Insights in #CorporateSocialResponsibility and #CSR in Social Media

Engage your stakeholders in dialogue

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is not all about charitable activities and events. CSR is not only that businesses take into account the economic, social and environmental impacts of their operations, but also about taking the responsibility. Also, about taking the responsibility in developing the society. This happens by envisioning future plans for socio-economic justice and being conscious about companies’ responsibility for the welfare of society around them. 

CSR manifests in communication with stakeholders. CSR activities that are effectively communicated to stakeholders are likely to have good returns on investments and increase companies’ social legitimacy and reputation.

Social media has become a standard communication tool for companies to inform about their socially responsible activities. Social media has allowed organizations to communicate in entirely new ways through dialogue type of communication utilizing value- and performance-driven motives. However, it is stated that social networking platforms are most utilized in traditional one-way company-to-consumer communication. Unfortunately, this pattern still predominates in the social and digital era where interactivity and engagement are key. It is true that with a monologue type of communication one can campaign participation and spread e-WOM, electronic Word of Mouth. However, participating in dialogues in social media can reduce stakeholders’ scepticism towards the company’s CSR activities and lead to active stakeholder engagement. Moreover, through discussions and listening, companies can hold active dialogues and identify the sentiment of the discussions. This is relevant because emotional messages tend to be diffused more widely than neutral ones. Sharing emotional content is an intrinsic part of social media behaviour. In addition, emotions are used for promoting dialogue and engagement. Therefore, emotions are crucial elements for achieving stakeholder acceptance, commitment, and participation regarding CSR issues.

#CSR and #corporatesocialresponsibility in social media

We used hashtag and sentiment analysis to identify the main topics and their sentiment in social media discussions (i.e., Twitter or Instagram) related to corporate social responsibility. We chose hashtags #CSR and #corporatesocialresponsibility. We used a free version of social searcher and the data was limited to timeline 1.9 – 14.9.2021. Only social media mentions in English were included and inadequate data was removed.

Table 1 shows an overview of the social media posts related to corporate social responsibility during the two first weeks in September.

Table 1 Descriptive statistic of discussions (prepared by the authors, 2021)

Table 1 shows that #CSR is used more often than # corporatesocialresponsibility and it has also more users. Analysis of both hashtags showed that Twitter and Reddit are popular channels. Differences in the chosen channels are found, for example, daily motion is actively used for #CSR but not at all for #corporatesocialresponsibility. Surprisingly, channels like YouTube and Facebook had under 25 posts during the given timeframe.

The form of communication is mainly photographs. Based on the popularity of the posts (e.g. likes, shares) of both hashtags, the posts mainly include videos and photos. Video content is mainly webinars or recorded discussions with experts and company managers. Photos instead are related to campaigns and events and posted as announcements (Figure 1). However, the popularity of the posts reveals that engagement is not at a high level as a whole, because the amount of likes and shares is quite low. This may be due to the short two-week timeframe used. Some of the posts have been published while the analyses were being made, and so the followers have not had the time to react to the posts.  

Figure 1 Emotionally tagged post in Instagram (@biryanibykilo, 2021)

According to the sentiment analysis, the tone in social media posts is mainly neutral or positive. Related to #CSR Twitter and Instagram posts were most positive and Flickr and Reddit most negative. The same results concern #corporatesocialresponsibility.

It was found out that Reddit, Flickr, and Dailymotion are the most active channels based on the popularity count of #CSR when focusing on the social side of communication, dialogue, and interaction. However, Flickr and Instagram are the most active channels for #corporatesocialresponsibility. It should be mentioned that behind most engaging posts we found one organization, Trinity Care Foundation.

In addition, we found out that the most active days for communicating #CSR was Wednesday (38%) and for #corporatesocialresponsibility Tuesday (26%). Sundays were also active days for social media communication concerning both hashtags.

Themes were analysed using word clouds and analysis of words related to the posts. The themes related to discussions can be seen in Fig. 2. The first cloud represents the analysis of #CSR and the second cloud #corporatesocialresponsibility.

Figure 2 Themes related to #CSR and #corporatesocialresponsibility (prepared by the authors, 2021)

Word clouds are confusingly different. When #CSR discussions focus on business and workplace, #corporatesocialresponsibility discussions strongly indicate Covid -19 related themes.

This study is not enough to give us significant results. Only discussions in English were analysed and in a short timeframe. Moreover, channels like LinkedIn were not included in this study. We also must keep in mind that organisations discuss their responsible actions also without using the hashtag #CSR and #corporatesocialresponsibility. However, strategic use of hashtags is part of communication in social media. Hashtags are used to reach the target audience and encourage stakeholders in thematic discussions.  These indicative results give us many reasons to focus on communication strategies in the future.

What can we learn from these results?

