discussion about the role of business schools toward this aim, the authors analyze the project of a Brazilian business school and signatory of the Global Compact and UN PRME initiatives that created a discipline called “Seminar of Contextualization.” The discipline was designed for every class, regardless of the area of the course. It addresses issues related to sustainable development such as the sustainability tripod, systems thinking, ecological footprint and the concept of legacy, globally responsible leadership and learning community. The discipline also presents the sustainable development goals (SDGs), the principles of the Global Compact and UN PRME and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

This article presents a case study of a Brazilian business school that created a training discipline in sustainability and globally responsible leadership. The goal of the discipline is to disseminate the principles of the UN initiatives – Global Compact and PRME – by addressing topics such as systems thinking and the importance of legacy in the hope of raising the awareness of students, increasing their engagement and aligning all the actions related to this goal.

Therefore, the aim of this research is to discuss the role of education in developing a new mindset for sustainability leadership aligned with the 2030 Agenda. The discipline was analyzed to gain insight into the learning evolution of students based on each of the topics addressed in the discipline, considering the variables of role and sector and, consequently, provide inputs for the Global Compact and UN PRME initiatives. All the analyses consider the participants’ knowledge measured before and after their exposure to the discipline using a tool implemented by the institution itself.

Mindset for sustainability

Scholars have been discussing the potential of education for transforming society for decades. Delors et al. (2006), responsible for the UNESCO International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century, advocates that education should be seen as a constructive process to acquire wider benefits through structured teaching and a continued global vision (Delors et al., 2006).

The idea of global vision is related to systems thinking, which, according to Capra and Eichemberg (2006), consists of understanding a phenomenon within a context and establishing all the involved interactions, as opposed to seeking simple causal relationships between isolated parts. The author defines systems thinking as a new way of thinking in terms of connectedness, context and relationships (Capra and Eichemberg, 2006; Kasper, 2000). Moreover, systems thinking is related to the development of a critical consciousness that sees the impact of long-term decisions, a basic concept in the formation of globally responsible leaders.

According to Barreto et al. (2013), responsible leadership is a way of thinking about business-focused leadership in society using ethics, psychology, psychoanalysis, the stakeholder theory and the systems theory to understand the relationship between leaders and those being led and promote responsible behavior and positive change for society (Maak and Pless, 2006; Maak, 2008).

The report from the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative – GRLI - Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (2005) argues that globally responsible leadership must be participatory, inclusive, and interactive. It also argues that it must be open to all stakeholders, as only a comprehensive approach that considers various cultures and countries can promote mutual learning. The definitions of globally responsible leadership are linked to studies on CSR and sustainable development and the understanding that effective and sustainable social responsibility should transcend legal aspects. Companies should contribute to products and services that not only are aggressive to the environment but also meet social needs (Székely and Knirsch, 2005).

The main and widespread definition of sustainable development is attributed to the report “Our Common Future”, of 1987, popularly known as the Brundtland Report, which defines sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland, 1987). Thus, the factors of social, environmental and economic relevance are integrated and equated to constitute the tripod known as the triple-bottom line of sustainability (Carvalho and Viana, 1998).

Sachs (2009) goes beyond this understanding by stating that sustainability has eight dimensions, namely, social, cultural, ecological, environmental, economic, political, territorial and national and international politics. According to the author, sustainability also encompasses reaching a reasonable threshold of social homogeneity, distributing fair income, guaranteeing equal access to resources and social services, maintaining a balance between respect for tradition and innovation, protecting the potential of nature capital, limiting the use of non-renewable resources, overcoming interregional disparities, preserving biodiversity through eco-development, fostering intersectoral and balanced economic development, ensuring continuous modernization, defining democracy in terms of universal ownership of human rights and promoting international cooperation, among other topics. Furthermore, he argues that the results of sustainability should be treated as the property and heritage of humankind.

