Leading for Sustainability: a Toolkit for Leaders   

Leading for Sustainability toolkit contents:

Setting the scene

The Leading for Sustainability Toolkit, designed for busy leaders and managers, hosts voices from the sector in the form of video-case studies, top tips, quick learns and further resources to share current practice, thinking and materials. Our ambition is that the toolkit helps you to contribute to sustainability education for learners by enabling ‘… every human being to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to shape a sustainable future.’ UNESCO, 2014.

Watch the six videos in the playlist and listen to Charlotte Bonner, CEO of EAUC (The Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education), discuss how ideas and practice around sustainability in the sector have changed in the last few years, what the sector is doing well and where it can have the most influence.

After watching the videos, you may wish to ask yourself:

  • What opportunities do the points in the videos raise for my organisation?
  • What risks do the points in the videos raise for my organisation?

Voices from the sector

Leaders from across the FE and Skills sector discuss how they lead for sustainability in their settings through these four video-case studies. 

Communication and frameworks
Suzannah Reeves (Associate Principal) and Lewis Entwistle (Assistant Principal) of Oldham Sixth Form College discuss how using local and national campaigns, resources and frameworks helps to engage the community and build relationships.[06:54] 
Future skills for the local community
Andrea Wood (Principal for New Directions College) explores the importance of making sustainability local, relevant and relatable. This video is organised in five short chapters. [8:06]
One strategy across seven colleges
Liam Carr (Sustainability in Curriculum Coordinator of NCG) discusses how NCG prioritises, develops and implements its sustainability strategy across the group, the importance of regional networks and having a sustainability-specific role with strong support from senior management. This video is organised in four short chapters. [06:07]
Innovation and partnership 
James Hibbert (Deputy Principal and Sustainability Lead for Plumpton College) explores how you don’t lead for sustainability on your own. This video is organised in five short chapters. [06:14]

Quick learns

What progress are you making in developing a shared vision of sustainability across the organisation for employers, staff and learners? How is your organisation leading on green jobs and skills? 

We have produced four short video-presentations and accompanying slides on a range of leading for sustainability topics, plus a video from Eleanor Willis, Change Agents UK. These are designed for multiple uses e.g. online or face-to-face CPD, stimulating discussion in team meetings or 1:1s or for a deep dive into a specific topic. Click on the following five headings to watch the video-presentations and download presentations.

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Video summary:

  • Chapter 01: Why FE should be leading for sustainability? [00:00]
  • Chapter 02: What is sustainable development [03:13]
  • Chapter 03: Resources [06:44]

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Video summary:

  • Chapter 01: Opportunities for whole-organisation approaches [00:00]
  • Chapter 02: DfE sustainability and climate change strategy [02:48]
  • Chapter 03: Frameworks to consider [05:31]
  • Chapter 04: Resources [08:55]

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Video summary:

  • Chapter 01: Creating change – engaging stakeholders [00:00]
  • Chapter 02: Creating change – messaging [04:27]
  • Chapter 03: Resources [07:08]

Download presentation

Video summary:

  • Chapter 01: Making every job a green job [00:00]
  • Chapter 02: Internal and external partners [04:23]
  • Chapter 03: Resources [06:14]

Eleanor Willis, Change Agents UK

Please note, editable versions of the presentations are available on request. Please contact digitalcommsteam@etfoundation.co.uk for more information.

Further resources

Resources are housed under seven sections and mapped to seven categories (please note, the resources will open in new tabs):

Government, Statutory and Public Bodies

Department for Education (DfE)

Sustainability and Climate Change:  A Strategy for the Education and Children’s Services Systems

Published in April 2022 following COP26 in Glasgow the previous November, the strategy outlined plans for The National Education Nature Park, Climate Leaders Award and Climate Action Plans.

Sustainability Leadership and Climate Action Plans in Education

Published in May 2023, this document outlined further detail on the leadership and strategic requirements of the Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy – taking a whole-institution approach, having a sustainability lead and climate action plan in place by 2025.

