How literate are you on the Founding Principles of Sustainability?

07 July 2017


Happy children with sprout in hands
© Chepko Danil Vitalevich/

Students, faculty and staff of Higher Education Institutions scored an average of 55% on sustainability literacy. They understand more about human rights and not so much about environment related principles, according to a pilot run of the Sustainability Literacy Test conducted by Sulitest in 57 countries.

The “Sustainability Literacy Test”, Sulitest, was created following the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20 (Article 47 of the final document "Assess and Report"). The Sulitest is an easy to use open online training and assessment tool available for higher education institutions, companies and other organizations to ensure that their graduates / employees are fully aware of key global challenges, and are well equipped to integrate these fundamental sustainability issues. This test, led by an independent NGO, is supported by some 40 international institutions and networks. Functioning in a collaborative way, the tool is designed by and for its community with more than 300 volunteers from various countries.

The aim of this initiative is to promote Sustainability Literacy, as the knowledge, skills, and mind-sets that help compel an individual to become deeply committed to building a sustainable future and allow him or her to make informed and effective decisions to this end.

As of June 2017, 603 universities and organizations from 57 countries have registered to use the Sulitest and 61,520 candidates have already taken the test with an average score of 55%. This makes it a powerful tool to engage individuals and organizations on the path to sustainability and provides an interesting database to map the current state of Sustainability Literacy on various topics and tangible indicators to monitor progress over time.

The results of the pilot phase (2014-2016) of the Sulitest have already provided a first snapshot of the current sustainability literacy in higher education. The following charts display the distribution of candidates’ average scores and the average scores per candidate per core subject. According to the result, the respondents understand more about the founding principles of ‘human rights’ and ‘economic trends’ and not so much about ‘environment’ related principles. (Figures 1 and 2).

Figure 1 : Global Score (Average Score 55%)

Figure 2: Global Score per Core Subject and per type of candidates

















Recognized as one of the 17 featured initiatives on the UN partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Sulitest is now reporting on citizens' awareness and understanding of the SDGs during the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF). The first report using Sulitest to map awareness on the SDGs will be presented during the HLPF 2017.

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This article was prepared by Sulitest at the request of UNESCO to make available data evidence on the SDG target 4.7. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and should not be attributed to UNESCO. For further information, please visit Sulitest website