Learning about sustainability in the CIS Community
Learning about sustainability in the CIS Community
CIS staff photo of Cécile Doyen


By Cécile Doyen, Head of Professional Learning & Development at CIS



As a worldwide community, we must engage with complex issues to grasp the global context in which we operate.

Environmental sustainability is one of those complex topics. It is an element of the Global Citizenship Model that emerged from CIS research in 2022.

We need to consider sustainability as we promote socially responsible leadership in our global network. It’s a matter of urgency, and it is critical that our hope for the future of humanity gets reflected in the way students learn, evolve, and grow in our communities.

We’ve been holding a mirror upon our own organizational strategy and operations to ensure we are ‘walking the walk’ in this vital work.

We established an internal Service committee in 2016 that expanded in 2021 to focus on both service and ethics. The Committee identified priorities, and we’re beginning to see and share progress. The committee identified an organization we can partner with as we learn and make our own changes.


Tackling carbon calculations

We’re modelling social responsibility by working towards a carbon reduction plan for CIS. We’ve been tackling the carbon footprint calculations of our activities using Climate Partner’s tool and guidance.

We’re looking at how we travel for work and events and ensure our in-person school visits for accreditation evaluations are as sustainable as possible. For example, we want our evaluator community to experience new cultures and contexts when they take part in school visits while trying to ensure that we do so in a sustainable way, which includes finding someone close to the school when possible.

Our committee also shares eye-opening tips with us regularly. For example, did you know that your emails carry a carbon footprint? The average office worker sends and receives around 140 emails daily, which, over a year, creates as much CO2 as ... flying from London to Bruges! And then consider how many emails you file away just in case you might need it again?  Each ‘saved’ email carries its own carbon footprint; it all adds up.


Fueling our learning

In How to talk with kids about the climate crisis, Climate Psychologists Megan Kennedy-Woodard, Melissa James and Dr Patrick Kennedy-Williams explain that ‘Climate change is an ever-present part of our lives, through the direct experience of extreme weather events, like heat waves, droughts, and forest fires, and indirect effects, such as exposure to anxiety-inducing headlines warning of yet another climate disaster. The climate crisis is undeniably here. Awareness is crucial, but so are well-being and action; the three must go hand in hand.’ We invited them to share insights with our members as guest speakers at the 2022 Global Forum on International Admission & Guidance for a session on equipping the green leaders of tomorrow.

Dr Laurence Peters, Adjunct Associate Professor at Johns Hopkins University, told us ‘A recent survey by a team of British university psychologists probed the climate anxiety felt by 10,000 young people aged 16-25 around the world; 77% said “the future is frightening”; 68% feel sad; 63% feel anxious; 39% feel “hesitant to have children”.

He expands, ‘when education helps students develop a strong personal connection to climate solutions, as well as a sense of personal agency and empowerment, it can have a consequential impact on students’ daily behaviors and decision-making that reduces their overall lifetime carbon footprint.’ and ‘a Brookings article that cites this research points to the power of educating girls and women to help them avoid becoming passive victims of climate change but as agents of change.’

‘The climate crisis isn't going anywhere soon, and we all have a role to play.’ said Dr Kennedy, ‘Young people around the world shoulder the greatest burden and, as a result, report the greatest levels of distress, particularly in countries that are already on the forefront of a changing climate. However, there is more to the story. Young people also tell us of their boundless motivation to take action. They want climate awareness to permeate all aspects of their school and university education.’


How our members are taking action

In 2022, we turned to our CIS member schools and universities to learn about their innovative practices to make their institutions more sustainable. Their examples of where to start and how to overcome challenges fuel and expand our own learning.  

We’ve just published the stories from our members. In our latest thematic report, focused on sustainability, we share the responses to the following questions from six member schools and universities:

  1. What actions has your institution taken to move towards sustainability?
  2. What has helped in maintaining or accelerating your institution’s efforts? 
  3. What obstacles or challenges are you experiencing in rolling out your plans/approach?
  4. What role are students playing in your approach?
  5. What recommendations would you share with an institution just starting out?
  6. What’s one thing you could share that an institution reading this could start doing today to make a difference in sustainability? 

The report highlights sustainability efforts from our CIS community and links to further reading via full case studies from the participating schools and universities. ​They demonstrate existing practices and plans as they reflect on their progress. ​They also offer recommendations and tips for other schools that are early in their sustainability work.

Educational institutions have a social responsibility to promote sustainable practices and environmental stewardship. By developing their approach to sustainability, institutions can lead by example and educate their students and the wider community on the importance of sustainability.


Highlights from thematic report


CIS Thematic Report Sustainability highlights of recommendations for institutions just starting out



What’s next?

Inspired by the example of our members, our committee will continue the internal work of keeping our organizational carbon footprint in check and seek ways to do our part in reducing carbon emissions.

And we’ll keep sourcing content and guidance from and for our members as we tackle this together.


‘Wherever our members are on their journey to sustainability, we’ll continue finding ways to support them through our research, resources, expert collaboration, and through the feedback and insights we and our global network of volunteers provide during our peer-evaluated processes. We’ll ensure that we’ll keep sharing what we learn from our members, their students, and experts in the field of sustainability as we all face this global priority together.’
—Norm Dean, CIS Director of Global Citizenship Services and Associate Director of School Evaluation & Development


Read the thematic report & accompanying six case studies

Our members can read these by logging into the CIS Community portal.

CIS Community portal for schools > KnowledgeBase > Briefings & Reports
CIS Community portal for universities > See homepage article

Members can also register for a Global Citizenship & Intercultural Learning Workshop to engage with our research and the CIS Model and Continua for Global Citizenship and Intercultural Learning.



And everyone is invited to read these associated posts:



Learning about sustainability in the CIS Community