Good Estates Management for Schools

Updated June 2023. Guidance for using data to measure the performance of the estate, encourage sustainability and manage energy and water use.

FE News blogs | What’s promising about the DfE’s new Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy?

News article about the vital role the Further Education (FE) and Training sector, and the education system more broadly, has in contributing to the achievement of sustainability goals. See also FE News articles on how sustainability and climate change strategy and be developed and how the strategy will affect your organisation.

Department For Energy Security and Net Zero

Net Zero Strategy:  Build Back Greener

Updated April 2022, this strategy builds on the Government’s Nov 2020 strategy, 2030 carbon budget and 2050 net zero targets. Education mentioned in relation to Green Jobs, Skills and Apprenticeships and plans for a sustainability and climate change strategy for education and children’s services, which will include a focus on equipping children and young people with the knowledge and skills they need to contribute to the green economy.

Education and Skills Funding Agency

Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting for College Corporations

Updated January 2023, non-statutory guidance for colleges based on HM Government Environmental Reporting Guidelines.  Whilst not a requirement, ESFA has encouraged colleges to disclose energy and carbon reporting on their websites/annual reports. 


Member-only tool to assist colleges in making their Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting statement.


Tools and resources

Free to access range of tools to support those starting to plan their decarbonisation journey.

Case study: Berkshire College of Agriculture

Introduced air source heat pumps and upgraded energy management system.

Case study: The Bedford College Group

Harnessing the power of the River Ouse to decarbonise heating systems.

Case study: Colchester Institute

Introduced low carbon heating systems and sustainability studies.

Climate Change Committee

The Implications of Behavioural Science for Effective Climate Policy

Published in September 2023, this report reviewed existing research about the effectiveness of different interventions to promote low-carbon behaviours in eight key areas including diet, transport, consumption and skills.

Net Zero and Behaviour Change

Briefing published in October 2022 in advance of the Lords’ debate on what steps the government could take to support behaviour change as part of the pathway to net zero.

Better Transparency is no Substitute for Real Delivery

Published in June 2023 in response to the government’s progress on net zero plans and towards the recommendations made by the CCC in 2022.


Further Education and Skills Inspection Handbook

Updated July 2023. Pair this resource with The Professional Standards – updated in 2022, the Professional Standards for teachers now include a requirement to promote and embed education for sustainable development (ESD) across learning and work practices. Download the Professional Standards Leadership poster.

Sector Support Organisations   


Climate Action Roadmap for FE Colleges

Published in 2020 in advance of COP26 in Glasgow. A key output from the Climate Commission in partnership with Association of Colleges and NOUS Group, the Climate Action Roadmap provides a clear pathway, actions and guidance on how colleges can respond to the climate emergency as a whole-institution endeavour.

Staff Engagement and Development

Published in July 2023 by Toolkits for engaging Professional Services and Support Departments with sustainability including HR, Catering, Finance, IT and Marketing. 

Roadmap to Net Zero

Published in January 2023, The Royal Anniversary Trust published Accelerating Towards Net Zero, an ambitious roadmap for carbon reduction in the tertiary education sector.  It offered a profile of the sector’s carbon footprint, proposed a Standardised Carbon Emissions Framework to measure, report and manage carbon emissions, as well as making 14 recommendations to Government.

The Cost of Net Zero

Published in July 2023 by EAUC, AUDE and BUFDG, following the Accelerating Towards Net Zero Report. As a counterbalance to commitments and strategies to countering the effects of climate change, The Cost of Net Zero Report and Calculator Tool enables colleges to explore the cost of achieving net zero through a standard protocol and helps us to understand the context, scale and nature of the task.


Sustainability and Climate Action Hub

Published in November 2022 to accompany COP27, this page links to a variety of resources including ESFA Guidance on Energy and Carbon Reporting and a range of Sustainability Exchange resources.

