Sustainability in higher education


Emerald and SDGs
An Emerald mission in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Hundreds of universities worldwide have committed themselves towards sustainability by signing international agreements and conventions such as the Bologna Charter, The Halifax Declaration, the Talloires Declaration and the Copernicus Charter for Sustainable Development. More recently, the "Agenda 2030" agreed by the UN General Assembly in November 2015 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) mean that higher education institutions should, more than ever, engage in the implementation of sustainable development across all subject areas. But how does this look in practice? How does sustainability in higher education go beyond campus greening? Is sustainability being fully embedded into curriculum, policies, and programs? Together with some of our partners and authors, we've been exploring this subject.

We’re searching for more authors to publish with us in the field of education, we’d love to hear from you.

This mission supports our Quality education for all goal


Author thoughts

Some of our authors have been sharing their research in different ways; take a look at our authors research infographic or a presentation video to find out more.

Rethinking transnational education infographic

Transnational universities, host communities and local residents: social impacts, university social responsibility and campus sustainability – view the infographic

Chen Chen, Frank Vanclay

Research discussing how transnational universities create negative and positive social impacts on their host communities and what this means for campus sustainability and the expectation that universities contribute to sustainable development and to their local communities. See the full article.

What's in the infographic? See a text version

Quality education for all, leaving no-one behind

Dr. Wendy Purcell from Harvard University discusses inclusive education and sustainable development. She argues that building confidence and competence through higher education, focused on the pursuit of sustainable development, is an investment in the shared future of humanity.

Image of Mr. Adrian LAM Man-Ho
Building a more sustainable world through holistic learning and teaching experience in a comprehensive university in Hong Kong

Mr. Adrian LAM Man-Ho discusses a sustainable world through holistic learning and teaching experiences.

Read the blog


Andreas Kaplan photo
Slowly but surely: business schools boost sustainability

Andreas Kaplan from ESCP Business School in France, talks in this blog about business schools turn toward a more sustainable management approach.

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Adrian LAM Man-Ho photoEmpowering students in university curriculum through Sustainable Development Goals

Mr. Adrian LAM Man-Ho discusses the the inestimable power of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) hinges on its potentials to accelerate fundamental and transformative shift in thinking, values, and actions among all stakeholders and individuals.

Read the blog

Rethinking transnational education in light of its social implications – read what's in the infographic

Download the infographic

Rethinking transnational education in light of its social implications

Transnational universities have varying impacts on local populations.

A multi-case, qualitative meta-analysis of 6 transnational universities in China to assess and manage their social impacts.

Major social impacts

  1. Displacement and compensation
  2. Urbanisation and gentrification
  3. Livelihood
  4. Presence of immigrants
  5. Cultural and inter-generational impacts
  6. Health impacts
  7. Additional demand on facilities
  8. Traffic, safety and tranquillity

Key international principles and human rights standards for effective management

Benefit-sharing and social investment
Create opportunities and share resources

Monitoring and adaptive management
Consider the local context when taking actions

Implement a grievance redress mechanism
Identify, assess and address concerns

Full disclosure of information
Promote inclusivity, honest dialogue and mutual learning

Effective community engagement
Establish trust and create an open campus culture

Appropriate resettlement and livelihood restoration
Ensure proper compensation and monitor relocated individuals

Effective harm reduction procedures
Ensure proper planning to avoid social harm

The concept of campus sustainability must be broadened to encompass a much larger social perspective.

Transnational universities, host communities and local residents: social impacts, university social responsibility and campus sustainability, International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Educations, Chen et al, (2012).


Green information technology and sustainability

In this video, Tomayess Issa talks about teaching sustainability in higher education through an award-winning unit at Curtin University which focuses on sustainability and Green IT aligned directly with the UN Sustainable Development Goals 7, 9 and 12.

Higher education and the Sustainable Development Goals

A series of 17 books that address each of the SDGs in turn specifically through the lens of higher education.

Find out more

Journal articles


Are distance higher education institutions sustainable enough? – A comparison between two distance learning universities

Luis-Alberto Casado-Aranda, Sandra Sofia Caeiro, Jorge Trindade, Arminda Paço, David Lizcano Casas, Ana Landeta
International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
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Emerald Open Research – EAUC Collection

EAUC logo

This EAUC Collection reflects the growing acknowledgement of the need for a commitment to inclusive partnerships and cooperation built around principles and values, and a shared vision that places people and the planet at the centre. It focuses on how Further and Higher Education Institutions are integrating the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into policies, strategies and practices approached through the lens of SDG 17: Partnership for the Goals.

Calls for papers

We’re looking for articles to publish in the following titles. Find out about the journals aims, typical areas of interest and how to submit by clicking through the cards below.

Special issues

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Talk to us about your work

We love hearing from researchers and practitioners about their work.

If you would like to contribute to this page please let us know by filling in this form. 

  • Current Your details
  • Area(s) of interest
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Mission-led research – our goals

Our core area of focus is interdisciplinary research aligned with the UN SDGs, with these key goals in mind, all of which are about creating real world impact, at a time when it's needed most.

Fairer society

We are passionate about working with researchers globally to deliver a fairer, more inclusive society. This perhaps has never been more important in today’s divided world...



Healthier lives

We understand the value of a world that recognises and protects the most vulnerable and acknowledges the importance of a healthy mind as well as a healthy body...



Responsible management

We aim to champion researchers, practitioners, policymakers and organisations who share our goals of a more ethical, responsible and sustainable way of working...



Quality education for all

We believe in quality education for everyone, everywhere and by highlighting the issue and working with experts in the field, we can find ways we can all be part of the solution...



Sustainable structures and infrastructures

We recognise the transformative power of sustainable engineering, design and building practices in creating a world where our planet and its inhabitants can thrive.