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Essay on Sustainable Development: Samples in 250, 300 and 500 Words

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  • Nov 18, 2023

Essay on Sustainable Development

On 3rd August 2023, the Indian Government released its Net zero emissions target policy to reduce its carbon footprints. To achieve the sustainable development goals (SDG) , as specified by the UN, India is determined for its long-term low-carbon development strategy. Selfishly pursuing modernization, humans have frequently compromised with the requirements of a more sustainable environment.

As a result, the increased environmental depletion is evident with the prevalence of deforestation, pollution, greenhouse gases, climate change etc. To combat these challenges, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change launched the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) in 2019. The objective was to improve air quality in 131 cities in 24 States/UTs by engaging multiple stakeholders.

‘Development is not real until and unless it is sustainable development.’ – Ban Ki-Moon

The concept of Sustainable Development in India has even greater relevance due to the controversy surrounding the big dams and mega projects and related long-term growth. Since it is quite a frequently asked topic in school tests as well as competitive exams , we are here to help you understand what this concept means as well as the mantras to drafting a well-written essay on Sustainable Development with format and examples.

This Blog Includes:

What is sustainable development, 250-300 words essay on sustainable development, 300 words essay on sustainable development, 500 words essay on sustainable development, introduction, conclusion of sustainable development essay, importance of sustainable development, examples of sustainable development.

As the term simply explains, Sustainable Development aims to bring a balance between meeting the requirements of what the present demands while not overlooking the needs of future generations. It acknowledges nature’s requirements along with the human’s aim to work towards the development of different aspects of the world. It aims to efficiently utilise resources while also meticulously planning the accomplishment of immediate as well as long-term goals for human beings, the planet as well and future generations. In the present time, the need for Sustainable Development is not only for the survival of mankind but also for its future protection. 

Looking for ideas to incorporate in your Essay on Sustainable Development? Read our blog on Energy Management – Find Your Sustainable Career Path and find out!

To give you an idea of the way to deliver a well-written essay, we have curated a sample on sustainable development below, with 250-300 words:

To give you an idea of the way to deliver a well-written essay, we have curated a sample on sustainable development below, with 300 + words:

Essay on Sustainable Development

Must Read: Article Writing

To give you an idea of the way to deliver a well-written essay, we have curated a sample on sustainable development below, with 500 + words:

Essay on Sustainable Development

Essay Format

Before drafting an essay on Sustainable Development, students need to get familiarised with the format of essay writing, to know how to structure the essay on a given topic. Take a look at the following pointers which elaborate upon the format of a 300-350 word essay.

Introduction (50-60 words) In the introduction, students must introduce or provide an overview of the given topic, i.e. highlighting and adding recent instances and questions related to sustainable development. Body of Content (100-150 words) The area of the content after the introduction can be explained in detail about why sustainable development is important, its objectives and highlighting the efforts made by the government and various institutions towards it.  Conclusion (30-40 words) In the essay on Sustainable Development, you must add a conclusion wrapping up the content in about 2-3 lines, either with an optimistic touch to it or just summarizing what has been talked about above.

How to write the introduction of a sustainable development essay? To begin with your essay on sustainable development, you must mention the following points:

  • What is sustainable development?
  • What does sustainable development focus on?
  • Why is it useful for the environment?

How to write the conclusion of a sustainable development essay? To conclude your essay on sustainable development, mention why it has become the need of the hour. Wrap up all the key points you have mentioned in your essay and provide some important suggestions to implement sustainable development.

The importance of sustainable development is that it meets the needs of the present generations without compromising on the needs of the coming future generations. Sustainable development teaches us to use our resources in the correct manner. Listed below are some points which tell us the importance of sustainable development.

  • Focuses on Sustainable Agricultural Methods – Sustainable development is important because it takes care of the needs of future generations and makes sure that the increasing population does not put a burden on Mother Earth. It promotes agricultural techniques such as crop rotation and effective seeding techniques.
  • Manages Stabilizing the Climate – We are facing the problem of climate change due to the excessive use of fossil fuels and the killing of the natural habitat of animals. Sustainable development plays a major role in preventing climate change by developing practices that are sustainable. It promotes reducing the use of fossil fuels which release greenhouse gases that destroy the atmosphere.
  • Provides Important Human Needs – Sustainable development promotes the idea of saving for future generations and making sure that resources are allocated to everybody. It is based on the principle of developing an infrastructure that is can be sustained for a long period of time.
  • Sustain Biodiversity – If the process of sustainable development is followed, the home and habitat of all other living animals will not be depleted. As sustainable development focuses on preserving the ecosystem it automatically helps in sustaining and preserving biodiversity.
  • Financial Stability – As sustainable development promises steady development the economies of countries can become stronger by using renewable sources of energy as compared to using fossil fuels, of which there is only a particular amount on our planet.