Annual Conference

Since 2021, AOC have run their annual conference as a carbon neutral event, collecting data on the carbon footprint of the event across travel, accommodation, catering, event space and promotional material. 

News article: New partnership aims to cut college energy bills

AOC is working in partnership with energy consultants Inenco to cut college energy bills with support on energy management and tailored sustainability solutions.

Education for Sustainable Development – Mini Factsheet

A4 factsheet on approaches, ideas and inspiration covering the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Metaskills, sustainability in action, circular economy and linking to curriculum.


Green Apprenticeships

To commemorate the King’s Coronation in May 2023, DfE announced that six Green Apprenticeships between Levels 2 – 7 have been selected by industry experts on IfATE’s Green Skills Panel for endorsement in recognition of their sustainability credentials. 

IfATE Environmental and Climate Change Strategy 2023-25

Outlining the role of apprenticeships and technical education in securing a fundamental shift in the skills of the UK workforce, looking at work so far and plans for the future.

Sustainability at IfATE

A variety of information including an animation explaining green apprenticeships and links to IfATE’s sustainability work.

Green Toolkit

Providing both general and route-specific guidance on green skills including information on how IfATE classifies green jobs.

Education and Training Foundation

Education for Sustainable Development Hub

Hub for ETF’s ESD resources including background information on ESD, training courses, resources and research.

Map the Curriculum Tool

Interactive audit tool for colleges and training providers to collect and analyses their own data, identify where they are currently, including sustainability topics and skills development in their provision, where there might be gaps and where they might improve.   

Toolkit and Learning Path for Governors

Comprehensive training programme for college Governors comprising a variety of modules including a Climate Action Governance Toolkit. Create a free account to access the modules.

Leadership for Education for Sustainable Development in the FE Curriculum

A review into ESD approaches and curriculum content in post-16 qualifications in England, commissioned by DfE. 

National Education Nature Park and Climate Action Awards

National Education Nature Park

Free resources, support and guidance helps EYFS to KS5 embed nature across teaching and learning with a range of activities and tools including writing a Vision Statement, mapping your site and collecting data to contribute to a national picture of biodiversity across the country’s education estate.

Climate Action Awards

Delivered by The Royal Society, the Climate Action Award is an institution-level award to recognise colleges, schools and nurseries that have brought strategic, whole-institution change in supporting their students to develop green skills, champion nature and work towards a sustainable future.

Climate Education Action Plan

Development of the NENP led by University of Reading.

Funding Sources for Biodiversity and Grounds Improvement

A selection of funding partners and schemes.


IEMA resources

Whilst most IEMA resources are membership-only, there are a range of freely available articles and resources that cover green jobs and skills, leadership and policy developments.

Green Careers Hub

Developed by IEMA as a freely accessible resource and information source on green skills, jobs and careers across all sectors as we can all play a role in greening the economy.

Sustainability Exchange

Sustainability Exchange is a vast library aiming to be the world’s leading resource of sustainability information in post-16 education. Resources cover an enormous range of topics and formats, including:

Frameworks for Sustainability

EAUC – FE Climate Action Roadmap

Climate Action Roadmap for FE Colleges

Published in 2020 in advance of COP26 in Glasgow. A key output from the Climate Commission in partnership with Association of Colleges and NOUS Group, the Climate Action Roadmap provides a clear pathway, actions and guidance on how colleges can respond to the climate emergency as a whole-institution endeavour.

Sustainability Leadership Scorecard

For EAUC or AUDE members.  A tool to measure the sustainability performance within HE And FE institutions and provide a framework for progression and improvement.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

The Global Goals – Ideas for Taking Action

Some simple suggestions for taking action to achieve the global goals.

Goal 4 – Quality Education

Goal 4 aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all and promotes lifelong learning opportunities.

SDG Teach-In

Annual campaign run by SOS (UK) during March to put the SDGs and sustainability at the heart of all stages of education and across all disciplines. In 2023, FE colleges led the way in terms of numbers of educators pledging to include the SDGs in their teaching.

