Seven Key Concepts

The seven concepts are: Citizenship & Stewardship | Sustainable change | Needs and rights of future generations | Interdependence | Diversity | Uncertainty and precaution | Quality of life, equity and justice

Citizenship and stewardship

Recognises that people have rights and responsibilities to participate in decision making and that everyone should have a say in what happens in the future. This involves a willingness to act as responsible citizens while developing the ability to engage with and manage change at individual and social levels. Pupils are expected to know and understand the connection between personal values, beliefs and behaviour and how the school and community can be managed more sustainably.

Sustainable change

Promotes an understanding that there are limits to the way in which the world, particularly the richer countries, can develop. The consequences of unmanaged and unsustainable growth might include increasing poverty and hardship and the degradation of the environment, to the disadvantage of everyone. This involves pupils in understanding how their home and school may be managed more sustainably and beginning to question decisions, practices and processes that affect sustainable development issues.

Needs and rights of future generations

This concept is about learning how we can lead lives that consider the rights and needs of others and recognising that what we do now has implications for what life will be like in the future. This involves pupils in discussing the way they live and the products and services they use, to distinguish between actions and products which are wasteful and those which are sustainable. This should enable pupils to begin to assess the sustainability of their own lifestyle.


Involves an understanding about the connections and links between all aspects of people’s lives and places at a local and global level, and that decisions taken in one place will affect what happens elsewhere. Pupils should develop an understanding that living things depend on each other and should acquire a sense that all living things have value. This should lead to an understanding that what people do elsewhere affects them, the places they live, other people, and plants and animals. They should become increasingly aware of the global context within which trade, industry and consumption operate.


This concept is about understanding the importance and value of diversity in people’s lives – culturally, socially, economically and biologically – and realising that all our lives are impoverished without such diversity. Through learning, pupils should appreciate cultural and biological diversity in the school and locality and eventually be able to reflect critically on, and engage in, debates and decisions on political, technological and economic changes which impinge on diversity and sustainability.

Uncertainty and precaution

Involves a realisation that because people are learning all the time and that their actions may have unforeseen consequences, they should adopt a cautious approach to the welfare of the planet. This implies understanding that different people want to do things in different ways and are able to listen to arguments and weigh evidence carefully. Pupils should thus be able to think critically, systematically and creatively about sustainable development issues, solutions and alternatives.

Quality of life, equity and justice

Recognises that for any development to be sustainable, it must benefit people in an equitable way. It is about improving everybody’s lives. At a basic level this involves understanding the essential difference between needs and wants and developing a sense of fairness. It involves understanding the difference between quality of life and standard of living and seeks a good quality of life for all people, at local, national and global levels and an appreciation of why equity and justice are necessary to a sustainable society.