Mentioned below are some important examples of sustainable development. Have a look:

  • Wind Energy – Wind energy is an easily available resource. It is also a free resource. It is a renewable source of energy and the energy which can be produced by harnessing the power of wind will be beneficial for everyone. Windmills can produce energy which can be used to our benefit. It can be a helpful source of reducing the cost of grid power and is a fine example of sustainable development. 
  • Solar Energy – Solar energy is also a source of energy which is readily available and there is no limit to it. Solar energy is being used to replace and do many things which were first being done by using non-renewable sources of energy. Solar water heaters are a good example. It is cost-effective and sustainable at the same time.
  • Crop Rotation – To increase the potential of growth of gardening land, crop rotation is an ideal and sustainable way. It is rid of any chemicals and reduces the chances of disease in the soil. This form of sustainable development is beneficial to both commercial farmers and home gardeners.
  • Efficient Water Fixtures – The installation of hand and head showers in our toilets which are efficient and do not waste or leak water is a method of conserving water. Water is essential for us and conserving every drop is important. Spending less time under the shower is also a way of sustainable development and conserving water.
  • Sustainable Forestry – This is an amazing way of sustainable development where the timber trees that are cut by factories are replaced by another tree. A new tree is planted in place of the one which was cut down. This way, soil erosion is prevented and we have hope of having a better, greener future.

Related Articles

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 global goals established by the United Nations in 2015. These include: No Poverty Zero Hunger Good Health and Well-being Quality Education Gender Equality Clean Water and Sanitation Affordable and Clean Energy Decent Work and Economic Growth Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure Reduced Inequality Sustainable Cities and Communities Responsible Consumption and Production Climate Action Life Below Water Life on Land Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions Partnerships for the Goals

The SDGs are designed to address a wide range of global challenges, such as eradicating extreme poverty globally, achieving food security, focusing on promoting good health and well-being, inclusive and equitable quality education, etc.

India is ranked #111 in the Sustainable Development Goal Index 2023 with a score of 63.45.

Hence, we hope that this blog helped you understand the key features of an essay on sustainable development. If you are interested in Environmental studies and planning to pursue sustainable tourism courses , take the assistance of Leverage Edu ’s AI-based tool to browse through a plethora of programs available in this specialised field across the globe and find the best course and university combination that fits your interests, preferences and aspirations. Call us immediately at 1800 57 2000 for a free 30-minute counselling session

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Sustainable Development Essay

500+ words essay on sustainable development.

Sustainable development is a central concept. It is a way of understanding the world and a method for solving global problems. The world population continues to rise rapidly. This increasing population needs basic essential things for their survival such as food, safe water, health care and shelter. This is where the concept of sustainable development comes into play. Sustainable development means meeting the needs of people without compromising the ability of future generations. In this essay on sustainable development, students will understand what sustainable development means and how we can practise sustainable development. Students can also access the list of CBSE essay topics to practise more essays.

What Does Sustainable Development Means?

The term “Sustainable Development” is defined as the development that meets the needs of the present generation without excessive use or abuse of natural resources so that they can be preserved for the next generation. There are three aims of sustainable development; first, the “Economic” which will help to attain balanced growth, second, the “Environment”, to preserve the ecosystem, and third, “Society” which will guarantee equal access to resources to all human beings. The key principle of sustainable development is the integration of environmental, social, and economic concerns into all aspects of decision-making.

Need for Sustainable Development?

There are several challenges that need attention in the arena of economic development and environmental depletion. Hence the idea of sustainable development is essential to address these issues. The need for sustainable development arises to curb or prevent environmental degradation. It will check the overexploitation and wastage of natural resources. It will help in finding alternative sources to regenerate renewable energy resources. It ensures a safer human life and a safer future for the next generation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the need to keep sustainable development at the very core of any development strategy. The pandemic has challenged the health infrastructure, adversely impacted livelihoods and exacerbated the inequality in the food and nutritional availability in the country. The immediate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic enabled the country to focus on sustainable development. In these difficult times, several reform measures have been taken by the Government. The State Governments also responded with several measures to support those affected by the pandemic through various initiatives and reliefs to fight against this pandemic.

How to Practise Sustainable Development?

The concept of sustainable development was born to address the growing and changing environmental challenges that our planet is facing. In order to do this, awareness must be spread among the people with the help of many campaigns and social activities. People can adopt a sustainable lifestyle by taking care of a few things such as switching off the lights when not in use; thus, they save electricity. People must use public transport as it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. They should save water and not waste food. They build a habit of using eco-friendly products. They should minimise waste generation by adapting to the principle of the 4 R’s which stands for refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle.

The concept of sustainable development must be included in the education system so that students get aware of it and start practising a sustainable lifestyle. With the help of empowered youth and local communities, many educational institutions should be opened to educate people about sustainable development. Thus, adapting to a sustainable lifestyle will help to save our Earth for future generations. Moreover, the Government of India has taken a number of initiatives on both mitigation and adaptation strategies with an emphasis on clean and efficient energy systems; resilient urban infrastructure; water conservation & preservation; safe, smart & sustainable green transportation networks; planned afforestation etc. The Government has also supported various sectors such as agriculture, forestry, coastal and low-lying systems and disaster management.

Students must have found this essay on sustainable development useful for practising their essay writing skills. They can get the study material and the latest updates on CBSE/ICSE/State Board/Competitive Exams, at BYJU’S.

Frequently Asked Questions on Sustainable development Essay

Why is sustainable development a hot topic for discussion.

Environment change and constant usage of renewable energy have become a concern for all of us around the globe. Sustainable development must be inculcated in young adults so that they make the Earth a better place.

What will happen if we do not practise sustainable development?

Landfills with waste products will increase and thereby there will be no space and land for humans and other species/organisms to thrive on.

What are the advantages of sustainable development?

