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Sustainability goals and corporate involvement: project-based learning through creativity, activity, service (CAS)

At a time where sustainability is at the forefront of many business strategies, IB Diploma Programme (DP) students at Christ Junior College, Bengaluru, India decided to create a creativity, activity, service (CAS) project to investigate corporate involvement in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

In 2015, the United Nations (UN) adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (also known as the Global Goals) as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The goals are integrated and recognize that action in one area will affect outcomes in others. 

Following classroom discussions on the topic of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and the SDGs issued by the United Nations, the students curated a CAS project called “Above the Margin”. The objective of the project was to investigate corporate involvement in these SDGs by critically evaluating the impact of goals taken up by corporate organizations on local communities. 

Aims of the project 

The Above the Margin project aimed to: 

  • Allow students to learn about corporate involvement in sustainable development goals. 
  • Create awareness amongst the public on the involvement of the corporate world in the fulfilment of the SDGs through the website and social media portals. 
  • Create an interface between the learner and the organizations to analyse as well as share collective opinions and information on specific SDGs taken up by the organizations. 
  • Critically evaluate the impact of SDGs taken up by the organization on the local community. 
  • Culminate awareness amongst the students of what role individuals can play in order to provide viable solutions to some of the global issues by the end of the project. 

How the project was conducted 

Through collaborative consensus and significance of the SDGs in local context, the students focused on goals related to: Climate Action, No Poverty, Good Health and Well-being, Quality Education, Gender Equality, Clean Water and Sanitation, Affordable and Clean Energy, as well as Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure. 

A sustainable development goal (SDG) was chosen by the class and then explored through secondary research on organizations of all scales around the world. A complete exploration of the SDG was achieved by directly contacting an organization, in order to shed light on their perspective of the goal. This ensured that the information was reliable, genuine and also allowed the students to gain knowledge of real-world experiences through the lens of organizations. Using this information, students wrote articles and published them on the Above the Margin website.  

Interviews with executives from numerous organisations were carried out through official channels of communication and on online platforms. For example: 

  • Diya Naidu, Founder of Akalka student-run non-profit social enterprise from Bengaluru, India, that aims at increasing financial literacy among women in India. 
  • Wilson Lawrence, Vice President and General Manager of Climate ETC Technology Services Private Limited, also known as Trane Technologies: the holding company of global refrigeration and air conditioning giants such as Thermoking, Ameristar, American Standard, etc. and fortune 500 energy company Trane.  
  • Sai Santhosh, General Manager (finance and strategy), Zonta Infratech Pvt. Ltd — A waste management and infrastructure company focusing on innovative solutions to waste disposal, water treatment and energy production through waste. 
  • Dr. Victor Paul, Head of Department of Social Work and Director of Centre for Social Action, Christ Universitythe leading educational institution (University Studies) in the state of Karnataka with six campuses spread out across the country. The University focuses on aiding social mobility, equality and skill-based learning. 

Project outputs and impact on the students  

Through the project, various forms of output such as blogs, articles, videos, interviews, surveys, photographs, and social media posts were created.  

This CAS experience through the lens of Business Management allowed students real-world experiences, such as establishing links with the subject, applying sampling types, formation of questionnaires, and evaluation of sources that were learned in BM classes. Additionally, concepts of CSR, organizational structuring, and HR management were integrated into different areas explored in the project.  

A CAS celebration day was held at the school, where students demonstrated their learning outcomes and skills acquired from participating in the project. 

In the words of Above the Margin member Shruti Penumarti: 

“Collectively, we initially viewed this project as strenuous, time-consuming, and difficult. This was partly true at the beginning of the process when we were still attempting to gain an understanding of the project’s aims and goals. But as we continued with our interviews and further developed the website, not only did we gain confidence in our work, but it also became increasingly enjoyable. We were able to learn about organizations, not online, but by the organizations themselves. This allowed us to have first-hand exposure of how the SDGs were being handled, not by big multinational corporations, but with businesses founded in India itself. By the end of this process, not only did we gain real-world experience and knowledge about sustainability, we also learned the skills of communication, collaboration, and critical thinking. This journey truly opened our minds about how different global issues around us can be solved with a collaborative effort by both organizations and individuals”.

Ashwath Rajkumar, student head of the project said: 

“The project gave us insight into the intricacies and internal procedures of a businessthings you cannot view from the outside, which allowed us to truly understand how leadership styles and organizational cultures affect efficiency and motivation within an organization. The experience allowed me to grow as a leader, as we had to ensure we kept the deadlines issued by us at the beginning of the month. Failing to do so could adversely impact the timely nature we wanted to establish for the projects. I saw a huge leap in initiation and critical thinking in the team, which I take as the most important outcome from this project.” 

Future plans for the project 

One of the main highlights of the project is that the students were keen on having their juniors to continue the project, and subsequently handed it over to them. Future developments for Above the Margin will widen the scope of the research, and build upon the knowledge already gained. The new chapter of Above the Margin (the juniors) has planned on targeting financial institutions, starting with one of the largest public banks in India, SBI (State Bank of India). The new objective of Above the Margin is to complete the exploration of the remaining sustainable development goals and organizational types. 

In today’s world where organizational structuring and cultures are actively evolving as a result of the effects of globalization, organizations have become more diverse. By extending the project, a wider range of organizations can be explored and paint a more accurate picture of corporate involvement in achieving social objectives. 

Visit the Above the Margin project website: https://abovethemargin.wordpress.com       

To learn more about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), please refer to the United Nations Development Programme website: https://www.undp.org/sustainable-development-goals

Visit the Above the Margin project website: https://abovethemargin.wordpress.com       

To learn more about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), please refer to the United Nations Development Programme website: https://www.undp.org/sustainable-development-goals  

S Rao

S Srinivasa Rao is IBDP Business management Educator and CAS Supervisor for Diploma Programme (DP) at Christ Junior College, Bengaluru, India.  Srinivasa Rao is very passionate about trying new ways of learners’ engagement in his class room and always believes in his students strengths to make them lifelong learners. You may contact Srinivasa Rao here LinkedIn , srinivasa.rao@cjc.christcollege.edu