About LAS

LAS is an award-winning provider of elearning consultancy, design, development and training services in the UK and internationally. 

Established in 2005 as LearningAge Solutions, we work with some of the best known organisations in the world to boost their performance through the innovative use of learning technologies. Working in partnership with our customers, we draw on proven principles from human behaviour, how people learn and how the brain works to create impactful digital learning solutions with real return on investment.

About Tess Robinson

Photo of Tess Robinson

Tess is a director of LAS. She has worked in a learning environment for over twenty years. First, as a senior manager in universities, moving into digital learning ten years ago.

Is it possible to learn sustainability values?

By Tess Robinson
Posted 5 December 2022

Watching the coverage from COP27 last month, you could be forgiven for feeling a little frustrated at the slow progress the politicians seem to be making. There’s no doubt that reaching consensus on how to deal with climate change and its effects is difficult. However, every step forward, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction. 

Aside from the political wrangling and diplomacy, COP also provides a forum for people to gather from all over the globe to participate in inventive, collaborative and solutions-focussed discussion and action. Despite the political challenges, there is real will to make progress in other ways. Organisations are undoubtedly able to be more agile and speedy in responding to climate change than governments. Therefore, their response will become more and more important. As learning and behaviour change specialists within those organisations, or working with them, we in L&D have a pivotal role to play.

A UNESCO report published in 2017 stated: ‘Embarking on the path of sustainable development will require a profound transformation of how we think and act. To create a more sustainable world and to engage with sustainability-related issues as described in the SDGs, individuals must become sustainability change-makers. They require the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that empower them to contribute to sustainable development’

So, according to UNESCO, the key things that will enable and empower individuals to make a difference to sustainability – knowledge, skills, values and attitudes - are ALL things that we in L&D can help with. 

In L&D, knowledge and skills are our bread-and-butter – no problem! Attitudes are a little more challenging, but we can use various behaviour-change techniques such as positive peer pressure, role modelling, coaching, mentoring, reflection and more to influence those. Values though…. How do we change people’s values?

The short answer is that it is really difficult to change people’s values. Personal values come from a complex combination of influences, including our social background, religion, education and upbringing amongst other things. They are, however, not static and continue to evolve throughout our lifetimes as we have new experiences. 

The important thing to note is that personal values are not about what you should value, in the way that organisation values are, but instead are freely chosen and truly yours. You can’t tell people what their values should be, but you can open their minds to new experiences and knowledge, which may, in turn, shape their values. 

Although we all have different values there are some that are common to most people. Sometimes referred to (if you'd like to learn more have a look at this course from the Max Planck Institute) these include:

1. Connecting with others
2. Giving to others and having a positive influence
3. Being active
4. Embracing the moment
5. Challenging ourselves and learning
6. Caring for ourselves

By using some of these common values as a framework, we can help learners to see how their own values might connect and coincide with those of the organisation and with the organisation’s sustainability agenda. This might include:

1. Exploring with others or brainstorming what is meant by sustainability values in your organisation (connecting with others)
2. Embedding sustainability values into learning design, E.g. when writing scenarios or case studies (challenging ourselves and learning)
3. Reflection exercises to see how personal values map to organisational ones (caring for ourselves)
4. Buddying or mentoring (connecting with others / giving to others and having a positive influence)
5. Social learning from colleagues in the flow of work (embracing the moment / challenging ourselves and learning)

So the next time you are asked to design or deliver ‘values training’, instead consider how you might design reflective experiences where people explore their own values and connect them to sustainability and organisational values. Ensure that the experience feels authentic and involves human connection and above all, understand that it’s a journey you can assist them on - not one you can direct.

Contact us 
Sign up for the free Learning eXperience Design course