Reducing SDG complexity and informing environmental management education via an empirical six-dimensional model of sustainable development

Steven J. Greenland, Muhammad Saleem, Roopali Misra, Ninh Nguyen, Jon Mason

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Effective environmental management higher education programs are essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Yet SDG complexity means many educators focus on environment and avoid critical but challenging social, economic and governance aspects. This undermines the calls for comprehensive environmental management education that effectively integrates all key sustainability dimensions. Various sustainability models, mostly founded on the pillars of sustainability, have consequently evolved. They are generally conceptual and/or involve subjective categorization of the SDGs, which has led to demands for more empirically based models. This study has consequently used a mixed-method approach to model Australian university students’ SDG perceptions. The qualitative research identified three items (on average) for each SDG, and a quantitative survey then measured their perceived importance. Factor analysis generated a robust six-dimensional sustainable development model comprised of 37 SDG items, which validates environment and governance aspects of some traditional pillar-based sustainability models. It has also uncovered new social and economic dimensions: social harmony and equality; sustainable consumption and socioeconomic behaviors; sustainable production, industry and infrastructure; and acute poverty reduction. These findings can help educators, organizations and citizens to categorize and integrate SDGs via better understanding of their key dimensions and impacts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118328
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Volume344
Early online date18 Jun 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2023

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