Press release 2020 Survey: “Students, sustainability and education”

Across the world, youth have called for action on sustainability and the global challenges we face. Moreover, the importance of the educational sector’s role in adequately equipping students with knowledge and skills to address today’s sustainability challenges, have become ever more apparent.  

Toke Dahler, CEO of SOS International underlines the important role the education system has to drive sustainability:  “Education is pivotal to enable us to address current sustainability challenges. But they are currently insufficient to do so.”

About SOS International

Students Organizing for Sustainability (SOS) International supports student and youth groups globally to lead on sustainability and social justice. They connect, strengthen and scale impactful initiatives – so together we can go further, faster. Read more about SOS International here.

Therefore, Students Organizing for Sustainability International, a global network of student organisations, has conducted a  survey on students and sustainability in collaboration with more than 100 organisations across the world. The survey received 6946 responses from students in Higher Education making it among the biggest global surveys. 

The aim of the survey was to understand students’ knowledge on sustainability, their attitude towards education and sustainability as well as their attitude towards sustainability in relation to employment. The survey reveals the massive gap between students’ expectations of their educational institution to address sustainability challenges, and what educational institutions are currently practicing. Moreover, the survey has been able to map out geographic and demographic differences and similarities in relation to students and sustainability. 

According to Carina Mütschele, Youth & Education Officer of UN Environment Programme (UNEP), “250 million students pass through higher education every year. This survey provides an amazing platform to help prepare the next generation for the climate challenges that we’re facing.”

Education as a driver for sustainable development

The results give a clear message. 92% of students believe that universities should actively incorporate and promote sustainable development. However, only 26% report that sustainable development has been covered in depth by their study course. Additionally, 40% report low or no coverage of sustainability. This suggests the need for universities to better incorporate and educate students within sustainability, if students are to adequately address future global challenges. 

Ankit Tripathi, Steering Committee member, Global Student Forum, stresses the importance of equipping students with adequate competences to act and lead for a more sustainable world:  “Students are leaders of tomorrow and will end up in decision making bodies. Our preparedness for tackling climate change and sustainability is absolutely paramount.”

Students incorporate sustainability in career decisions

Students are not only considering sustainability in relation to their education but also when choosing future jobs. 67% of students say they would accept a 15% lower wage if they are to work in a company with a good environmental and social record. This indicates that students are driven to work in a place that positively contributes to addressing sustainability challenges. This could become a lever for companies to align practices with sustainability objectives while attracting a talent pool of sustainability-driven students. 

Work continues

In 2022, we plan to conduct a second round of the survey of students and sustainability to forge longitudinal data sets thus we can continue to push for a more sustainable education system. 

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 Go to detailed results and full report