From doorways to wedding cake | LSBU Sustainability Research Group panel discussion on SDGs


NOTE: Text and photographs by Asitha Jayawardena ( as part of his Sustainable University One-stop Shop Experiment (

Goal-posted doorways and wedding cake were among the bizarre themes that surfaced at a panel discussion on the role of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in supporting and promoting a more sustainable world held at London South Bank University (LSBU) on 28 June 2018.

Titled ‘The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): from Global to Local’, the discussion was hosted by LSBU Sustainability Research Group of the Centre for Social Justice and Global Responsibility.

The event was chaired by Dr Hugh Atkinson (Senior Lecturer in Politics and Public Policy), who is a Member of the Sustainability Research Group as well as the Management Group of the London Regional Centre of Expertise (RCE) on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).

Dr Duncan Tyler (Head of the Division of Urban Environment and Leisure Studies, LSBU) briefly introduced the three distinguished speakers:
Hilary Macleod (Vice president, Australian Association for Environmental Education AAEE, Member of the IUCN (World Conservation Union) Commission on Education and Communication, and environmental educator/ consultant from Queensland, Australia)
Dr Katherine Eames (Senior Sustainability Project Officer at the Greater London Authority and Co-ordinator of London Mayor’s Entrepreneur competition)
Dr Paul Vare (Senior Lecturer, Research Development, School of Education, University of Gloucestershire and Member of the IUCN (World Conservation Union) Commission on Education and Communication)

The presentations session of the three panellists was followed by a Q&A session, which generated interesting discussions with active participation of the 50-strong audience who had sacrificed the live coverage of the England-Belgium World Cup match!

World as an interconnected whole
SDGs are a woven web. One cannot talk about one goal, ignoring the other sixteen. Systems thinking can help us understand the world as an interconnected whole – a fact that the SDGs illustrate so vividly.

SDGs ‘Wedding Cake’
The SDGs ‘wedding cake’, developed by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, puts the Global Goals into perspective, implying that economy and society are embedded parts of biosphere. This caky model illustrates the fact that ecological limits form basis of the SDGs.

Doorways to sustainability
SDGs can act as doorways to the world of sustainability. For academics, Goal No 4 Quality Education could be the main doorway.

Quality Education
In Goal 4 Quality Education, what does quality mean? Quality education means sustainability and education with values. Moreover, not only the content but also the process (i.e. how it is delivered) would be important.

All are in
We need the support of all sections of society to achieve the SDGs by 2030. For instance the corporate sector has the cash and the governments have the legal frameworks. Different sectors can play different roles in this endeavour.

Feel empowered
Many people think that government should act on SDGs or business should but we as individuals cannot have an impact. We should not feel disempowered. For instance the plastics issue has generated a huge civic demand for action by all.

Public engagement
How to engage all sections of society with SDGs? The environmental/ sustainability movement has been hindered by a communications problem and SDGs endeavour could suffer from the same illness. To engage all with SDGs, we must speak in a language that they can understand.

The discussion was followed by a reception for networking.

NOTE: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): The 17 SDGs that the 193 member states of the UN signed up to in 2015 are ambitious in scope and, when taken together, they represent a real opportunity to develop a global strategy for localities to fight poverty and global inequality, and to tackle climate change and protect the environment.

Sustainability Research Group meeting

The third meeting of the LSBU Sustainability Research Group, chaired by Professor Ros Wade, was held before this event.


Launched in November 2017 and hosted by LSBU School of Law and Social Sciences, the Sustainability Research Group on Policy, Practice and Pedagogy aims to achieve sustainability through research, education and action.

The group aims to develop and promote research and action on sustainability as a new and emerging interdisciplinary area, drawing from the social sciences as well as other disciplinary landscapes in order to address the complex, real-world wicked problems of today, such as climate change, global inequality, forced migration, biodiversity loss, social and environmental justice.

Framed within the context of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and UNESCO’s Global Action Plan (GAP), the group’s work is linked to the Centre for Social Justice and Global Responsibility at LSBU’s School of Law and Social Sciences.

Moreover, building on the work of the London Regional Centre of Expertise (RCE) on Education for Sustainability (EfS), which is hosted at LSBU, the group links with the wider global RCE network of the UN University and UNESCO networks.

Note: Logos in the graphic are from respective websites.



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