Sustainable development helps secure a proper lifestyle for future generations. It reduces various kinds of pollution on Earth and ensures economic growth and development.

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Essay On Sustainable Development

500 words essay on  sustainable development.

Sustainable development is basically an action plan which helps us to achieve sustainability in any activity which makes use of the resource. Moreover, it also demands immediate and intergenerational replication. Through essay on sustainable development, we will help you understand the concept and its advantages.

Through sustainable development, we formulate organising principles which help to sustain the limited resources essential to provide for the needs of our future generations. As a result, they will be able to lead a content life on the planet .

essay on sustainable development

What is Sustainable Development?

The World Commission on Environment and Development popularized this concept in 1987. Their report defines the idea as a “development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”

In other words, they aimed to prevent the stripping the natural world of resources which the future generations will require. As we all know that usually, one particular need drives development. Consequently, the wider future impacts are not considered.

As a result, a lot of damage happens due to this type of approach. Thus, the longer we continue to pursue unsustainable development, the more severe will the consequences be. One of the most common is climate change which is being debated widely worldwide.

In fact, climate change is already wreaking havoc on our surroundings. So, the need of the hour is sustainable development. We must ask ourselves, must we leave a scorched planet with an ailing environment for our future generations?

In order to undo the mess created by us, we must follow sustainable development. This will help us promote a more social, environmental and economical thinking. Most importantly, it is not that difficult to attain this.

We must see that world as a system which connects space, and time. Basically, it helps you understand that water pollution in South Africa will ultimately impact water quality in India. Similarly, it is the case for other things as well.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

Measures to Practice Sustainable Development

There are many measures to take up for practising sustainable development. To begin with, it is important to ensure clean and hygienic living and working conditions for the people.

Next, sponsoring research on environmental issues which pertains to regions. Further, ensuring safety against known and proven industrial hazards. It is also important to find economical methods to salvage dangerous industrial wastes.

Most importantly, we must encourage afforestation . Including environmental education as part of the school and college curriculum will also help. Similarly, it is essential to socialize and humanize all environmental issues.

Further, we must encourage uses of non-conventional sources of energy, especially solar energy. Looking for substitutes for proven dangerous materials on the basis of local resources and needs will help. Likewise, we must produce environment-friendly products.

It is also essential to popularize the use of organic fertilizers and other biotechniques. Finally, the key is environmental management which must be monitored and ensure accountability.

Conclusion of Essay on Sustainable Development

To sum it up, sustainable development continuously seeks to achieve social and economic progress in ways which will not exhaust the Earth’s finite natural resources. Thus, we must all develop ways to meet these needs so that our future generations can inherit a healthier and greener planet.

FAQ on Essay on Sustainable Development

Question 1: State two measures we can take for sustainable development.

Answer 1: The first measure we can take is by finding economical methods for salvaging hazardous industrial wastes. Next, we must encourage afforestation.

Question 2: What is the aim of sustainable development?

Answer 2 : The aim of sustainable development is to maximise human well-being or quality of life without having to risk the life support system.

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Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a call-to-action for people worldwide to address five critical areas of importance by 2030: people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership.

Biology, Health, Conservation, Geography, Human Geography, Social Studies, Civics

Set forward by the United Nations (UN) in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are a collection of 17 global goals aimed at improving the planet and the quality of human life around the world by the year 2030.

Image courtesy of the United Nations

Set forward by the United Nations (UN) in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are a collection of 17 global goals aimed at improving the planet and the quality of human life around the world by the year 2030.

In 2015, the 193 countries that make up the United Nations (UN) agreed to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The historic agenda lays out 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets for dignity, peace, and prosperity for the planet and humankind, to be completed by the year 2030. The agenda targets multiple areas for action, such as poverty and sanitation , and plans to build up local economies while addressing people's social needs.

In short, the 17 SDGs are:

Goal 1: No Poverty: End poverty in all its forms everywhere.

Goal 2: Zero Hunger: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

Goal 4: Quality Education: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Goal 5: Gender Equality : Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation.

Goal 10: Reduced Inequality : Reduce in equality within and among countries.

Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.

Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Goal 13: Climate Action: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

Goal 14: Life Below Water: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.

Goal 15: Life on Land: Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Goal 16: Peace,  Justice , and Strong Institutions: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Goal 17: Partnerships to Achieve the Goal: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

The SDGs build on over a decade of work by participating countries. In essence, the SDGs are a continuation of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which began in the year 2000 and ended in 2015. The MDGs helped to lift nearly one billion people out of extreme poverty, combat hunger, and allow more girls to attend school. The MDGs, specifically goal seven, helped to protect the planet by practically eliminating global consumption of ozone-depleting substances; planting trees to offset the loss of forests; and increasing the percent of total land and coastal marine areas worldwide. The SDGs carry on the momentum generated by the MDGs with an ambitious post-2015 development agenda that may cost over $4 trillion each year. The SDGs were a result of the 2012 Rio+20 Earth Summit, which demanded the creation of an open working group to develop a draft agenda for 2015 and onward.

Unlike the MDGs, which relied exclusively on funding from governments and nonprofit organizations, the SDGs also rely on the private business sector to make contributions that change impractical and unsustainable consumption and production patterns. Novozymes, a purported world leader in biological solutions, is just one example of a business that has aligned its goals with the SDGs. Novozymes has prioritized development of technology that reduces the amount of water required for waste treatment. However, the UN must find more ways to meaningfully engage the private sector to reach the goals, and more businesses need to step up to the plate to address these goals.