To achieve the ideal of a sustainable world, one of the main tasks defended by the Organizations of the United Nations is the need to engage several sectors. Accordingly, in 2000, the UN Secretary General, Koffi Annan, launched a call to action for enterprises to contribute toward a more inclusive and sustainable global economy (Arruda Filho, 2015):

Businesses are among the most influential institutions worldwide. They have a tremendous opportunity to shape a better world for existing and future generations. (GRLI - Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative, 2005, p. 4)

The Global Compact, launched as a public–private initiative, is a policy framework for the development, implementation and disclosure of sustainability principles and practices. Moreover, it offers a wide spectrum of specialized work lines, management tools and resources and projects and programs designed to help advance sustainable business models and markets. (www.unglobalcompact.org)

The performance guidelines of the signatories of the initiative should be based on the ten principles of the Global Compact (Figure 1), derived from various agreements including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

The Global Compact assists the private sector in the management of increasingly complex risks and opportunities within the realms of environment, society and governance. By establishing partnerships with enterprises and by taking advantage of the experience and capabilities of a range of other stakeholders, the Global Compact aims to promote principles and universal values for the benefit of all (Arruda Filho, 2015).

The initiative triggers a process that seeks to change higher education in management and in the training of leaders. As enterprises are formed by people who make decisions, they play a critical role in the education and training of leaders based on a systemic vision of sustainability:

Universities educate most of the people who develop and manage society's institutions. For this reason, universities bear profound responsibilities to increase the awareness, knowledge, technologies, and tools to create an environmentally sustainable future. (http://ulsf.org/report-and-declaration-of-the-presidents-conference-1990/)

Similarly, launched in 1992, the Agenda 21 states that “education is critical for promoting sustainable development and improving the capacity of all people to address environment and development issues” (Clugston and Calder, 1999). However, the main initiative in this direction was officially launched by the UN in 2007. The Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) is an initiative geared toward supporting, inspiring and guiding educational institutions in training globally responsible leaders (Heartle et al., 2017):

Putting globally responsible leadership and corporate global responsibility at the heart of business school curricula presents business schools with a rich opportunity to expand and enrich their curricula and to employ new pedagogical approaches, essential to the development of globally responsible leadership. (GRLI - Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative, 2005, p. 37)

For O’Sullivan (2017), developing a sustainable educational model helps students gain a deeper understanding of global issues and motivates them to play their part. A structural change is needed to achieve this goal and ensure educational institutions make sustainability an intrinsic value in their mission statement. The new generation of leaders must understand that integrating global responsibility to their visions, goals and practices can have a positive effect on society, generate change and create a legacy of value.

The concept of legacy is linked to a notion of value in which leaders must expand their mental model, assume responsibility for their own personal development and leave a moral legacy by adopting the right attitudes and actions in life situations (Balassiano and Costa, 2010).

In 2015, the UN launched the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to guide society regarding issues that should be a priority to improve people’s quality of life and the world’s environmental conditions.

Also known as sustainable development goals (SDG), the Agenda was built collaboratively by several actors of society. The Agenda addresses a series of 17 goals (Figure 2) and 169 targets that focus on solving a wide range of challenges. The topics include the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, the promotion of health and wellness across the globe, gender equality and quality education for all, as well as urgent concerns regarding water, energy, economic, infrastructure, consumption, climate, ecosystems, institutions for peace and sustainable development (Parkes, 2017).

By including the SDGs in the academic curriculum, business schools have the responsibility of translating this important global plan into something that positively affects their community through stakeholder engagement (Weybrecht, 2017). Clugston and Calder (1999) supports this idea by stating that an academic institution committed to sustainability should help students understand the roots of environmental degradation and motivate them to seek environmentally sustainable practices, while also teaching them the causes of injustice together with models of justice and humaneness. Moreover, it is an opportunity to promote critical awareness, exchange ideas and develop projects and research to increase the value of education for sustainability.

To achieve this new educational pattern, business schools need to adopt a firm stance on restructuring executive education, which requires, among other things, recreating the curriculum in a way that includes issues regarding CSR by addressing them transversally with technical skills.

Institutional context

Inaugurated in 1996 in the city of Curitiba, southern Brazil, ISAE (Higher Institute of Business and Economics) is a business school that offers short, medium and long-term courses at undergraduate, postgraduate and professional master's degree level. According to the latest sustainability reports, the selected school enrolls an average of 6,000 students every year.

Since its founding, the ISAE has defined governance, innovation, sustainability, ethics, leadership and entrepreneurship as its guiding concepts both in internal management policies and in curriculum and educational practices. In 2004, it became a signatory of the UN Global Compact initiatives and, since 2007, it has been a signatory of UN PRME. Aware of its role in society, the school inspires students to adopt responsible practices that generate socio-economic and environmental development and promote values, principles and visions for sustainable global management.

In view of its commitment to the UN initiatives, in 2015, ISAE adhered its curriculum to the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development and engaged in a series of actions to promote the theme among its stakeholders, mainly by incorporating the 2030 Agenda to the syllabus of the first discipline of all courses offered at the ISAE. This first discipline was named “Seminar of Contextualization” and it is the object of this study.

The educational model of the discipline “Seminar of Contextualization” is a combination of three activities: Principles and concepts; Learning community; and Career Legacy. The Principles and concepts activity introduces the students to the most important concepts regarding sustainability, together with the institution's values aligned with UN initiatives. The Learning Community activity explores the importance of promoting a collaborative environment where students can learn with each other and develop a new understanding of their role as responsible leaders. Following the awareness process, the Career Legacy activity is about building not only a career but a legacy that represents a positive impact on society.

The activities are merged to prepare students to be permanent learners, help them acquire a taste for exchanging experiences, allow them to review preconceptions and concepts and ensure they engage in proactivity and group learning (Arruda Filho, 2015). The seminar is offered at the beginning of every course, and it lasts from 2 to 24 h.

The main objective of the discipline is to raise student awareness of sustainable thinking and responsible leadership practices according to the profile of each class and the specific course area. The professors of this discipline are specialists in sustainability and they also participate in special activities to understand the institution’s mission statement and vision regarding sustainable leadership.

The institution reported two challenges in terms of the feasibility of this discipline. First, the students’ participation is voluntary and some initial motivation would be required to convince them to join the seminar. Second, the professors would have to make an extra effort to adapt the subject to the student’s area of expertise.

To monitor students' understanding of the topics covered in the course, the institution created a results evaluation method. This method consisted of a questionnaire that should be applied at the beginning and end of each discipline to learn about the student’s learning curve.

Methodological approach

This study is characterized as a quantitative research, as described by Creswell (2010) whose strategy is the investigation between variables to understand the learning evolution of the study participants in each of the topics addressed in the discipline and promote a discussion on the role of education in the development of a new mindset for leadership in sustainability aligned with the 2030 Agenda.

The research has a positivist approach that explores data using statistical methods to detect possible behavior patterns in the analyzed data volume based on secondary data sourced from the questionnaire that validated student knowledge at the beginning and end of the Seminar of Contextualization. This questionnaire was applied to the classes of 2018, totaling 17 classes and 185 students. The questionnaires were provided in paper format, with the exception of three groups that received the questionnaire electronically.

Data processing was extensive. The material was entered into Excel® spreadsheets, validated and verified, and processed using a range of enrichment and standardization cycles as shown in Figure 3.

The data collected using the questionnaires were enriched with the students’ role and sector information obtained manually from the institution’s online system.

Four role categories were used in the information standardization procedures (Figure 4) based on the students’ involvement in company decision-making. The first category, “executive,” consisted of CEO, president, associate and superintendent. The second category, named “high and middle management,” contained positions that influence decision-making, such as directors, managers and coordinators. The third category, named “staff and specialist,” covered the positions of analyst, consultant, specialist and assistant. Finally, the fourth category, named “others,” grouped the unreported or unemployed positions.

This process was also applied to the business sector information (Figure 4). The adopted categories were industry, trade, services and others. Enterprises of the industry sector were those that transform raw materials into goods; enterprises of the trade sector directly supply end customers and resell items purchased from suppliers; and enterprises of the services sector do not sell physical products but provide a useful activity to customers. Philanthropic and unclassified enterprises were included in the “others” category.

The cycle of standardization was also applied to analyze the questions the students answered. Although the questionnaires were prepared by different professors, they all covered the same content included in the syllabus. The issues were standardized for analysis and resulted in ten topics: UN PRME, Global Compact, globally responsible leader, the concept of legacy, systems thinking, sustainable development, sustainability tripod, SDGs, ecological footprint and learning community.

After the cycles and standardization of information, the data were analyzed using statistical methods and the SPSS tool.

Results and analyses

The data show the impact of education in developing a new mindset for sustainability leadership aligned with the issues of the 2030 Agenda. According to the overall assessment (Figure 5), the students’ average knowledge of the themes that made up the sustainability mindset at the start of the course was 52.7 per cent (with a standard deviation of 0.499). By the end of the course, the same evaluation averaged 89.4 per cent (with a standard deviation of 0.307). The variation of 36.7 per cent suggests that the students’ exposure to the content in the school environment helps increase their knowledge.

As shown in Figure 5, the students’ prior knowledge of SDG, ecological footprint and the UN PRME was low (30 per cent). These data corroborate the finding of Weybrecht (2017), as they reveal the opportunity schools have to explore this topic and help professors understand and translate such knowledge into actions that have a positive impact on society.

Less than 55 per cent of students had knowledge of the topics Global Compact, sustainable development and learning community. The topics with the highest student knowledge scores at the start of the discipline were the globally responsible leader (77 per cent), the concept of legacy (85 per cent), the sustainability tripod (89 per cent) and systems thinking (90 per cent).

After the discipline had been taught at the school, the UN PRME was still the lesser-known subject although student knowledge increased from 48 to 75 per cent. In contrast, 80 per cent of the students had knowledge of the topics Global Compact, SDGs and sustainable development by the end of the course. Of the remaining six items, 90 to 100 per cent of the students showed they had knowledge of the topics after participating in the seminar.

Ecological footprint, followed by SDG and learning community, were the topics with the highest learning evolution after the students were exposed to the content. The three topics with the lowest variation of knowledge were systems thinking, the sustainability tripod and the concept of legacy. It is worth noting, however, that 85 per cent of the students already had knowledge of these topics before participating in the seminar.

As a result, further analysis included the market sector to shed light on the level of sustainability in the business sector. The aim of this analysis was to identify sectors with a greater number of professionals who had knowledge of sustainability compared to those who deserve more initiatives for their education. The data in Figure 6 show the knowledge variations on the topics by the professionals in each market sector.

The analysis by learned topic shows that knowledge of the learning community is restricted to a limited number of professionals, mainly in the trade sector. The students’ exposure to the topic enhances and levels out their knowledge, and subsequently increases their scores to almost 100 per cent.

Although most professionals mastered the concept of legacy, the students of all the sectors acquired full knowledge (100 per cent of professionals) of the topic by the end of the seminar.

The subject of sustainable development behaved in an interesting way. The professionals with the least knowledge of the subject were in the industry sector, followed by the trade and services sector. The data suggest that the professionals of all the sectors have some difficulty understanding this topic; despite the evolution in all the market sectors, the people of the services sector were less likely to understand the content presented in the seminar.

The profile of the industry professionals sector stands out when the subject is globally responsible leadership. According to Székely and Knirsch (2005), this subject is related to CSR from the perspective of creating elements that are not aggressive to the environment. The data support this view and show that, in the industry sector, this topic is better known by the industry professionals than by professionals of other sectors. Once the course was concluded, almost all the students demonstrated knowledge of the subject.

The data indicate the professionals of all sector can easily understand the concept of globally responsible leadership. SDGs were the least known topic by the professionals of all sectors, although the trade professionals had less knowledge of this topic compared to the others in the final evaluation.

The industry is the sector with the highest number of professionals with knowledge of the Global Compact, but it is unknown to trade professionals. The professionals of all sectors acquired knowledge of the subject at the end of the seminar; however, the industry sector, with the highest rates of initial knowledge, recorded the lowest increases in knowledge among the sectors.

The topic ecological footprint was understood by a higher number of trade professionals and a lower number of industry professionals. After the seminar, a significant progression was observed in all the sectors although a lower number of trade professionals mastered the subject. Such a variation can suggest the trade professionals had more difficulty understanding and translating the concepts of “ecological footprint” to their activities and may require greater exposure to this topic.

The topic systems thinking was mastered by professionals from all sectors, including the trade sector, suggesting the topic is easy to understand and learn by people of all sectors.

The principles of the UN PRME were not fully understood by the professionals of most sectors with the exception of the trade industry. Forty per cent of these professionals showed they had knowledge of the principles of the UN PRME. Professionals of the service sector found these principles easier to understand than the others, followed by the trade and industry professionals.

Finally, the topic sustainability tripod appeared to be mastered by the professionals from all sectors, and yet the records showed an evolution in knowledge, again demonstrating the potential of an educational institution in training and enhancing the sustainability mindset of professionals from all sectors.

Figure 7 provides a summary of the information organized by sector and topics and highlights the transformation potential of education.

The industry professionals had little knowledge of the ecological footprint and greater difficulty in acquiring knowledge of the UN PRME. The trade professionals had lesser knowledge of SGDs and learning community; however, this profile changed by the end of the seminar indicating the need to expose them future to the topics ecological footprint, Global Compact and UN PRME. In relation to the services sector, few professionals had knowledge of SDGs and UN PRME, demonstrating the need to work on their knowledge of the SDGs and sustainable development after the seminar.

The more in-depth diagnosis of the existence of patterns suggested in the initial analysis can consider the level of involvement of the professionals in company decision-making, represented by their position. This analysis aims to identify adherence to sustainability within the strategic levels of the company and understanding its contribution to the group of business schools that create strategies for training future leaders. The main reasons for this analysis include measuring the degree of knowledge that leaders have about sustainability and determining the strategic level of the professionals who know more about the subject.

Figure 8 shows the results of the concept knowledge measurements of the professionals in each role group.

The data show the executive group had limited knowledge of the concept of legacy, in contrast with the knowledge of the high and middle management professionals who influence decision-making in companies. As presented in Figure 8, it is possible to observe a wide gap in the participant’s knowledge of SDGs, ecological footprint and the UN PRME in comparison with other topics. Their lack of knowledge prevents them from inserting sustainability into the institution’s mission statement, as reported by O’Sullivan (2017). The data suggest that, as the professionals move forward in the decision-making chain, their knowledge about the Global Compact increases. In general, the sustainability mindset is more consolidated in high and middle management professionals, following by staff and specialists, who are being trained to be the future high and middle managers. Greater efforts are needed to ensure the concepts of SDGs are understood and translated in the professional activities of upper and middle managers. Kasper (2000) highlights the critical awareness and skill needed to relate the impact of long-term decisions on systems thinking. The professionals in all positions were quick to understand this subject after the seminar, suggesting that the actions of the educational institutions can easily impact their critical awareness. Sustainable development was the topic the executive professionals had most difficulty understanding, and it was more easily understood by the professionals in the staff and specialist group. Evidently, the current executives require greater exposure to the subjects that contribute to the formation of a sustainability mindset. The results suggest that the leaders of the future are more attentive to the demands of society and that schools should invest more in shaping the sustainability mindset of current leaders.

Conclusions

Sustainability is not a well-known subject in society and ensuring enterprises and students take an interest in social responsibility and global sustainability requires some effort. Consequently, the UN created an initiative to promote these subjects and encourage new models of production and consumption for society. The references used in this study were the UN Global Compact and UN PRME initiatives, as they focus on mobilizing enterprises and educational institutions to promote sustainable development and globally responsible leadership, respectively.

Using the example of a teaching strategy adopted by a Brazilian business school, this research sought to discuss the role of education in developing a new mindset for sustainability leadership aligned with the 2030 Agenda. The analysis was based on the learning curve of a group of participants of the Seminar of Contextualization and identified a significant growth between the students’ knowledge before the seminar and the students’ knowledge after the seminar. This result corroborates the work of O’Sullivan (2017) on the potential of educational models that focus on sustainability to ensure students acquire in-depth knowledge of the subject and inspire them to engage in more a responsible management.

The research results show that the aim of broadening the participants’ vision on sustainability issues, especially the UN 2030 calendar, was fully achieved, as observed in the students’ learning curve for all the addressed subjects. Although it is not possible to measure how much this knowledge translates into the participants’ everyday attitudes of sustainable management and performance, schools must provide the conditions for this knowledge to occur, corroborating Delors et al. (2006), who defends the potential of education for transformation. Thus, the case presented in this study can serve as an effective example and, therefore, as a source of inspiration and reference for other institutions interested in promoting a new sustainable mindset and in training globally responsible leaders. This information can also serve as input to the UN Global Compact, as it provides approximate insight into the current scenario. Moreover, the data can be used to assess the need for specific mobilization.

The authors understand as limitations to their research: first, due to the availability of data provided by the analyzed institution, the research sample was taken exclusively from the year 2018. As the “Seminar of Contextualization” discipline was in development since 2004, when the ISAE became a signatory of the UN Global Compact, the authors understand that the sample may not represent the full scope of social impact of the initiative but rather an informative reflection of its potential. Second, the study was conducted in a single institution and may not account for the existence third variable effects that may interfere with the results of the overall outcome. Third, the analysis is focused on a quantitatively approach only; the authors understand that further qualitative analysis could identify contextual factors that explain the variations found, enriching the understanding of the phenomenon. Also, the institution made use of eight categories to represent the sustainability mindset. Although this representation is justified by the institution, there is no academic consent on what the pillars of the sustainability mindset are, and the use of other categories may result in different conclusions.

The presented study seeks to contribute to the discussions about teaching methodologies applied in sustainability education by presenting a practice that was applied and that thereby demonstrated its effectiveness. The evolution of the topic should cover a larger body of research to provide further insight into students’ perception of sustainability, thus improving the strategies of educational institutions.

A qualitative assessment could deepen the understanding of the topic, making it possible to understand, from the perspective of future leaders, why some categories take longer to be assimilated into the sustainability mindset than others. Another opportunity to expand on this topic is to change the combination of categories that define the sustainability mindset. Future studies could analyze other categories or incorporate new categories, thus investigating the influence of the categories on the observed results.

Figures

The ten principles of the United Nations Global Compact

Figure 1.

The ten principles of the United Nations Global Compact

Sustainable development goals (SDGs)

Figure 2.

Sustainable development goals (SDGs)

Data management cycles

Figure 3.

Data management cycles

Information standardization structure

Figure 4.

Information standardization structure

Overall assessment

Figure 5.

Overall assessment

Analysis by sector

Figure 6.

Analysis by sector

Summary analysis by sector and topic

Figure 7.

Summary analysis by sector and topic

Analysis by role

Figure 8.

Analysis by role

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Corresponding author

Norman de Paula Arruda Filho can be contacted at: norman@isaebrasil.com.br

About the authors

Norman de Paula Arruda Filho received PhD in Business Management Applied by the Higher Institute of Labor and Enterprise Sciences (ISCTE), Portugal; master’s degree in Business and Public Management by the Brazilian School of Public Administration and Business, Getúlio Vargas Foundation – EBAPE. He is the President of ISAE Brazilian Business School and Head of the PRME Latin American and Caribbean Chapter. He is a Professor for Sustainability in Organizations for the MSc in Governance and Sustainability at ISAE.

Marcia Cassitas Hino is a Researcher and a post-doctoral student at Positivo University and obtained PhD in Administration by Getúlio Vargas Foundation – FGV/EAESP; master’s degree in Administration by Catholic University (PUC-PR); Master Business Administration degree with specialization in Marketing by FGV; and post-graduation degrees in Administration and Finance by FAE and Information Engineering and Didactics of Higher Education by PUC-PR.

Barbara Sueli Przybylowicz Beuter is a Researcher in education on sustainability. She is a journalist specializing in Organizational Communication by Maurício de Nassau University (PE). She is also a Communication and Sustainability Analyst at ISAE Brazilian Business School.

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