Firstly, each social media platform is different, and what works on Instagram may not work on Twitter and vice versa. Secondly, the main issue in social media is that it works best for communication that is social in nature and manifests itself in interaction and dialogue. According to the results, communication on corporate social responsibility is mostly monologue style in a neutral tone and this will not engage stakeholders in dialogue. Finally, the good news is that there is a lot of space for strategic communication leading to openness in CSR activities and building a good reputation of organizations.  In addition, if it is in your interest, there is a good opportunity to profile yourself as an expert on CSR. You only need to know where your stakeholders are in social media and especially, what do they value.

Key takeaways!

  • choose appropriate channels
  • engage your audience in emotionally tagged dialogue. Both positive and negatively labelled discussions may lead to positive results.
  • use photos and videos
  • use both hashtags #CSR and #corporatesocialresponsibility, so people can find you. Add more relevant hashtags into your post to inform the theme you are discussing about.
  • be in active dialogue and listen to your audience! Especially on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays.

To be able to emphasize active stakeholder engagement and hear the bad and good bell will finally lead to an increase of trust in company CSR activities.

Written by Mervi Varhelahti, Rauni Jaskari and Susanna Saari, Turku University of Applied Sciences


Bialkova, S. & Te Paske, S. (2020). Campaign participation, spreading electronic word of mouth, purchase: how to optimise corporate social responsibility, CSR, effectiveness via social media? European Journal of Management and Business Economics, 30(1).

@Biryanibykilo (2021) in Instagram. Accessed 20.9.2021 at

Gómez, L. M. (2017). Social media concepts for effective CSR online communication. In Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility in the Digital Era (pp. 193-215). Routledge.

Jalonen, H. (2017). “A good bell is heard from far, a bad one still further”: A socio-demography of disclosing negative emotions in social media. The Journal of Social Media in Society, 6(1).

Kvasničková Stanislavská, L., Pilař, L., Margarisová, K. & Kvasnička, R. (2020). Corporate Social Responsibility and social media: Comparison between developing and developed countries. Sustainability12(13).

Keywords: social media, CSR, corporate social responsibility, dialogue, emotions

The Launch of Dynamic Material Bank for Teaching, Learning and Practicing Sustainability

After one year of intensive work, the result of “TOO4TO” project Intellectual Output 2 (IO2) – Dynamic Material Bank (DMB) (see illustration) – is already prepared and opened for public use since October (2021). It provides information relevant to various target groups wishing to develop and align their business practices with EU-supported SDGs educational institutions (teachers of higher education; students), business representatives, decision makers, researchers.

Currently, the database can be easily accessed via the TOO4TO project website (click here) or While preparing the database, there was a close collaboration with Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) IT department experts as the database is delivered through the KTU Moodle system. The construction of the curriculum is built on interdisciplinary and collaboration needs. The preparation process involved not only project partners, but also students and lecturers from different scientific fields and countries. The main information about the Early Development phase and general results of students’ and lecturers’ surveys is provided in the blog post “Dynamic Material Bank for Teaching, Learning and Practicing Sustainability. Early Development“. As a result, the DMB material is classified under six themes which appeared to be most appealing for students and lecturers:

  1. Corporate Social and Environmental Sustainability
  2. Sustainable Resource Management
  3. Climate Change and Sustainability
  4. Sustainable Energy Solutions
  5. Circular Economy, Economic and Sustainability, Sustainable Production
  6. Artificial Intelligence and Sustainability

The material for each theme includes open-access bibliography and active links to various information forms – regulations, policies (EU and global); best practice examples from industry; scientific articles and other scientific publications; software and other tools; reports (global, regional, national or industry level); international research projects (results); updates, insights from the business organizations. Each reference has a connection link identified to the specific UN SDGs or all of them. Therefore, the search of material is based on the sustainability areas, categories, SDGs and key words within the DMB.

Everyone is encouraged to develop a database together. After the launch, project partners, students and all DMB users will be able to make regular updates of the material as the knowledge in sustainability-related matters is not static. Regular updates of all the users will be done in the additional DMB in order all the entries would be reviewed by the administrators (from the technical and thematic point of view) and the periodic updates would be done by the proved and valuable data. Moreover, there will be an opportunity to disseminate, leave recommendations and comments regarding any possible improvements which would increase the usability of the DMB and it’s positive impact as one of the tools oriented to the future of sustainable development. Technical issues regarding the updating and usage are explained in the DMB manual.

As the DMB is created under the Moodle platform, it could be linked to other Moodle courses, and the assignment regarding the updating of the database could be exported to other Moodle courses in different educational institutions.

Further dissemination will be performed by providing link to it via various media. The link can be disseminated further via the databases of libraries and via the newsletter to the interested parties/stakeholders. It can also be disseminated via various social and professional media. Users of DMB are welcome to share the link and information about DMB at their institutions and beyond. 

Written by Inga Gurauskienė and Gabrielė Čepeliauskaitė, Kaunas University of Technology

Climate Change Education

Climate change is one of the most defining crises the globe is experiencing now, and it is unfolding rapidly and in a hazardous manner. In our Earth system, the disasters related to climate and weather extremes were always present. However, currently it is taking a dangerous turn with more frequent and intense climate disasters sweeping the world. No continent is left untouched, with heatwaves, droughts, typhoons, and hurricanes causing mass destruction around the world. 

