What do the terms “communication” and “sustainability” mean when they are linked together? What do we understand by “communication”? What does “sustainability” imply for us?

People have different understandings of this terminology, depending on numerous linguistic and cultural characteristics in various countries in Europe and around the world, which can go far sometimes from the original definition of Sustainable Development set in 1987 by the UN Brundtland Commission as the “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Agreeing that the process of communication is about the exchange of information between two or more individuals, we also need to differentiate between other specific communication practices such as “interpersonal communication” (happening directly or indirectly between two or more people), “mass communication” (which is consumed by many readers or viewers) and “group communication” (occurring within organized social groups, associations or parties).


As the first aim of communication is understanding, we can argue that a key function of communication is finding common solutions for universal problems.

If we consider communication in relation to sustainability, we can say that it refers to an understanding of the concept and the content of sustainable development, as well as the exchange of the related information needed to reach sustainable development. Within such a framework, communication is a mutual process of sending and receiving information, which has to be made accessible and reach the addressees.

Therefore, it is easy to understand why the communication content has to be tailored to the specific requirements of the desired target groups that we want to reach with our message. Having said that, the need for communication on sustainability truly exists when relevant information on sustainable development issues is communicated and have some kind of effects on individuals, groups of people, communities and society as a whole.


Unfortunately, the matter of communication on sustainability still plays a minor role in Europe and other non-EU countries, and the consciousness of the necessity of a more responsible and sustainable development is anchored in a very small percentage of the global population.

For this reason, it is fundamental that private and public schools and universities are able to prepare professionals to build, manage and verify sustainability communication plans, both from a strategic and creative point of view, in order to plan and implement a traditional and/or digital communication campaign related to the main challenges of sustainability.

Higher education institutions should offer courses and training to help develop proper strategies and tools, as well as consider the possible scenarios, sustainability knowledge and strategic thinking required to effectively create and promote authentic and ethical messages and communication initiatives towards a more sustainable development.


Teaching and learning for a more sustainable future should include the study of corporate, social, environmental and institutional communications, local and global cultures and environmental sciences and technology, as a fundamental stimulus for continuous research, use and experiment of new languages and means of communication for sustainability.

In relation to the strategic role of communication for sustainability we will give a lecture on the importance of considering ethical issues and dilemmas in the communication process and in environmental reporting during the 2012 Edition of the Master in Sustainability Communication, organized by the IED European Institute of Design of Turin.

Sustainable Think is the innovative training program of the new Professional Master Course in Sustainability Communication.

For more information about the Master in Sustainability Communication, please contact the IED European Institute of Design of Turin.


We help our clients and partners address the most pressing economical, political, social and environmental challenges. If you want to learn more about our sustainability practices, please Contact Us for an initial introductory consultation to discuss what management and communications systems you may need for complete sustainability legislative and regulatory compliance, and better measurement and reporting of TBL performance.



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