Overall, limited progress has been made with the SDGs. According to the UN, many people are living healthier lives now compared to the start of the millennium, representing one area of progress made by the MDGs and SDGs. For example, the UN reported that between 2012 and 2017, 80 percent of live births worldwide had assistance from a skilled health professional—an improvement from 62 percent between 2000 and 2005.

While some progress has been made, representatives who attended sustainable development meetings claimed that the SDGs are not being accomplished at the speed, or with the appropriate momentum, needed to meet the 2030 deadline. On some measures of poverty, only slight improvements have been made: The 2018 SDGs Report states that 9.2 percent of the world's workers who live with family members made less than $1.90 per person per day in 2017, representing less than a 1 percent improvement from 2015. Another issue is the recent rise in world hunger. Rates had been steadily declining, but the 2018 SDGs Report stated that over 800 million people were undernourished worldwide in 2016, which is up from 777 million people in 2015.

Another area of the SDGs that lacks progress is gender equality. Multiple news outlets have recently reported that no country is on track to achieve gender equality by 2030 based on the SDG gender index. On a scale of zero to 100, where a score of 100 means equality has been achieved, Denmark was the top performing country out of 129 countries with score slightly under 90. A score of 90 or above means a country is making excellent progress in achieving the goals, and 59 or less is considered poor headway. Countries were scored against SDGs targets that particularly affect women, such as access to safe water or the Internet. The majority of the top 20 countries with a good ranking were European countries, while sub-Saharan Africa had some of the lowest-ranking countries. The overall average score of all countries is a poor score of 65.7.

In fall of 2019, heads of state and government will convene at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to assess the progress in the 17 SDGs. The following year—2020—marks the deadline for 21 of the 169 SDG targets. At this time, UN member states will meet to make a decision to update these targets.

In addition to global efforts to achieve the SDGs, according to the UN, there are ways that an individual can contribute to progress: save on electricity while home by unplugging appliances when not in use; go online and opt in for paperless statements instead of having bills mailed to the house; and report bullying online when seen in a chat room or on social media.

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  • Published: 29 June 2022

The importance of the Sustainable Development Goals to students of environmental and sustainability studies—a global survey in 41 countries

  • Matthias Winfried Kleespies   ORCID: 1 &
  • Paul Wilhelm Dierkes   ORCID: 1  

Humanities and Social Sciences Communications volume  9 , Article number:  218 ( 2022 ) Cite this article

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  • Environmental studies

To fight the global problems of humanity, the United Nations has adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To achieve these goals, it is necessary that future decision-makers and stakeholders in society consider these goals to be important. Therefore, in this study, we examined how important students in 41 countries directly related to the environmental sector rated each of the 17 SDGs. Based on the analysis of these ratings, it was possible to categorize the SDGs into three higher-level factors that reflect the three pillars of sustainability (social, economic, environmental). These three pillars are considered to be of varying importance in different countries. We also correlated the ratings of these higher-level factors with country-specific indicators, such as the Human Development Index. The correlations between the indicators and the higher-level factors revealed that in countries with higher indices, the SDGs are rated as less important compared to in countries with lower indices. These results provide stakeholders with important guidance on how the SDGs should be promoted in their country.


Currently, humanity is facing major environmental, social and economic problems worldwide. To address these global issues on an international cross-border level and to create a more sustainable and better future for all, the United Nations adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 (United Nations, 2015 ). Each of the SDGs has indicators that are used to measure progress towards achieving the goals (United Nations, 2017 ). The individual goals do not stand alone but rather influence each other and are closely linked (Bali Swain and Yang-Wallentin, 2020 ; Nilsson et al., 2016 ; Pham‐Truffert et al., 2020 ; Pradhan et al., 2017 ); each goal addresses environmental, social and economic problems (Elder and Olsen, 2019 ).

It is particularly important how the SDGs are perceived, accepted and evaluated by people worldwide. In this context, there have been several surveys conducted in recent years, some with varying results. While awareness of the SDGs has increased globally compared to their predecessor, i.e., the Millennium Development Goals (GlobeScan, 2016 ), 63% of the respondents in a survey of 28 European countries said they had never heard of the SDGs. Globally, awareness of the SDGs is approximately 50% (Theresa et al., 2020 ); however, only 1% of people say they are very well informed about the SDGs (Lampert and Papadongonas, 2016 ). There are also regional differences in the assessment of the individual goals. Globally, ‘climate action’, ‘good health’ and ‘well-being and quality education’ are considered particularly important (Theresa et al., 2020 ). In another survey, ‘zero hunger’, ‘clean water and sanitation’ and ‘no poverty’ were selected as the most important SDGs (Lampert and Papadongonas, 2016 ). Young people in particular are more likely to have heard of the SDGs, and for them, quality education is particularly important (Youth Speak Survey, 2020 ). In general, people around the world have a high level of acceptance about the content of the SDGs (Ipsos, 2015 ).

