Sulitest – Fostering sustainability literacy for all

How new tools can help develop sustainable literacy. By Aurelien Decamps, Estela Castelli Florino Pilz, Jean-Christophe Carteron and Marcela Folloni

In 2012, at the Rio+20 conference, higher education institutions (HEIs) officially recognised their crucial role in contributing to sustainable development. They committed to using their influence and participation in society to encourage better citizenship and train future decision makers. However, at this time there were no assessment tools available to help guide this path, especially to answer some key questions: How can HEIs evaluate the awareness of their students and adapt their pedagogical approach accordingly? And, how can HEIs monitor learning outcomes on global systemic topics like the SDGs? Sulitest, a French non-profit organisation that has become a global community, strives to answer to these questions and meet these needs.

Sulitest’s vision is to develop Sustainability Literacy worldwide, while also empowering engaged and committed global citizens to make informed and responsible decisions to collectively build a sustainable future. Sustainable development requires not only literacy but also awareness, engagement, and co-creation of knowledge. To meet this need, Sulitest has developed an ecosystem of tools.

Tools that Sulitest currently offers, free of charge, include the SuliTest Learning mode, an assessment tool; the SuliQuiz, an interactive game; and Looping, a reverse pedagogy tool. Moreover, with Premium membership, users can also access the Explorer, a discovery tool. The main feature of Premium access is that organisations and schools have the ability to customise the test and tailor the Sulitest experience to the objectives and specific needs to their own institution! Customised modules can be used in addition to the Core module of the Sulitest, so schools can map the general understanding of sustainability, plus assess specific questions needed for your research, assessment or data gathering.

Sulitest’s vision is to develop Sustainability Literacy worldwide, while also empowering engaged and committed global citizens to make informed and responsible decisions to collectively build a sustainable future. Sustainable development requires not only literacy but also awareness, engagement, and co-creation of knowledge.

Rather than being ‘the’ solution to all the challenges, Sulitest strives to be one of the key enablers of Education for Sustainable Development. Sulitest is unique in working to create internationally relevant tools that enhance and map sustainability literacy worldwide. The tools are designed to allow flexibility of use to suit different organisational needs. Users can choose from different tools, modules, session durations, setting individual or group sessions, and more. It is also possible to create customised modules, allowing faculty or staff to have ownership of their tools and tailor questions to a specific subject taught in a course (i.e. marketing or finance), a specific topic important for an organisation (i.e. CSR strategy), a certain group in a company (i.e. procurement department) or even carry out a survey about their community engagement.

Introducing sustainability easily and seamlessly

Sulitest’s best-known tool, the Test, is a ready-made individual assessment package that includes a core module of 30 international questions, and optionally, specialised modules focusing on a specific country, SDG, or topic of choice through customisation. The Test can be easily integrated into the curriculum and several institutions already use it to initiate discussions around sustainable development or as a part of their integration activities.

Individuals and examiners immediately see their results upon completing the test. The results are automatically benchmarked against the global session results, national and international averages; and broken down according to SDGs and knowledge areas. The Test enables many institutions to map and assess their students’ understanding, see their results relative to other institutions, and inform strategy, in just a few clicks. Sulitest’s team, experts and advisory board have developed this insightful tool so institutions can easily implement it and support the vision of bringing sustainability literacy for all!

For Cesar Nanni, Sustainability Coordinator at the University of Monterrey (UDEM, Mexico), asking all new students to take the test gives teaching staff a good overview of the topics which they must work on. Anders Sandoff from the University of Gothenburg explains how, “Having used Sulitest for some years in my masterclass, I see the value of having a tool that engages students from all over the world in a common understanding of important sustainability challenges. As a tutor I also appreciate the discussions one can have on regional and even national differences.”

Reimagining pedagogy

The complexity of the challenges identified in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a perfect example of why we need to rethink pedagogy. The traditional ‘top-down’ pedagogy gives students a passive role in education, limiting growth and development. Instead, we need learners to become actors of their pedagogical experience, change agents capable of answering to the pressing challenges of sustainable development.

Reverse pedagogy is one way of doing this: creating meaningful and relevant questions, while learning from rigorous sources and composing learning statements, can be an impactful pedagogical experience for students. Looping by Sulitest is an interface that conducts reverse pedagogy for SDGs by facilitating the co-creation of questions. This interface fosters active learning and promotes peer-learning and peer-evaluation that requires collective intelligence and critical thinking.

In practice, the Looping platform facilitates workshops in active learning. Participants are divided into teams and create questions for a list of subjects selected by the facilitator. These are then peer-reviewed by other teams of the session against selected criteria, edited and submitted for evaluation. The facilitator then reviews the final submissions and approves the questions, which could then be used to create customised module for a SuliTest session.