Speaking of 2021 alone, the West of Germany and Belgium faced extreme rain floods as the increase in greenhouse gases led to increasing temperatures. Since warmer air holds more moisture, it translated into heavier rainfall. As estimated by science magazine, “by 2100, flood damage on the continent could cost as much as €48 billion per year—up from €7.8 billion now” (Cornwall, 2021). The extensive rains did not reach Europe only but also it swept parts of New York, Chinese, Indian and Turkish provinces causing several calamities, millions worth damage, wide range displacements and costing hundreds of lives (Khan, 2021).

As parts of the world are flooding, the other dry parts are getting drier causing droughts across the world. This phenomenon is based on the negative effects of global warming on evapotranspiration which is the movement of water into the atmosphere from land and water surfaces. Accordingly, precipitation has declined in areas such as Australia, Southern Africa, the Sahel region of Africa, Southern Asia, the Mediterranean, and the U.S. Southwest. Consequently, the chances of declining food security, agricultural challenges, poverty and even famine are increasing (Climatehotmap, 2021). Furthermore, the heat waves led to the rage of ferocious fires fueled by global warming and climate change in Canada, California, Italian Islands, Northeastern Spain and parts of Siberia, Turkey, Greece, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine (Washington Post, 2021, Al monitor, 2021).

As asserted by the United Nations, 90 per cent of disasters are now classified as weather and climate-related, costing the world economy 520 billion USD each year, and pushing 26 million people into poverty as a result. Not to mention the physical health challenges caused by the climate change. Nevertheless, as Secretary-General António Guterres pointed out in September, “the climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win”. (UN, 2021). Considering the complexity of the phenomenon and its repercussions, one of the crucial methods to combat it and promote effective climate action is education (UNESCO, 2021). The United Nations 4.7 (education for sustainable development) and 13.3 (education for climate protection and climate adaptation) complement the same scheme.

Education per the UNFCCC, Paris Agreement, 2015
Retrieved from:

A good quality education on climate change education imparts knowledge on climate, climate protection measures, societal climate resilience and develops a strong personal connection to climate solutions. The EU-funded TOO4TO project aspires and firmly embeds all of the above aspects in its curriculum. The project assists the students to comprehend the sophistication of the climate change phenomenon and its consequences. Moreover, it provides the students with the suitable material and techniques to enhance their analytical understanding and innovative skills to come up with policy recommendations or inventive methods that contribute to climate and environment protection on a wider scale. As emphasized by Kwauk and Winthrop, (2021), “leveraging the power of education is potentially more powerful than solely increasing investments in onshore wind turbines or concentrated solar power.

Educational keys for combating climate change.
Retrieved from:

Written by Ashraqat Fouda, Global Impact Grid


Dynamic Material Bank for Teaching, Learning and Practicing Sustainability. Early Development

Sustainable management solutions require a number of interrelated knowledge and skills, including economics, social and environmental science. Accordingly, the goal of the Intellectual Output 2 (IO2) of the “TOO4TO” project is to create a Dynamic Material Bank (DMB). A database, which provides quick access to open-access information, a list of up-to-date sources for organizations across different industries and locations. The tool will be useful for academics and, also, for practitioners. Lecturers from different universities will have an opportunity to integrate DMB into sustainability-related courses and those who wish to develop and align their business practices with the EU-supported SDGs. A periodic updating, relevance and applicability of information sources are necessary aspects that make a database dynamic. It will be ensured by providing the possibility of sharing and uploading additional recent sources by any user.

Concerning a broad scope of sustainability topics and possible variations for subtopics, an essential task for project partners was to ensure a consistent process of forming a concept of DMB, which would be applicable in as various study courses as possible. In the beginning, an indicative survey was carried out in project partners’ countries (Finland, Germany, Lithuania and Poland) to realise the need to study the courses oriented towards Sustainable Management, identify areas and fields of DMB. Indicative survey with students was initiated by Gdańsk University of Technology, Poland, and conducted in cooperation with the Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania and Turku University of Applied Sciences, Finland. Target groups of the surveys were lecturers and students from different fields of science and studies (management/economics, social science, engineering, IT, arts and humanities, etc.). The first – students’ survey – with general questions was organised in the project proposal stage. Subsequently, a concretised questionnaire was prepared for teachers. The students’ survey was conducted in February and April 2020, with a total of 190 filled questionnaires received, and a second survey, focusing on lecturers, was organised in February and March 2021, with 111 respondents.