The education system has an important role in raising awareness of the SDGs and in teaching skills and values that lead to more sustainable behaviour. Therefore, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has developed learning objectives for the SDGs to support teachers and learners (UNESCO, 2017 ). Tertiary educational institutions are particularly important in this regard, as they educate the next generation of decision-makers who will have a critical impact on the future of the planet (Yuriev and Sierra‐Barón, 2020 ). Universities, through their education and influence, contribute directly to the achievement of a whole range of SDGs (Kioupi and Voulvoulis, 2020 ). In recent years, there has been a strong increase in sustainability programmes at universities, with a particular focus on student attitudes (Rodríguez-García et al., 2019 ); however, there is wide divergence between programmes (O’Byrne et al., 2015 ). Despite the recent surge of sustainability in higher education, students generally have limited knowledge of the SDGs (Zamora-Polo et al., 2019 ). Higher education institutes, such as universities, have a special responsibility worldwide because they shape future leaders (Alshuwaikhat and Abubakar, 2008 ; Bellou et al., 2017 ), decision-makers (Alshuwaikhat and Abubakar, 2008 ; Lozano et al., 2013 ), professionals (Kioupi and Voulvoulis, 2020 ) and intellectuals in various academic fields (Lozano, 2006 ).

In addition to educating the next generation of decision-makers, which is most likely the most important factor, universities also make an important contribution to achieving the SDGs through research, public engagement or university policy (Kestin et al., 2017 ). They can influence politicians and industry leaders with their clear and unbiased information (Stephens et al., 2008 ) and reach a wide audience in the general population (Kioupi and Voulvoulis, 2020 ).

While elite positions in society can be reached independently of having a university education, universities provide knowledge and technical skills that significantly increase the likelihood that a person will achieve such a socially relevant position (Frank and Meyer, 2007 ; Vicente-Molina et al., 2013 ). Therefore, students, as potential future decision-makers of society, contribute greatly to the achievement of the SDGs and have an impact on the major problems of humanity and thus on the future of the planet. Until now, however, there has been a lack of valid international research that examines the perspective of students in the natural and sustainable sciences on the various SDGs. This study is an attempt to reduce the international research gap and examine the views of environmental students in different countries regarding the SDGs. The aim is to determine how important students in each country consider the SDGs to be. In this context, statistical methods will be used to check whether the individual SDGs can be assigned to higher-order groups on the basis of the students’ evaluation. To identify patterns and differences between the countries, these higher-ranking groups were compared among the individual countries and correlated with country-specific indicators. The results are intended to provide guidance for action for today’s decision-makers in individual countries.

Therefore, in our study, we asked more than 4000 university students in 41 countries whose course of study is directly related to sustainability to rate the 17 SDGs on a scale of 1–5 (important to unimportant). In the first step of the analysis, an exploratory factor analysis was used to investigate the extent to which the SDGs can be categorized into higher-level factors based on the participants’ ratings. In a second step, we examined how these higher ranking factors differed among the 41 countries studied. In the final step, we analysed the relationship between these higher-ranking factors and various country-specific indicators (GDP per capita, the Human Development Index, the Education Index, the Environment Performance Index and the SDG Index).

Data collection procedure

The survey was conducted using an online questionnaire. To guarantee a high level of data protection and the anonymity of the participants, the survey software that is also applied for evaluation at Goethe University in Frankfurt was used. Students were shown the labels and descriptions of each SDG (Table 1 ) and asked to rate them on a scale of 1 to 5 (unimportant to important). The survey was conducted in one of the official languages of the respective countries. The translation of the questionnaires was performed by a native-speaking translator and always checked by an additional person. The translations of the SDGs were taken from the official website of the UN (United Nations, 2016 ). If no translation was available, the SDGs were translated by a translator following the same principle. The English version of the questionnaire can be found in Supplementary Fig. 1 . To collect the data, professors and scientists worldwide were contacted and asked for their help. The scientists were asked to distribute the questionnaire among their students. An English cover letter was provided to participants and described the content and background of the study. In addition, a short introductory text at the beginning of the questionnaire explained the research project to the participants. Only people from natural science courses directly related to sustainability (e.g., biology, environmental sciences, ecology and conservation, natural resources management, etc.) were contacted.

A total of 4305 students (34.3% male, 63.6% female, 0.8% divers, 1.2% no answer) participated in the survey. The participants were on average 22.59 (±0.495) years old and in the 4.29th (±2.744) semester of study. The number of participants broken down by country is shown in Supplementary Table 2 . The survey period was September 2020–July 2021.

The study was reviewed by the ethics committee of the science didactic institutes and departments of the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main under approval number 15-WLSD-2104. If a university required a local ethics vote, that vote was also conducted prior to the survey.

An exploratory factor analysis was conducted to examine the relationship between the individual SDGs and to assign the SDGs to higher ranking factors based on the students’ ratings. This is a structure-simplifying procedure that is used to assign individual variables or items to higher-order factors and thus simplify the interpretation of the data (Yong and Pearce, 2013 ). In simple terms, a factor analysis generates a correlation matrix ( R -matrix) for all items used. Items that correlate particularly well and separate themselves from other item clusters are assigned to a higher ranking factor (Field, 2013 ). The rotation method chosen was varimax, which is considered the most reliable orthogonal rotation method (Fabrigar et al., 1999 ). To check whether the data were at all suitable for this type of analysis, Bartlett’s test of sphericity and the Kaiser–Meyer–Olkin measure of sampling adequacy were performed (Dziuban and Shirkey, 1974 ). The number of factors was determined by the Kaiser criterion, which takes into account all factors that have an eigenvalue larger than 1 (Kaiser, 1960 ). To examine whether the values of the three higher-level factors found by the factor analysis differed within countries or whether the factors were perceived to be of similar importance, the (two-tailed) Friedman test was used (Field, 2013 ). For significant results, a pairwise comparison was performed using the (two-tailed) Dunn–Bonferroni test (Dunn, 1964 ). The effect size was calculated using the following formula: r  =  \(\frac{Z}{{\sqrt N }}\) (Fritz et al., 2012 ).

