Sustainable learning as the key to a sustainable Europe?

Duurzaamheid sleutel tot duurzaam Europa CINOP

20 August 2019

Dutch CEOs go for sustainability

In November 2019, a large group of European business leaders in Brussels will draw attention to a European strategy for a sustainable Europe. Among them are also many leaders from the Dutch business community. It is good to see that many organisations have realised that a huge problem such as climate change can only be tackled if we work together. The business community can be an important link between themselves, politicians and citizens.

Dutchtainable: sustainable through innovation

In the Netherlands, there have been good initiatives from the business community for some time now that share the same vision of making the Netherlands more sustainable. An inspiring example of this is Dutchtainable: a partnership of a number of large organisations (including Albert Heijn, Aegon, FrieslandCampina, Shell, Philips and Unilever under the chairmanship of FrieslandCampina CEO Hein Schumacher). By joining forces, Dutchtainable puts people with good ideas and initiatives in the field of sustainability in the spotlight and helps them to increase their impact.

At the heart of Dutchtainable is an appeal to our ability to come up with solutions: our innovative strength. The platform hopes to set a movement in motion. In their own words: “It is our mission as a foundation to bring about a movement, a sustainable wave that has no end and from which Dutch initiatives for a better future for the world emerge”.

Sustainability has continued to learn

From CINOP’s point of view, it is an interesting and logical idea to make the connection between the ambition of ‘sustainability through innovation’ and the role that learning should play in this. Dutchtainable appeals to the special innovative power of the Netherlands, and thus presupposes a culture that enables people to be innovative. A culture in which people can learn how best to deal with problems.

Wouldn’t it be logical to take a double step and focus not only on the result of the innovation (sustainable solutions), but also on the basis of innovation – the specific learning culture that makes innovation possible? By expanding the pond and making it more sustainable, you can ensure that more successful ‘fish’ can be bred; more good, innovative solutions and ideas that contribute to the sustainability issue.

Lifelong Learning to tackle future social problems

We have often talked about the importance of Lifelong Learning (LLL). The major changes in the labour market mean that it is becoming increasingly important for people to continue to learn. To remain relevant on the labour market by continuing to learn new knowledge and skills. In line with the above ambitions, we could ask ourselves whether we should not go a step further with LLP. Not only from a “defensive” idea to protect people, but at the same time to make a leap forward. Not only LLL to be able to make the step from one function to another, but also to prepare people to take on major social challenges.

The early conclusion of this short line of thought is therefore that, in order to further scale up beautiful and important initiatives such as Dutchtainable itself and make them truly sustainable, a process is needed at the same time in which learning is also made more sustainable. Learning that happens all the time – throughout one’s life – and that is aimed at teaching people how to be innovative, in order to be able to respond to problems that are coming towards us. To enter into collaborations. In this sense, it is recommended that, together with the ambitious organisations, we think about what kind of knowledge and skills will be needed in about ten years’ time. And then to make the connection with education – both regular education and, for example, the internal training and learning cultures of professional organisations. What should we teach people? And in what way?

After all, you can only make a country truly sustainable if you have also created a sustainable learning culture in which the necessary innovation is guaranteed.

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