Both surveys revealed interesting results about understanding and improving knowledge about sustainability and integrating this topic into specific courses.  Most of the students, from the universities already offering sustainability-related courses, agree that there is a need to improve knowledge in corporate sustainability (Finland – 73%, Lithuania – 87%, Poland – 90%). Also, more than a half of the students, who participated in a survey, would consider taking a course in “Sustainable Management”, if it was offered in their universities (Finland – 85%, Lithuania – 58%, Poland – 90%). The need was indicated by the lecturers to integrate DMB in the courses (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. a) Lecturers’ opinion about DMB integration into their courses, n=109; b) Lecturers’ opinion about DMB integration for literature updates in their courses, n=110 (prepared by the authors, 2021)

The most intriguing and exciting part of both surveys was identifying the most relevant sustainability areas, based on which the E-learning course and DMB were prepared. All the respondents were asked to choose three priority areas out of sixteen practicals for their teaching/learning courses. Each of the areas was offered by the project partners and discussed during the meetings. Figure 2 presents summarised general (total), students and lecturers priorities. Summed up results revealed that TOP 3 topics are Climate Change and Sustainability, Economics and Sustainability, and Sustainable Energy Solutions. The Figure also shows the differences between students and lecturers’ priorities. Most students selected Sustainable Energy Solutions for the first, Climate Change and Sustainability – the second, and Natural Resource Management – the third choice.

Meanwhile, the lecturers prioritised Circular Economy as the primary and first topic; Sustainable Production was the second choice, and Economics and Sustainability – the third one. Consequently, concerning the final summarised results, project partners agreed on six main topics as the bases for the DMB to be developed: AI & Sustainability, Corporate Social and Environmental Responsibility, Sustainable Energy Solutions, Circular Economy, Natural Resource Management, Climate Change and Sustainability. In addition, it is necessary to point out that some of the topics, which were not priority ones, will be integrated into the main ones.

Figure 2. The results of relevant sustainability areas, which could be integrated into the E-learning course and Dynamic Material Bank (prepared by the authors, 2021)

This blog post is oriented to describe the procedures of DMB development, not a DMB itself. At the moment, DMB is under the preparation and final revisions. The structure and final guidelines for using DMB will be presented in our next blog posts! The DMB will be opened in October 2021.

Written by Inga Gurauskiene and Gabriele Cepeliauskaite, Kaunas University of Technology Institute of Environmental Engineering.

Impact of the pandemic on businesses’ commitment to environmental sustainability and climate change issues

The ongoing climate change is one of the driving forces for the activities carried out within the framework of sustainable development. Environmental protection, ecology and the impact of climate change are being discussed more and more often since the effects of climate change are visible in every country [1]. Intensive economic development has contributed to a 50% higher greenhouse gas emission than in 1990, which strongly influences global warming. This warming is a real threat to the socio-economic system because it brings about severe consequences like increased ocean temperatures, which negatively influence the aquatic organisms or forces changes in viticulture techniques that are needed to adapt to the changing climate, which is mostly visible in the Mediterranean zone [2-4]. Some of the most known impacts of climate change are presented in Figure 1.

Figure 1 Climate change key facts [5-6]

European Union, in the document “Strategy for Sustainable Europe 2030”, set seventeen Sustainable Development Goals for the EU members, which together, with The Paris Climate Agreement (UNCFCCC) stand as a guide for international cooperation for the sustainable development in the economic, social, environmental and governance dimensions. Moreover, recently (14.06.2021) G7, a group of representatives of seven countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Great Britain, United States), characterized by the most advanced and industrialized economies across the globe, had a meeting discussing the climate change issues. During the meeting, members of G7 have agreed to support the action of preventing climate change. They stated to renew the collection of $100 billion every year to help developing countries reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The funding would help countries that could be affected by extreme weather and climate-linked disaster. The last commitment of target finance collection was not met, partly due to the coronavirus pandemic, which caused economic downturns worldwide [7-8].

Even though COVID-19 caused economic disruptions, we all saw changes that appeared in the environment during the disruptive 2020 while the pandemic had started. Due to the lockdown established in many places, there were significant improvements in air quality expressed in the reduction of particulate matter concentration. Just in the USA, the concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and carbon monoxide (CO) were lower by 49% and 37%, respectively [9].

The pandemic has also influenced the actions taken by entrepreneurs for environmental protection what is presented in detail in the report published by Deloitte Global. The report is focused on the perspectives of entrepreneurs on the climate change issue in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. The given study was based on a survey of 750 executives from 13 countries, which took place between January and February 2021. 80% of the respondents declared that they are concerned about climate change, and their organizations are starting to feel the consequences of it, mostly by:

perspectives of entrepreneurs on the climate change issue in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. The given study was based on a survey of 750 executives from 13 countries, which took place between January and February 2021. 80% of the respondents declared that they are concerned about climate change, and their organizations are starting to feel the consequences of it, mostly by:

  • operational impact of climate-related disaster;
  • scarcity and the cost of resources;
  • regulatory and political uncertainty;
  • increased insurance cost or lack of insurance availability [10].

Even though the pandemic slowed the actions taken by entrepreneurs in environmental sustainability, 25% of executives declared they will accelerate these actions in the coming months. Currently, there are five actions taken by companies the most often which are:

  • implementation of the public policy positions in the context of environmental sustainability and climate change;
  • setting the requirements to suppliers and business partners to meet criteria of environmental sustainability issues;
  • choosing for production more sustainable/recyclable materials;
  • education of board and senior management regarding climate issues;
  • creation of additional employee positions responsible for the environmental sustainability performance of a company [10].