To investigate whether there is a linear relationship between the factors found through factor analysis and the indices of each country (e.g., the Human Development Index and the Education Index), the Spearman rank correlation was calculated. The Spearman rank correlation was selected because the data were ordinally scaled and not normally distributed (Field, 2013 ; Schober et al., 2018 ).

Selected indices

The following five country-specific indices were selected:

Gross domestic product per capita (GDP per capita, 2021): GDP per capita is a value calculated by organizations such as the international monetary fund (International Monetary Fund, 2021 ). It is often used as an indicator of the standard of living, even though some weaknesses in this interpretation are currently known (Goossens, 2007 ).

Human Development Index (HDI from 2020): The HDI is an indicator of the United Nations (Conceição et al., 2020 ) that consists of life expectancy, the average number of years of schooling, and the standard of living (United Nations Development Programme, 2020b ).

Education Index (EI from 2020): The EI is a United Nations indicator that consists of the number of years of schooling that an adult person has attended on average and the expected years of schooling that a child will attend (United Nations Development Programme, 2020a ).

Environment Performance Index (EPI from 2020): The EPI is an index that assesses environmental health and ecosystem vitality using 32 performance indicators (Wendling et al., 2020 ).

SDG Index (SDGI from 2021): The SDGI is an indicator of the Bertelsmann Foundation that attempts to calculate the progress of the SDGs in percent based on various indicators. For example, if a country has an SDGI of 85.9, then approximately 86% of the SDGs have been achieved by that country (Sachs et al., 2021 ).

Both the Bartlett test ( p  < 0.001) and the KMO criterion (KMO = 0.924) confirmed the applicability of an exploratory factor analysis for the 17 SDGs. The analysis revealed three factors with an eigenvalue > 1, indicating that the SDGs can be attributed to three higher-order factors (social, economic, environmental), which together can explain 53.48% of the variance. Overall, there was a clear assignment of items to the factors, and only a few cross-loadings were observed (Table 1 ).

The comparison of the three sustainability factors within the tested countries showed that the countries rated the individual dimensions of the SDGs differently. For example, in some countries, all three sustainability factors were rated as being equally important (Fig. 1a ); thus, there was no significant difference between the factors. In a number of countries, the environmental component was rated higher than the economic component, but no difference was found between the social and environmental components or between the social and economic components (Fig. 1b ). In the third group, the economic factor was rated as slightly less important than the environmental and social factors (Fig. 1c ). In some countries, the environmental factor was rated significantly higher than the other factors (Fig. 1d ). For better clarity, the individual significance levels are not marked in Fig. 1 but can be found along with the effect sizes in Supplementary Table 1 .

figure 1

In group ( a ), there are no significant differences between the three factors within the countries. In group ( b ), the environmental factor is rated higher than the economic factor but not higher than the social factor. In group ( c ), the economic factor is rated lower than the other two factors. In group ( d ), the environmental factor is rated significantly higher than both the economic and environmental factors. For clarity, the significance levels are not marked with asterisks in the figure. Exact significance levels and effect sizes can be found in Supplementary Table 1 . The boxes represent the mean of the components; the error bars represent the standard deviation.

The three higher-level sustainability factors show significant correlations with all five selected country-specific global development indices ( p  < 0.001). The correlations are shown in Table 2 .

All correlations are in the high range according to the common interpretation (Field, 2013 ). It is noteworthy that there is a negative correlation for all the global development indices examined. It follows that students in countries with higher indices rate the SDGs as less important than do students in countries with lower indices. For all the global development indices tested, a higher score means a higher standard. In other words, students in countries with, for example, a higher standard of education or higher income per person consider the SDGs to be less important compared to their counterparts.

The correlations between the three sustainability factors found and the individual indices are shown in Fig. 2 . The importance score refers to the mean values of the individual sustainability factors for the different countries. The dashed lines represent the linear trend.

figure 2

Each point represents one country. Countries with fewer than 50 respondents are shown in grey, and countries with more than 50 respondents are shown in black. a Gross domestic product per capita in US dollars, b Human Development Index, c Education Index, d Environment Performance Index, and e SDG Index.

The results of this study provide important information on how students in the environmental field worldwide perceive and evaluate the 17 SDGs. Based on the rating of the importance of the individual SDGs, it was possible to assign them to three higher-level factors in the factor analysis. Although each of the 17 SDGs contains all three pillars of sustainability (social, economic and environmental (Purvis et al., 2019 )) and the different levels of sustainability build on each other (Sachs, 2012 ; United Nations, 2015 ), it has also been shown in previous studies that people assign the SDGs to individual pillars to varying degrees (Bain et al., 2019 ; Dalampira and Nastis, 2020 ; Elder and Olsen, 2019 ). Reviewing the three higher-level factors, it can be assumed that our data also reflect such a classification. When considering only the labels and short descriptions, Factor 1 includes the SDGs that are primarily considered social, Factor 2 includes the SDGs that are considered economic, and Factor 3 includes the SDGs that are considered environmental (Elder and Olsen, 2019 ). While in previous studies, respondents were often asked directly to assign the SDGs to the three pillars of sustainability, in this study, the classification was solely based on the different ratings of the importance of each SDG.

The clear separation of the SDGs into these three groups and the low cross-loading values suggest that environmental students worldwide make this categorization and assign different importance to the SDGs in the three groups, potentially subconsciously. It can be concluded that the students consider ecological, economic and social challenges to be of varying importance. This finding provides an essential starting point for decision-makers in tertiary education institutions. In addition to the current increasing number of courses with a focus on sustainability (O’Byrne et al., 2015 ; Rodríguez-García et al., 2019 ), more emphasis should be placed on the interconnectedness of the individual layers of the various SDGs. For each SDG, attention should be given to highlighting social, environmental and economic components and to underlining the close relationship between these pillars. In this way, the importance of all three components of each SDG can be taken into account for current issues. Fisheries, for example, have important elements of the social and economic components, in addition to the environmental component, and all of these elements are closely linked (Asche et al., 2018 ). These connections should be addressed and highlighted in environmental education courses.

When comparing these three factors within the countries, different patterns emerge. In approximately two-thirds of the countries, the three factors are not rated as equally important. A noticeable pattern, which is particularly evident in a number of industrialized countries, is that the gap between the economic factor and the other two factors is particularly large. This could well be explained to some extent by the attitudes of people in industrialized countries; i.e., environmental issues, such as fighting climate change, are seen as particularly important aims in North America and Europe (Theresa et al., 2020 ). When considering problems in developing counties, people in Europe often rate issues belonging to the social component (such as peace and security) as particularly important (European Commission. Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development. et al., 2016 ). This potentially leads to the assessment that the environmental and social factors are particularly important, while the economic SDGs are perceived as less important, as they do not fall into either category.

Another pattern that repeatedly emerges is that the environmental component is rated as being more important than one or both of the other components. In no country was the environmental component rated significantly worse than the two other factors. These results are very positive, as environmental problems are currently more relevant than ever before. The boundaries of our planet are being increasingly exhausted, and there is an urgent need for action at the global level (Steffen et al., 2015 ). The high rating of environmental factors also shows a particularly positive trend in all countries. In the past, many governments and experts prioritized economic growth and considered environmental damage as a trade-off (Elder and Olsen, 2019 ). The common approach has been to accept pollution as a consequence of economic growth and to deal with the related environmental problems that arise later (Azadi et al., 2011 ). This view is not reflected in our study of environmental students. In the current study, environmental concerns are considered to be at least as important, and in some countries even more important, than social and economic factors.

The differences identified between countries can serve as a possible guide to action for local decision-makers who can incorporate specific promotion of the importance of different SDGs into the curriculum. In this way, country-specific actions can be implemented that specifically address the economic, ecological or environmental awareness of each of the SDGs. These results can also be seen as a call to those countries in which the gap between the three factors is particularly large. Especially in these countries, political or educational actions, such as emphasizing the global importance of the economic SDGs in the educational context, would be particularly important.

The comparison of the country-specific indicators with the rating of the importance of the higher-level factors shows a similar picture for all indicators. In countries with higher indices (higher GDP per capita, higher health index, etc.), the SDGs are generally rated as being less important than in countries with lower indices. In this context, it does not matter whether the SDGs are perceived as social, economic or environmental. This result is surprising, since in previous international studies, it was often found that people in wealthier countries, i.e., countries with a higher GDP per capita, have a more positive attitude towards, for example, environmental problems, than do people in countries with a lower GDP per capita (Franzen, 2003 ; Franzen and Meyer, 2010 ; Franzen and Vogl, 2013 ). The research of and theory put forth by Inglehart is often used as a basis for explanation. He found that in countries where postmaterialist values dominate, people have a more positive attitude towards environmental protection than they do in countries with more materialist values. Thus, postmaterialist values are more likely to be found in advanced industrial societies (Inglehart, 1995 ). However, postmaterialist values do not necessarily lead to higher support for the SDGs (Guan et al., 2019 ). Our study also supports this assumption. The results show that, on average, people in societies with higher indices (usually industrialized societies) rate the SDGs as being less important than do people in countries with lower indices. This provides important insights for politicians, stakeholders and decision-makers; i.e., in wealthier countries that have already made great progress in implementing the SDGs, the relevance of the SDGs must be communicated at different levels. Particular attention must be paid to higher educational institutions. The fact that the SDGs are rated lower on average in wealthier countries with a higher Education Index outcome shows that it is especially in these countries that there is a need to improve the related knowledge and that the focus of higher education institutions should be placed specifically on content related to the SDGs. In this context, it is not sufficient to teach only basic scientific knowledge (Frick et al., 2004 ); rather, other factors, such as attitudes (Gifford and Sussman, 2012 ) or values (Steg and Groot, 2012 ), should also be a particular focus of education. The importance of the SDGs should be considered not only for specific countries but also in an international and global context. Thus, these topics could be integrated into the curricula of universities and schools to enable students, as future decision-makers in society, to act as multipliers and pass on the relevance and importance of the SDGs in society.