The SDG Accord

Managed by EAUC, the Accord is the university and college sector’s collective response to the Global Goals, to inspire, celebrate and advance the critical role that education has in delivering the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The Inner Development Goals

The Inner Development Goals framework consists of five dimensions organising 23 skills and qualities of human inner growth and development. The framework has been developed by a team of international researchers after an extensive outreach consultation involving more than 1,000 people. The five dimensions comprise of:

  1. Being – Relationship to Self
  2. Thinking – Cognitive Skills
  3. Relating – Caring for Others and the World
  4. Collaborating – Social Skills
  5. Acting – Enabling Change

Department for Education (DfE)

Sustainability Leadership and Climate Action Plans in Education

Published in May 2023, this document outlined further detail on the leadership and strategic requirements of the Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy – taking a whole-institution approach, having a sustainability lead and climate action plan in place by 2025.

Morley College and New City College in partnership with EAUC, ETF and funded by DfE

Fusion Skills:  Education for Sustainable Development Toolkit

Published in February 2023. Led by Morley College and New City College, supported by EAUC and ETF with funding from DfE as one of the Strategic Development Fund projects. This project was developed for education professionals to better understand their current ESD practice, as well as the opportunities to further promote and embed ESD in teaching and work. Fusion Skills is a concept developed by The City of London Corporation who wanted to collectively define the skills needed for the future and enhance these skills within an ethical context of social mobility and sustainability.

Short Courses

The Carbon Literacy Project

An awareness of the carbon dioxide costs and impacts of everyday activities and the ability and motivation to reduce emissions on an individual, community and organisational basis. An increasing number of colleges and training providers are using the bespoke FE and HE Toolkit to deliver a day’s-worth of Carbon Literacy training to staff and students.

Climate Fresk

A three hour workshop with a trained facilitator using a collaborative, discussion-based approach to teach the fundamental science behind climate change and inspire participants to take action. 

Change Agents UK

Change Agents works with FE, HE, corporate clients and individuals to deliver education and development programmes on sustainability careers, employability and essential professional skills in sustainability. Programmes include development for Leadership and HR professionals, as well as a very short course on Climate EssentialsSustainable Futures is a course for students as they transit from education into future-focussed work and Green Careers and the Future of Work is a workshop-based training course for careers teams and those who guide and support students.

WWF – Sustainable Futures

Sustainable Futures is a free careers programme for UK colleges and secondary schools with resources and training.

Education and Training Foundation

Embedding Education for Sustainable Development is a course that comprises of six live online sessions. This course is for those in the FE and skills sector seeking to embed sustainability into their professional practice and incorporates current thinking and research into the sessions.

University of Reading

Planet Partners: Tackling the Climate Crisis Together is a short course (14 hours) developed by University of Reading and available on FutureLearn.

Resources, Research and Advocacy

The Carbon Trust

As well as support for strategy, delivery and reporting, The Carbon Trust also has a range of useful resources, including on Scope 3 emissions with an introductory guide.


Student-Led Sustainability Curriculum Mapping

Student-Led Sustainability Curriculum Mapping is a programme to support and train students to audit and map formal curricula against the UN Sustainable Development Goals and wider sustainability learning. 

The RACE Report

This report aims to address race diversity within the environmental, climate and sustainability charitable sector and to hold organisations accountable for their initiatives towards a safe and diverse workplace. This collaborative initiative is a partnership between SOS UK, Hindu Climate Action, Nature Youth Connection Education and South Asians for Sustainability.

Perspectives on Climate Change and Mental Health

SOS UK survey a large number of students in FE and HE institutions every April, asking about their feelings on climate change.

Sustainability Skills Survey

Every year, SOS UK survey students to ask about their attitudes towards learning for sustainable development. A majority have consistently said that they want their institutions to be doing more and that they want to learn more about it.