There are already positive changes visible, and there is a significant increase in the current effort done by companies for the environment, presented in Figure 2.

Figure 2 Largest increase of efforts taken by companies for environmental sustainability [10]

The pandemic has helped entrepreneurs understand that individual actions such as reducing business travel done on a large scale collectively can reduce the company’s impact on the environment. Around 68% of executives are going to limit their carbon footprint by the continuous personal behavior changes [10].

All of that shows that climate change is a rising issue within enterprises. There is an increasing need for well-trained managers that will deal with the current goals and help companies meet the requirements of environmental sustainability. Thus, knowledge and skills in the context of sustainability, environmental protection and sustainable management gathered during the course of sustainable management will be precious.

Written by Magdalena Fabjanowicz, Gdańsk University of Technology


[1]J. Marlon et al., Glob. Environ. Change (2021) 68, pp 102247             

[2] Y. Liu, J. Zang, Y, Qin, Technol. Forecast. Soc. Change (2020) 160, pp 1202229

[3] B. Abirami et al., Sci Total Environ. (2021) 791, pp 147905

[4] G.Gutiérrez-Gamboa, W. Zheng, F. Martínez de Toda, Food Res. Int. (2020) 139, pp 109946

[5] UNDP ”Climate Action”, Available: (accessed: 15.06.2021)

[6] NASA “Climate Change: How Do We Know?”, Available: (accessed: 16.06.2021)

[7] BBC News, “G7 summit: Leaders pledge climate action but disappoint activists”, Available:, (accessed: 16.06.2021)

[8] S.P. Nathaniel, Md.S. Alam, M. Murshed, H. Mahmood, Environ. Sci. Pollut. Res. (2021)

[9] R. Nigam, K. Pandaya, AJ. Luis, R. Sengupta, M. Kotha, Sci. Rep. (2021) 11, pp 4285

[10] Deloitte. Report: 2021 Climate Check: Business’ Views on Environmental Sustainability, Available:

Innovation Pedagogy in Action at May Workshop

What is Innovation Pedagogy?

Innovation pedagogy or Innopeda® as it is called for short, is a strategic approach to modern learning. It was chosen as the preferred approach in the TOO4TO –project for providing a new edge for developing the e-Learning modules and curriculum as part of the project outcomes. 

We at Turku University of Applied Sciences (Turku UAS) have started the development of the innovation pedagogy approach already in 2006. According to Joshi, Storti and Scheinin (2021) the aim “has been to provide competences needed in working life and to promote innovations and regional development. Innopeda® is implemented in all Turku UAS’ sectors and on all study fields. It has effects on all key activities of the university, including learning and teaching methods, working life cooperation and curriculum design, and it has been developed systematically during its lifespan”.  It was only natural that this new pedagogical approach was included in the TOO4TO project plan already early on. 

Innovation pedagogy is based on the cornerstones of learning as seen in figure 1. They are the methods and tools necessary while implementing the learning process. Students, despite discipline, must acquire the core competences of their own study fields in addition to a set of so-called innovation competences.  These competences have five dimensions that focus on creativity, critical thinking, initiative, team working and networking. The final aim is the student’s success in work and in life.

Figure 1. Innovation pedagogy in a nutshell (Konst & Kairisto-Mertanen, 2019)

Innopeda in action

Due to Covid –19 pandemic all the TOO4TO-project meetings have been online so far. This also happened to the Innopeda® workshop, planned to be run for the members of the project already during the kick-off meeting in Poland.  As the time to start planning for the e-learning modules and the curriculum approached, May 12th 2021 was chosen as the day for a full day workshop lead by Turku UAS team. The practical arrangements were done over Teams platform with a pre-assignment for all those attending from the partnering Universities.  In the pre-assignment, the participants considered “Activating learning and teaching methods” and “Multidisciplinary learning environment” to be the most important themes to focus on during the workshop.  A comment from one of the participants: “Teachers can be more than parrots” probably best expresses the expectations for the day.  

True to Innopeda ethos, the day included various activities: a short keynote by the Head of Innopeda Training Center, but most of all working in small groups with discussions using virtual collaboration platforms e.g. regarding evaluation and student assessment as well as the implementation of Innopeda in the future actions of TOO4TO project. The whole group seemed very happy with the workshop day and as the planning of the e-learning modules and the curriculum are already at full speed, the “takings” like self and peer-assessment methods, group learning diaries and virtual hackathons from the day have been included in the future plans. 

Innopeda Workshop participants. Picture by Ela Kurtcu

Written by Susanna Saari, Mervi Varhelahti and Marjatta Rännäli, Turku University of Applied Sciences


Innopeda by Turku AMK (n.d.) Retrieved 9.6.2021 from

Joshi, M., Storti, A. & Scheinin, M. (2021). Innopeda Quality Handbook. Turku University of Applied Sciences. Unpublished Manuscript. 