Understanding student expectations and generating awareness

Students are at the centre of education and should be at the core of any academic CSR strategy. The new generation of undergraduates is keenly aware of the climate crisis we are facing and students are increasingly demanding that their institutions take a strong stand. Hence, understanding their expectations is crucial to inform the university’s strategy and operational priorities.

Through a customised module, Kedge Business School (France) deploys a questionnaire via the Sulitest that helps university management set priorities, respond to the incoming student body’s expectations and improve the student experience. When new students arrive on campus, “they are asked to take the international module as well as a module on the CSR strategy of the school. Sample questions include: ‘To what extent did Kedge Business School’s CSR and sustainability policy influence your decision to enrol here?’; ‘Well-being, equal opportunities, responsible management… What is your opinion about the sustainability themes your school is engaged with?’. These questions help the CSR department and faculty members better understand the sustainability awareness and affinity for specific actions of their incoming students,” said Jean-Christophe Carteron, CSR Director at Kedge and Sulitest co-founder!

When your CSR strategy is already in place, it is important to communicate your approach and bring students on board with it. Their collaboration is key for creating a more sustainable campus, and that collaborative action starts with awareness. “The customised module ‘GEM School for Business for Society’ helps raise awareness among faculty and students about GEM’s CSR strategy, organisational culture and activities while simultaneously learning more about their individual areas of interest and commitment to sustainability,” explains Jaclyn Rosebrook-Collignon, Head of Sustainability & Global Responsibility at Grenoble Ecole de Management (France).

Making business better

Sulitest is also helping inform the future generation of business leaders as it is widely used in business schools. The international core module gives a general understanding of our global challenges, which also provides opportunities for entrepreneurship, innovation and economic development. “Being a valuable teaching tool, we took the opportunity of the Sulitest to add ten more practical business-oriented questions that are directly linked to the preoccupations of managers on various CSR-related topics such as sustainable development goals, triple bottom line, inclusive business, social business, CEO activism, and many more,” said Rodolphe Durand, Founder and Academic Director Society and Organisations (S&O) Centre at HEC (France).

When your CSR strategy is already in place, itis important to communicate your approach and bring students on board with it. Their collaboration is key for creating a more sustainable campus, and that collaborative action starts with awareness.

Beyond the academic setting, Sulitest also empowers companies and other institutions to build sustainability literacy with their staff. “Specifically, the fact that we were able to customise an entire set of questions to match our operational needs, on top of the core questions, allowed us to use the test to our best advantage and train our staff according to our strategic CSR vision.” said Nicholas Vantreese, Head of CSR at La Banque Postale. “Sulitest make our staff aware of the major international challenges and (help them) to better understand the Group’s CSR policy” added Laurence Acerbo, Group Responsible Development Director at ONET.

Supporting global discussions (SDG 14 module)

Sulitest also collaborates with key stakeholders to inform discussions about hot topics. As an example, Sulitest is currently developing a module of questions about SDG 14 focused on oceans, a project jointly led by Mercator Ocean International and UNDESA. “There is an unprecedented need for skilled and knowledgeable people to address, mitigate and solve ocean issues on a global scale. Our commitment to Sulitest SDG14 is not only a way to make aware and mobilise the youth.

Sulitest is also helping inform the future generation of business leaders as it is widely used in business schools. The international core module gives a general understanding of our global challenges, which also provides opportunities for entrepreneurship, innovation and economic development.

We also intend with Sulitest and UNDESA teams to inspire young citizens and future decision-makers to work towards a sustainable ocean, something that can also offer them so many opportunities in return, provided it is properly protected and conserved. We have built an Expert Group made of International ocean scientists, practitioners, experts, policy- and decision-makers, to conceive the SDG 14 MCQ Module,” says Cécile Thomas-Courcoux, International Development & Cooperation Director at Mercator.

Besides the objective of increasing interest and awareness around ocean-related issues, this module offers a unique opportunity to collect data on ocean awareness among leaders, managers and, more broadly, among citizens. Analysing and discussing the initial data before the upcoming UN Ocean Conference could enlighten us as to links and gaps between concepts, challenges and the understanding around ocean-related issues.

Looking to the future

As an enabler, Sulitest’s focus and strength are in its community: the universities and companies that use and contribute to Sulitest, the conversations it generates, the people that advocate for Sulitest’s mission, and the platforms and initiatives Sulitest partners with. This ecosystem allows Sulitest to reach the students, the staff and the citizens who will be empowered with the knowledge, skills, and mindset to construct a world we can be proud of.

Sulitest hopes to develop more partnerships, enable education for sustainable development by building and improving the toolset it offers. More modules of questions are in development, and robustness and rigour are being further improved in order to develop a Certificate.

Sulitest welcomes all institutions, from academic to corporate, to sign up and join the movement that is bringing sustainability literacy for all!

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