Responsible Futures

Responsible Futures is a whole-institution supported change programme and accreditation mark (audited by students) to embed sustainability across all aspects of student learning.

Teach the Teacher

Teach the Teacher is part of a global initiative to empower students with the skills and knowledge to talk about climate and advocate for themselves. There are also teacher resources with links to a range of organisations.

Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations

Motivating Low Carbon Behaviours in the Workforce – Insights from Cornwall Council

Published in October 2023, the briefing covers workforce readiness, opportunities and barriers and staff engagement and behaviour change.

Public Worry about Climate Change and Energy Security in the Cost of Living Crisis

Published in November 2022, revealing how during 2022, although public worries about climate change remained at a consistent level, worries about Covid had been replaced by worries about the cost of living.

Organisational Transformations for a Greener Future

Published in January 2023, this report looks at some examples of organisations making the transition to a greener future, with a key finding being that single sustainability interventions have limited effect, whereas a coherent, strategic values-led approach was most effective.


Guide to Good Practice in IT Sustainability

Published in July 2022, this guide assembles advice and good practice from across the FE sector in Wales to help improve financial sustainability and for planning to meet net zero targets.

Exploring Digital Carbon Footprints

Published in June 2022, this report looks at the hidden environmental costs of the digital revolution and the steps that colleges and universities can take to address these.

Supply Chain School

Whilst the focus of this website is on business and the built environment sector, the vast range of free resources covering three core pillars of sustainability – environmental, social and economic are relevant to colleges.

Potential Energy Coalition

Potential Energy Coalition published ‘Talk Like a Human’ in 2023, an extensive message-testing research project and recommendations on how to better communicate the threat of climate change, encourage people to demand action and inspire them by the progress that we’re already making. 


Futerra’s 2011 Report for the UK Government, Sell the Sizzle, is a landmark in climate messaging.

Networks and Thought Leadership

FE Sustainability Network

The FE Sustainability Network is a grassroots network comprising practitioners across FE. It holds termly online meetings, shares practice and joins up FE practitioners passionate about sustainability.


Communities of Practice are networking forums for EAUC members to exchange ideas, skills and experience and cover various topics and regions.

Climate Reframe

Climate Reframe lists some of the best UK-based black, brown, Asian, people of colour indigenous peoples from the Global South, who are climate and environmental experts, campaigners and advocates living and working in the UK.

Sustainability Leadership

Anglia Ruskin University

Global Sustainability Institute

Research and education to develop practical solutions to global sustainability challenges.

Ruskin Modules

Interdisciplinary modules that complement degree courses and develop skills that employers want – collaboration, problem-solving and thinking critically, creatively and flexibly. Each module presents a question about our changing environment framed by the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Imperial College London

Grantham Institute – Climate and Change and the Environment

Research, training and innovation towards effective action on climate change and the environment.  As well as cutting-edge research, the institute also produces practical, approachable guides and advocacy resources on taking action, such as 9 Things You Can Do About Climate Change and How Can Taking Action on Climate Change Make All Our Lives Better, as well as other resources and research on mental health and a fair transition.

Manchester Metropolitan University

An example of clear communication on whole-institution strategies for sustainability across campus, curriculum, culture and community with particular emphasis on student and staff support, development and empowerment.

University of Reading

Sustainable Development at the Heart

A strong understanding of sustainable development is a key part of the experience at University of Reading, from research to embedding ESD across curricula and empowering students with the knowledge, skills and attributes to contribute solutions to global challenges in an equitable and just way.

The Warming Stripes

Increasingly recognised as one of the most powerful representations of the climate crisis, the Warming Stripes were created by Professor Ed Hawkins at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science and University of Reading. The Warming Stripes are visual representations of the change in temperature as measured in each country, region or city over the past 100+ years.

The Green Gown Awards

The Green Gown Awards recognise the exceptional sustainability initiatives being undertaken by colleges and universities across the world in 16 categories. Each winner and finalist shares their sustainability journey including ley learning.