Konst, T., & Kairisto-Mertanen, L. Developing innovation pedagogy. Contemporary Educational Researches Journal, 9(3), 74–84.

Implementation of UN SDGs in Small and Mid-size Enterprises (SMEs): The Challenges and Opportunities

“Sustainable development is the pathway to the future we want for all. It offers a framework to generate economic growth, achieve social justice, exercise environmental stewardship and strengthen governance” (Ban Ki-Moon, 2013)[1]. That is why in 2015, 93 countries agreed on 17 goals and 169 sub-goals at the United Nations General Assembly covering three main areas of sustainable development: ecological, economic and social.

 Various studies suggest that a key factor in achieving sustainable development is through implementing corporate social responsibility and systematic sustainability in the private sector. The studies also show that the SMEs account for an overwhelming majority of private sector business and economic activity in both developed and developing countries. Therefore, their impact and significance should be revealed.

 According to the EU guidelines, SMEs can be defined as firms with fewer than 250 employees and an annual turnover not exceeding 50 million euros and/or an annual balance sheet total not exceeding 43 million euros (European Commission, 2005). According to the EU Central Bank[2], the SMEs make up to 99.8% of all non-financial companies in the EU, provide 66.6% of jobs and generate 56.4% of added value. Nevertheless, they are currently facing a serious hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic surging situation across the globe. Since that the pandemic has forced around 70% SMEs to shut down their operations. The recovery efforts though are inspired largely by the SDGs through focusing on how to rebuild more inclusive economies and societies, to set a new course for a socially just, low-carbon and climate-resilient world where no one is left behind (Pwc, 2020).

The International Trade Centre report “SME Competitiveness Outlook” (2019) indicates that, the SMEs can contribute to improving the SDGs through four channels: employee impacts (Goals 1, 2, 3, 8), business practice impacts (Goals 5, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16), sectorial impacts (Goals 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11) and national economy impacts (Goals 1, 8, 9, 10, 17). This confirms the experts’ observations that the SMEs play a key role in achieving the economic SDGs, as well as fostering innovation and sustainable industrialization, in addition to their contribution to the promotion of human development through promoting social progress, addressing income inequalities by providing good-quality jobs and working conditions.

In other words, one may state that SMEs are “a major engine” of economic growth and socioeconomic development. Therefore, their potential contribution to the realization and implementation of the SDGs is vital. This potential however is undermined by various challenges; a limited number of (qualified) employees, scarcity of collaboration between the SMEs, governments and higher education institutions, limited access to finance, lack of knowledge, skills and tools for business model innovations as well as insufficient marketing and strategic management skills. Moreover, with the overwhelming waves of information available and the general lack of expertise compared to larger companies, the SMEs face uneasiness in identifying how they can contribute to the SDGs realization. That being said, it has been proven that there is a wide range of knowledge, educational objectives, capacities and skills development methods implemented within educational initiatives frameworks which can successfully help in filling this substantial gap and achieving the SDGs by 2030. Accordingly, attaining the SDGs requires a much more responsible policy and a much stronger public consensus, association and dialogue with all stakeholders including government, businesses, civil society and higher educational institutes (Belyaeva, Lopatkova, 2020).

In accordance with the EU adherence to the realization and implementation of the SDGs, education is recognized to be one of the main catalysts of overcoming the above-mentioned challenges and attaining sustainable development. Accordingly, several European initiatives are focusing on global partnership and cooperation in this field.

Being one of these initiatives, the EU-funded Erasmus+ project TOO4TO aims at enhancing the knowledge, skills, and capabilities of (future) employees and managers and providing them with a working-life oriented educational tool for promoting sustainable development. This, consequently, will help in addressing the challenges faced by the SMEs in incorporating the SDGs; given that the gap between businesses and higher education institutions will be bridged, employees will be more qualified and informed, and sustainability and innovation will be more integrated in the study programs to help lessen the lack of knowledge on that front.

Thus, if the challenges mentioned previously vanquish and the SMEs engage with the SDGs successfully at the local level, that can help in increasing the global sustainability and the SMEs can contribute about 60% of the sustainable development targets (ITC, 2019).

