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Teaching sustainable development in business sciences degrees: evidence from Portugal

Sónia Ferreira Gomes (School of Technology and Management, Polytechnic of Leiria, Leiria, Portugal and Faculty of Economics, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal)
Susana Jorge (Faculty of Economics, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal and CICP – Research Centre in Political Science, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal)
Teresa Eugénio (CARME – Centre of Applied Research in Management and Economics, School of Technology and Management, Polytechnic of Leiria, Leiria, Portugal)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 15 October 2020

Issue publication date: 13 May 2021




This paper aims to analyze the current state of integration of sustainable development (SD), in the academic curricula of Business Sciences degrees, including matters about Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability. In this way, the paper explores how Portuguese public higher education institutions (HEI) contribute to teaching about sustainable development (TSD).


The study focuses on Business Sciences degrees. The webpages of all public HEI with BSc and MSc degrees in those areas in Portugal were analyzed, to obtain curricular plans and syllabus. Content analysis was performed on each of these elements of Accounting and Taxation and Management and Business Administration courses.


There is already some concern about addressing SD in Business Sciences, inasmuch as SD-related topics are taught in Accounting and Taxation and in Management and Business Administration degrees and courses. However, the analysis shows that TSD was integrated into the academic curricula in only 95 degrees (48.5%). Additionally, in these, there are only 79 compulsory curricular units that address this theme. Given the fact that the subject of SD is increasingly relevant, the paper evidence still much room for improvement, indicating that TSD is yet a big challenge for HEI.


TSD is increasingly important because of the growing globalization that requires skilled professionals able to assess the complex and controversial issues related to the topic, to achieve and implement the SD goals in 2030. The literature evidence lack of studies addressing the integration of the SD theme in academic curricula. This paper makes here a contribution by showing what HEI is teaching in the area of business studies. It also brings good implications for society, while showing that sustainability content is becoming more apparent within certain HEI courses. This could be used to create follow up research on what type of sustainability content is being included within the courses and the learning that is happening in students in regard to this sustainability content.



An earlier version of this paper has been presented at the 5th Symposium on Ethics and Social Responsibility Research, Lisbon, Portugal (2019) and at the 18th International Conference on Corporate Social Responsibility, Barcelos, Portugal (2019). The authors are grateful for the comments provided by the scientific committee and by the participants in those sessions. We also wish to thank the anonymous reviewers of this journal for their valuable comments and suggestions provided on earlier versions of this paper.

This study was conducted at the Research Center in Political Science (UIDB/CPO/00758/2020), University of Minho/University of Évora and at the Center of Applied Research in Management and Economics (CARME) (UIDB/04928/2020), Polytechnic Institute of Leiria and supported by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) and the Portuguese Ministry of Education and Science through national funds.


Gomes, S.F., Jorge, S. and Eugénio, T. (2021), "Teaching sustainable development in business sciences degrees: evidence from Portugal", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 611-634.



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