Although the study was conducted with great care, some limitations must be addressed. For example, the study surveyed a very select group of students in environmental and sustainability science courses. It can be assumed that people in these courses are more interested in environmental issues than the general population. However, because a similar group of students was surveyed in each country, cross-country comparison is possible. Nevertheless, it must be assumed that the results cannot be generalized to other courses of study or to the general population. Further international studies are necessary to investigate relationships in other groups.

Another limitation of the study is that the survey was conducted by e-mail on a voluntary basis. This could possibly lead to self-selection; i.e., people who were already interested in the topic of the SDGs were more likely to participate in the survey.

It should also be mentioned that the sample size differs in part between the individual countries. While in some countries, several hundred people could be surveyed, in other countries, only a sample size in the two-digit range was possible. This result could potentially have had an influence on the comparison between the countries.

When evaluating the individual SDGs, it cannot be ruled out that the students did not rate each SGD independently but rather related their importance to each other. As a result, some SDGs may have been rated differently than they would have been without such a direct comparison. However, since this effect was equally possible in all countries, the results remain comparable, and the conclusions remain valid.

The current research was able to show that the importance of the SDGs, regardless of the pillar of sustainability (social, economic, environmental), is considered important by students in environmental and sustainability science courses in different countries. However, there are variations between the countries in how important the individual pillars for sustainability are considered to be. This result offers the opportunity to specifically promote individual pillars for sustainability in those countries in which a pillar was perceived as being less important. Another important finding of the study is that especially in countries with high global development indices, the SDGs are rated as less important compared to the ratings in countries with lower global development indices. Therefore, our research is a call to countries with higher indices, where the SDGs have already been implemented to a higher extent, to actively improve the view and acceptance of students regarding the SDGs. This can help to further achieve the SDGs both in individual countries and at the global level.

Data availability

The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be made available by the authors to any qualified researcher.

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We thank all study participants and the more than 300 researchers and universities that shared our questionnaires. This study was partly supported by the Opel-Zoo foundation professorship in zoo biology from the “von Opel Hessische Zoostiftung”.

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Conceptualization: MWK and PWD; data collection: MWK; methodology: MWK and PWD; validation, formal analysis, investigation: MWK and PWD; figures: PWD and MWK; writing—original: MWK; writing—review and editing: MWK and PWD, funding acquisition: PWD. All authors contributed to the article and approved the submitted version.

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This study was performed in line with the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki. Approval was granted by the Ethics Committee of the science didactic institutes and Departments of the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main under approval number 15-WLSD-2104.

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Kleespies, M.W., Dierkes, P.W. The importance of the Sustainable Development Goals to students of environmental and sustainability studies—a global survey in 41 countries. Humanit Soc Sci Commun 9 , 218 (2022).

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  6. Understand Sustainable Development Unit

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  1. Climate Justice & Sustainable Development

  2. Sustainable development Meaning

  3. sustainable development

  4. Sustainable Development

  5. Ch-9# Sustainable Development

  6. 271 Sustainable Development: Definition and History


  1. 500+ Words Essay on Sustainable Development with PDF ...

    500 Words Essay on Sustainable Development Essay Format Introduction Conclusion of Sustainable Development Essay Importance of Sustainable Development Examples of Sustainable Development FAQs Essay on Disaster Management Essay on Sustainable Development: Samples in 250, 300 and 500 Words PTE Writing Essay What is Sustainable Development?

  2. Sustainable Development Essay | 500+ Words Essay on ... - BYJU'S

    There are three aims of sustainable development; first, the “Economic” which will help to attain balanced growth, second, the “Environment”, to preserve the ecosystem, and third, “Society” which will guarantee equal access to resources to all human beings.

  3. Essay on Sustainable Development | 500 Words Essay - Toppr

    500 Words Essay on Sustainable Development. Sustainable development is basically an action plan which helps us to achieve sustainability in any activity which makes use of the resource. Moreover, it also demands immediate and intergenerational replication. Through essay on sustainable development, we will help you understand the concept and its ...

  4. THE FUTURE IS NOW - Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform

    Note In the outcome document of the Rio+20 Conference, in 2012, entitled “The future we want”, and again in “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, in 2015, United Nations Member States decided that the High-

  5. What Is Sustainable Development and Why Is It Necessary?

    Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the future. (Foto: CC0 Public Domain / pexels - pixabay) Sustainable development is an approach to development that balances different needs against an awareness of the environmental, social and economic limitations we face as a society.

  6. Brief for GSDR 2015 The Concept of Sustainable Development ...

    Albeit somewhat vague, this concept of sustainable development aims to maintain economic advancement and progress while protecting the long-term value of the environment; it “provides a...

  7. Sustainable Development Goals - National Geographic Society

    The historic agenda lays out 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets for dignity, peace, and prosperity for the planet and humankind, to be completed by the year 2030. The agenda targets multiple areas for action, such as poverty and sanitation , and plans to build up local economies while addressing people's social needs.

  8. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Are we successful in ...

    The Agenda 2030 with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provides the framework that all United Nations (UN) member states have pledged to fulfill. The achievement of this agenda crucially ...

  9. The importance of the Sustainable Development Goals to ...

    7 Citations 44 Altmetric Metrics Abstract To fight the global problems of humanity, the United Nations has adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To achieve these goals, it is...

  10. Take Action for the Sustainable Development Goals

    Resources. The Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to ...