Written by Ashrakat Ashraf Fouda, Global Impact Grid


Belyaeva, Z., & Lopatkova, Y. (2020). The Impact of Digitalization and Sustainable Development Goals in SMEs’ Strategy: A Multi-Country European Study. Palgrave Studies In Cross-Disciplinary Business Research, In Association With Euromed Academy Of Business, 15-38. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-45835-5_2

COVID-19 Private Sector Global Facility announced at SDG Business Forum. (2020). Retrieved 14 May 2021, from

International Trade Centre. (2019). SME competitiveness outlook 2019: Big money for small business – Financing the sustainable development goals. ITC, Geneva. Retrieved from

User guide to the SME Definition. (2005). Retrieved 14 May 2021, from



An interdisciplinary education as necessary tool for future challenges

The best investment in our future is the investment in our people. Skills and education drive Europe’s competitiveness and innovation... “–

President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen 

A long-term vision of sustainability covers cross-boundary issues while trying to combine economic growth, social equity and equality, and efficient use of natural resources in an equal measure. Ambitious “green” transition is embodied in “The European Green Deal” – a plan, which could foster a resource-efficient, circular, digitised, and climate neutral economy in future Europe. It is one of the examples, which clearly shows the interlinkages between different areas such as business, governance, and industry with a strong focus on science and education. In this transition, universities are responsible for the right skills insurance, which support the EU strategic vision, and, at the same time, guarantee a qualified workforce for better sustainable competitiveness, social fairness, and resilience.

Covid-19 –  is another real and global case study of complexity and urgency, which has shown that the – one in the field is not a soldier.  A number of factors have been analysed from specific scientific perspectives – environmental (e.g., air quality), social (death), and economic (GDP, unemployment) (Bontempi et al., 2020). The crisis, more than ever, has proved that systemic shocks involve different experts from engineering, political, geographic, social, and economic disciplines. To respond to complex challenges from only “one point of view” is not enough. Regional and global trends (COVID-19, EU Green Deal, Circular Economy, EU Industrial Strategy) show a need for expanding interdisciplinary competencies that could be integrated by students with different undergraduate education or already working professionals.

Therefore, these complex issues in the World already have proved that standard curricula have become too segregated along disciplinary lines. Moreover, an increasingly complicated world requires a broad understanding of the connections between diverse forms of knowledge and inquiry. Therefore, higher education institutions are already examining ways to integrate different study subjects by applying interdisciplinary approaches.

Heidi Hayes Jacobs, an interdisciplinary learning expert, describes interdisciplinary as a knowledge, view and curriculum approach that consciously applies methodology and language from more than one discipline to examine a central theme, topic, issue, problem, or work. However, this challenging technique in the modern curriculum requires the creation of lecturers’ teams and students that enrich the overall educational experience (Casey, 2009). It represents a holistic approach – thinking in a “big picture” and analysing a topic as a whole interconnected entity. Understand every constituent interrelate and synergies of a larger system. It is used for complex problem solutions and is mostly applied in sustainability contexts.

A holistic approach and system thinking that helps to make connections between ideas and concepts across different disciplinary boundaries while coping with the complex real challenges.

Figure 1. Interdisciplinary approach in education (created by the authors, 2021).

There are several examples where an interdisciplinary approach is applied in Kaunas University of Technology studies and courses. Study programme “Sustainable Management and Production” integrates the sustainable development principles, combines engineering and a holistic life cycle approaches, acquiring a unique ability to systematically assess the consequences of decisions in terms of environmental, economic, and technological aspects. Another example is a broad course “Sustainable development”, which is created and taught by lecturers as an alternative for all bachelor students in KTU. It was the first time in the University when lecturers from different scientific disciplines (representatives from seven departments of KTU) belong to one working group developing and teaching one course.

Moreover, KTU course “Sustainable Human Development” helps to develop a deeper understanding about sustainable human development, main challenges and problems related to demographic, technological, environmental changes. 

As a partner of ERASMUS+ project TOO4TO, KTU is developing a Dynamic Material Bank (DMB) – an interdisciplinary database for innovative courses and a tool which could be used by students and lecturers interested in sustainability issues. DMB will be published later in 2021. KTU, in cooperation with all project partners (ERASMUS+ project TOO4TO – Sustainable Management: Tools for Tomorrow), will orient project activities and outputs towards the coherent development and interdisciplinary education contact as an integral part of different study programs and courses, developing future-oriented skills and competencies.

Written by Inga Gurauskienė and Gabrielė Čepeliauskaitė, Kaunas University of Technology


Bontempi, E., Vergalli, S., & Squazzoni, F. (2020). Understanding COVID-19 diffusion requires an interdisciplinary, multi-dimensional approach. Environmental Research, 188, 109814. Available online:

Jones, Casey (2009) “Interdisciplinary Approach – Advantages, Disadvantages, and the Future Benefits of Interdisciplinary Studies,”ESSAI: Vol. 7, Article 26.Available at:

What is interdisciplinary learning? Available online:

25 Years Ago I Coined the Phrase “Triple Bottom Line (TBL).” Here’s Why It’s Time to Rethink It. By John Elkington June 25, 2018:

TOO4TO to Integrate Sustainability into Higher Education Studies

“The current decade is the make-or-break moment for our planet”. These were the words of the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in her appearance at the recently held virtual event “Investing in Climate Action” [1]. She highlighted in her speech that “the global emissions [are] still rising and that this has to change as a matter of urgency”, whilst acknowledging that “climate action is not only a necessity, it is also the greatest economic opportunity of our lifetime […] similar to the digital revolution 40 years ago”.

