The Institute of Sustainability Studies: “Education is the cornerstone in bringing about any kind of change”

WRITTEN BY Bronagh Loughlin

June 3, 2024

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The Institute of Sustainability Studies: “Education is the cornerstone in bringing about any kind of change”

Bronagh Loughlin

3 Jun, 2024

The Institute of Sustainability Studies (ISS) is an ed-tech startup based in Dublin, offering practical, comprehensive, and action-oriented courses to help individuals and organisations achieve sustainable business transformation and remain competitive in the future. 

Niall Collins, Chief Operations Officer (COO), explains: “We assist individuals and organisations on their sustainability journeys by creating and delivering practical, comprehensive, and action-oriented courses to help them achieve sustainable business transformation and remain competitive in the future.”

Niall Collins, Chief Operational Officer, ISS

The Institute has incorporated best practices from some of the world’s leading academics and enterprises and turned them into practical tools that companies can directly apply in their operations. Its aim is to raise the awareness and abilities of businesses of all kinds to help them continue to thrive. 

Before being appointed as COO at the Institute, Niall Collins worked as a sustainability consultant for several years, assisting organisations of various sectors and sizes to initiate their sustainability transformation. 

He says: “I realised that the only way to ensure the integration of sustainability practices into any organisation is by educating and upskilling individuals at all levels. External consultants can help to a certain extent but internal teams must have the necessary skills to implement the crucial steps required to transform their business for the better.”

He adds: “Sustainability has evolved from being a mere add-on to an organisation to becoming an integral part, driven by emerging regulations like the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). For genuine sustainability integration, every employee should know how their role affects the sustainability goals of an organisation and the role they play in achieving those goals.” 

Touching on the importance of businesses addressing sustainability, Nazia Naheed Husain, Product Manager at the Institute of Sustainability Studies states: Stephen Hawking’s poignant reminder that “there is no planet B” underscores the urgency for businesses to embrace sustainability. With their substantial global influence, businesses bear a significant responsibility in driving environmental stewardship. As climate crises escalate, sustainable development and climate goals can’t be merely by the North Stars. Sustainability needs to be integrated into every aspect of any business. By championing sustainable practices, businesses can catalyse widespread positive change, fostering a resilient and stable future for our planet.”

Nazia Naheed Husain, Product Manager, ISS

Niall recognises that businesses are eager to integrate sustainability but that they have a number of obstacles in their way. He shares: “We have observed that the use of jargon associated with sustainability often obscures the practical means of implementing sustainable business practices. This makes it difficult for companies to take those necessary steps because they do not know where to begin. Added to that, they face barriers such as regulations, limited awareness of sustainable business opportunities, lack of resources and innovation assets, and restricted access to knowledge networks.”

The Institute is here to help businesses overcome these obstacles, with a mission to demystify sustainability and make it more accessible. They have developed courses that aim to address the challenges faced by businesses in achieving sustainability. Niall says: “Our tailor-made modules have been designed to remove the barriers that hinder businesses from achieving their sustainability goals.”

He adds: “For example, we offer a module on Sustainable Plan Implementation that provides detailed information on key regulations such as the EU Taxonomy and the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive. We also have a dedicated module on Sustainable Finance that educates businesses on financial assets and benefits that bring both economic and environmental benefits, overcoming the barrier of limited resources.”

Speaking on the journey of building up a world-leading faculty of sustainability practitioners, Nazia says: “It was paramount for me to assemble a faculty team who could help us in bringing and executing extremely robust, practical, and comprehensive courses. We aimed for a blend of industry practitioners and academic experts to produce courses that cater to diverse learning styles, industries, and academic backgrounds. This balance has enriched our curriculum, offering participants a wealth of knowledge and a well-rounded educational experience.”

Nazia discusses how the ISS team developed the course curriculum: Sustainability, as you can imagine, is an extremely complex and wide-ranging subject with several caveats and branches that both overlap and work in silos. Therefore, crafting the Diploma course curriculum involved meticulous market research to identify key sustainability facets. Each module was meticulously tailored to cater to diverse industry landscapes and participant demographics. Through collaboration with esteemed faculty members, we addressed conceptual gaps and refined content to encompass foundational and advanced sustainability principles. This approach ensures our course offers a holistic understanding of sustainable business practices, setting it apart as a competitive and comprehensive programme.”

The Institute also continuously engages with its course participants through its dedicated Insights page on the ISS website to offer as much information as possible about sustainable business planning. Similarly, participants have access to online tools and resources that can help them create positive change within their organisations. Ultimately, the ISS courses equip participants with the knowledge and tools they need to improve their organisation’s impact on the environment and society. 

Niall shares: “Education is the cornerstone in bringing about any kind of change. It is undoubtedly the first step in a potentially long process of transformation. To ensure that education leads to practical outcomes, its focus on practicality and real-world scenarios is of utmost importance. This is why we pay close attention to the practicality of our courses and provide numerous tools, templates, case studies, and a collaborative growing community that can be used by businesses immediately after course completion.”

Speaking on the practicality focus, Nazia says: “Unlike traditional subjects, sustainability demands practical application. Our course prioritises hands-on learning, providing participants with tools and templates adaptable to their unique business needs. Real-world case studies and relevant resources guide participants in critically assessing their business practices and personal lifestyles. Upon completion, graduates are equipped to tackle sustainability challenges immediately, empowered by actionable insights and resources tailored to their needs.”

The unique selling point of ISS courses is that they are open to participants from across sectors and industries without any preference given to those already engaged in the sustainability space. Their previous cohorts have included participants from the tech and IT sector, pharmaceutical, construction, heavy manufacturing, data and consulting services, logistics, packaging, digital communications, and food and beverage.

Speaking on why businesses take the ISS courses, Niall says: “Businesses are under increasing pressure from all stakeholders to improve the sustainability performance of their operations and as a result of growing global regulations are being mandated to improve the reporting of their non-financial information. Business leaders and professionals join our courses to gain practical knowledge and tools to implement the necessary practices, frameworks and initiatives to improve their environmental and social impacts, meet stakeholders’ demands, remain competitive, and stay ahead of looming regulatory requirements. The courses give participants the resources to become sustainable without compromising their profitability.” 

Companies such as Wink Lighting who have previously completed the ISS courses have testified that upon completion of the course, they have been in a better position to get their sustainability plan up and running. Deli Lites Ireland has said the course allowed them as a company to prioritise the topics that matter most to their organisations and align their sustainability strategy with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Moreover, completing the course has enabled the SEEDIGITAL team to become sustainability consultants for the film and entertainment industry.

1 Comment

  1. Nasima Rizwan

    I agree with Nazia that sustainability is the priority subject with holistic application to be adopted by various business houses.Its the need of the hour to focus on the courses offered by the Institute to meet the sustainability challenges in various businesses.
    Good going!!

    Reply

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