To respond to climate change and environmental degradation, the European Union has initiated The European Green Deal to make the EU’s economy sustainable [2]. As part of this plan, education and training have been recognised as essential enablers of the transition towards a more sustainable future. Moreover, in line with the EU-supported UN sustainable development goals, education is one of the most powerful and proven vehicles for sustainable development, and its goals can only be realised within global partnership and cooperation. Sustainable Management: Tools for Tomorrow (TOO4TO) will be taking on this challenge!

TOO4TO isa 35-month EU-funded Erasmus+ project, running until August 2023 in cooperation with European strategic partner institutions. This website will be the main source of information about the TOO4TO project and its developments. Additionally, this website will host an active blog whose purpose is to explore and stimulate discussion on various issues related to sustainability from various perspectives. In this first blog entry, we wish briefly to introduce the ongoing project and the exciting road ahead of us!

TOO4TO was initiated by the Gdańsk University of Technology to address the need for the greater integration of the topic of sustainability into management study programmes. After all, various sources indicate a growing labour market demand for sustainability professionals [3]–[5] and sustainability competencies, even in positions that are not directly related to sustainability [6]. At the same time, the recent Eurobarometer survey on public attitudes to the environment has shown a clear majority of Europeans thinking that large companies and industries are not doing enough to protect the environment [7]. Assessing and demonstrating sustainability may also be difficult for organisations because there is no clear understanding of what sustainability means in the organisational context [8].

To respond to the labour market needs, TOO4TO aims to increase the skills, competencies and awareness of future managers and employees with available tools and methods that can provide sustainable management and, as a result, support sustainable development in the EU and beyond.

The project seeks to achieve its aim by designing a working-life oriented curriculum and deliver it in the form of an e-learning course to students of management disciplines. As part of the learning materials, the project intends to establish a Dynamic Material Bank, which summarises and compiles the most recent and relevant open-access materials devoted to sustainability applicable in an organisational context. As an innovative educational method, the e-learning course is intended to be arranged so that students can work on international group assignments virtually with students from the partnering higher education institutions, which will enhance the learners’ communication and problem-solving skills in virtual multicultural teams. Indeed, such skills are increasingly important due to the exceptional current events caused by COVID-19, which has demonstrated how vital it is for companies and education institutions to possess skills and competencies in virtual teamwork. 

In addition to the Gdańsk University of Technology, the project consortium comprises three other European strategic partner institutions and one associated partner. The Kaunas University of Technology, based in Lithuania, has over 20 years of experience in environmental-oriented multidisciplinary programmes. In Finland, Turku University of Applied Sciences has extensive experience in arranging courses in a virtual environment. TOO4TO adopts their invented innovation pedagogy (INNOPEDA®), a learning approach that enhances individuals and groups’ innovation competencies. Global Impact Grid, based in Germany,is a global advisory network within the sustainability and impact realm. Their associated partner Steinbeis University Berlin – The Institute Corporate Responsibility Management, in turn, has over ten years of experience in developing Management and CSR-related curricula.

TOO4TO is aimed to have an impact beyond the consortium. All project results will be made available on open access and published here on the website. The consortium is currently working on the Dynamic Material Bank, which will be published in Autumn 2021. The course curriculum will be designed in a modular form so that other higher education institutions can freely transfer it to their use as a whole or integrate parts of it into their existing study programmes. The e-learning course and its learning content will also be made available for anyone in a self-study mode. Lastly, the project wishes to share the learning experiences from the multicultural teamwork exercises conducted in the virtual environment and disseminate them in the form of a guide.

The TOO4TO team wishes everyone a pleasant read. Welcome aboard!

Written by Eljas Johansson, Gdańsk University of Technology


[1]       Project Syndicate, “Investing in Climate Action Watch Now,” 2021. (accessed Mar. 14, 2021).

[2]       European Commission, “The European Green Deal,” Brussels, 2019. [Online]. Available:

[3]       European Commission, “Towards a Sustainable Europe by 2030,” Brussels, 2019. [Online]. Available:

[4]       GreenBiz Group, “State of the Profession,” 2013. [Online]. Available: of the Profession 2013.pdf?mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRonu6TAZKXonjHpfsX74%2BkqX6axlMI%2F0ER3fOvrPUfGjI4ATMFnI%2BSLDwEYGJlv6SgFSLHEMa5qw7gMXRQ%3D

[5]       M. Gitsham and T. S. Clark, “Market demand for sustainability in management education,” Int. J. Sustain. High. Educ., vol. 15, no. 3, pp. 291–3030, 2014, [Online]. Available:

[6]       The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, “Beyond the Right Thing to Do : The Value of Sustainability in Higher Education,” 2017. [Online]. Available:

[7]       TNS opinion & social and European Commission, “Special Eurobarometer 468,” 2017. [Online]. Available:

[8]       R. Antolín-López, J. Delgado-Ceballos, and I. Montiel, “Deconstructing corporate sustainability: a comparison of different stakeholder metrics,” J. Clean. Prod., vol. 136, pp. 5–17, 2016, Available: