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Breaking New Ground: 'Living the Sustainability Idea' sets path for student empowerment

Photos of litter in the woods and women.
Tora Westin, participant in the 'Living the Sustainability Track,' is gearing up to present her idea at the upcoming Sustainability Week 9 April.

After two semesters, students showcase their unique sustainability initiatives during Lund's Sustainability Week on 9 April, after following LUSEM's voluntary track 'Living the Sustainability Idea' where focus is on a personal sustainability challenge.

Working on the internal transformation

“This is about working on the internal transformation, focusing on sustainability, supporting students in how they can manage and drive development themselves. Landing on what sustainability means for them,” says Pernilla Thellmark, one of the instructors on the track.

We have met to discuss LUSEM's new extra curricula track 'Living the Sustainability Idea', an optional track available for students at the MSc in International Strategic Management and the MSc in Management (MiM). An idea born out of a collaboration between Martina Oxling, formerly responsible for the School's Sustainability Hub, and Pernilla Thellmark, Career coach and the programme directors, Ulf Ramberg and Ola Mattisson, of the master's where the track can be chosen. 

Given the keen interest students showed in sustainability issues, aligning perfectly with what both Pernilla and Martina observed in their respective areas of work, they began planning an elective track together with the programme directors. 

The assignment for the students has been to practice their own interpretation of the sustainability idea by doing something different in their lives during a week. Now, after nearly two semesters following the track, students conclude their intriguing journey by presenting their ideas during the Sustainability Week in Lund 9 April.

“Eighteen students enrolled in this voluntary track, and we kicked off in September 2023. The focus has been on the internal transformation, specifically addressing the significant changes ahead of us with climate transition and sustainability. It can feel overwhelming, vague, and challenging to tackle. But somewhere, we must begin. How can I, as an individual, drive sustainable development if I haven't personally confronted how I relate to this? That's the question we ask ourselves throughout the track,” explains Pernilla.

Photo of two female students.
Since September last year, students on the elective track have been meeting and discussing, among other things, inner development goals. Photo: Oleksandra Panasenko

Shifting perspectives: Students' evolving views on sustainability

Eager to get the student perspective and explore more about thoughts on sustainability, personal development, and the experiences of the track we asked three students to share their views and also tell about their ideas for their upcoming presentations. 

Wiebke Wentzler and Arianna Zamparelli, say that their perception of sustainability has evolved over time and that throughout their studies, they got to acknowledge and experience that there is far more to sustainability than just the environmental aspect. 

“While we always appreciated sustainability to be an important challenge that needs to be addressed adequately, we initially thought of it to be mainly related to environmental degradation. It is about social and governance related issues and not just connected to some parts, but every parts of our lives.”

Tora Westin explains how sustainability has transitioned from being primarily an environmental concern to a multidimensional concept that includes environmental, social, and economic dimensions. Initially, her view on sustainability was largely focused on environmental conservation and preservation, driven by concerns of pollution, and climate change. Issues that felt distant and overwhelming.

“However, over time it has become increasingly clear for me that sustainability is not just about the environment, but also about ensuring social equity and economic prosperity for current and future generations. This broader understanding led me into my educational path of a bachelors degree in politics and economics, and now a master in management, as a way to get a holistic view to address the sustainability challenges more effectively from a business perspective. Companies and organisations has huge impacts on society, both economically, socially and environmentally. My dream is to work for an organisation that focuses on sustainability and that helps corporations in the transformation towards a green future,” Tora says.

Tools for future challenges 

Wiebke and Arianna definitely feel that they now, thanks to 'Living the Sustainability Idea', are equipped with more tools for future sustainability challenges. 

“We definitely were able to extend our existing toolkit with the framework of the inner development goals (IDGs). Throughout our previous experiences, we were always working with the sustainable development goals. While the latter focus on goals that one can measure due to more or less tangible outcomes, the IDGs focus mainly on inner development and personal growth. Consequently, we now know about a very interesting tool to use for working on our mindset which can subsequently help us achieving goals connected to our respective environments,” they explain.

When asked if their feelings toward sustainability work have become more pessimistic or optimistic for the future they say that there is definitely ups and downs related to their view on the future of sustainability endeavours: As the world is growingly becoming more complex, volatile, uncertain and ambiguous, it is hard to tell where one is standing – regarding any issue. 

Concerning their evolving sentiments regarding sustainability work, Wiebke and Arianna openly shared their perspective. Reflecting on the ebbs and flows of their outlook, they acknowledged the challenges posed by an increasingly complex, volatile, and uncertain world. Navigating these uncertainties, they admitted, can sometimes leave them unsure of where they stand on various issues. However, amidst this uncertainty, they maintain a sense of optimism:

“Still, we feel optimistic that as long as every individual is doing their best in living more sustainably, we can – together – achieve the best we possibly can. This is what keeps us going. What else is there to hope for?”

When questioned about her readiness to confront future challenges and her sentiments regarding sustainability efforts, Tora offers a cautious and somewhat pessimistic perspective. However, she also reveals a surprising streak of optimism for the future.

“This is a difficult question to answer, not sure if I ever will be prepared for the future challenges we are expected to face, but I do feel a more connectedness to the planet, nature and other people. We are not alone in this and that feels reassuring some how. Even though we breaking new heating records, and climate change and extreme weather is becoming increasingly severe, I feel surprisingly optimistic about the future. With increased news reports I feel that a broader and deeper awareness is spread throughout society, and I experience that more people is talking about the issues. I also believe that we have all tools necessary for a transformation towards sustainability, and I now know that people are willing to make the change and work needed,” Tora reflects.

Challenge to really live the sustainability idea

'Living the Sustainability Idea' includes an assignment where the students are challenged to really live the sustainability idea. The track also comprises many other intriguing components. Hoping to shed light on why these students, amidst demanding master's studies, choose to dedicate time to a voluntary track, we asked what motivated them to apply, how it has enriched their academic journey, and, last but not least, to describe their idea!

“We wanted to learn more about how change can be driven by individuals rather than just organisations by engaging with and acting in accordance with not just the SDGs, but the IDGs. Knowing that change by bigger players is not enough, but every individual needs to contribute accordingly, we were highly interested to start engaging with these concepts more actively than we did before," Wiebke and Arianna explain. 

Dreaming of a career of helping companies with their sustainability work Tora knew she had to apply for the track.  

“The environment and sustainability has for as long as I can remember been something I care about deeply, and I my dream career would be to work with companies and help them change and develop towards a sustainable future. When I saw the opportunity to combine my studies with this sustainability track I knew I had to apply. This unique opportunity to combine management and sustainability practices has been rewarding. It has been a great experience, including educative meetings, visits at sustainability focused companies, and it has been nice to share ideas with others just as enthusiastic as me to get various perspectives," she says.

Photo of a vegan dish.
Students Wiebke and Arianna are hoping to inspire to follow a more sustainable diet from time to time. Photo: Ella Olsson, Pexels.


Building on the social sustainability aspect and trying to connect it to environmental sustainability, Wiebke and Arianna decided to set up some sustainability-dinners. Every evening for one week, they invited some peers for a nice vegetarian dinner.

“Our intention was twofold. On the one side, we wanted to connect people, engage in community and team building and foster some nice conversations aiming to broaden our horizons. On the other side, we intended to show people how convenient and delicious the vegetarian cuisine can be – by cooking for them and hopefully inspiring them to follow a more sustainable diet from time to time,” they explain. 

How do you anticipate it will impact your daily life? 

“We definitely could see, that one is stronger together when cooperating with others. Thus, caring for people in our environment as well as working in a team is something, we definitely will continue to do. Moreover, we recognised that it is important to connect with people outside of our normal comfort zone and to gain insights into different individual’s perspectives.”

Photo of a sign in nature.
Tora, student at the Living the Sustainability track, wants to spread the idea of 'Plogging'. Photo: Cam Bradford at Unsplash.


Growing awareness of the environmental impact of litter in natural spaces inspired Tora to conceive the idea of 'Plogging'.

“The idea for my project is quite simple. I love being out in nature doing various physical activities such as hiking, running, riding etc. but lately I have been increasingly aware of the trash that is left out in nature. A couple of months ago I stumbled upon an organisation called 'Plogga', a compound word of the verbs picking up trash and jogging, and I knew directly that I wanted to explore the movement more. Therefore, during seven days in February this year I was out plogging,” Tora says.

How do you anticipate it will impact your daily life?

“I already see a huge difference in my daily life. As I have started to look for trash I now see it everywhere. This realisation has made me start to think and reflect upon our societies need for packages, and what we could do to reduce waste. It has also impacted my life in the way that I now bring a trash-bag with me whenever I am going for a Power walk with friends or going out for a run.”

Living the Sustainability Idea

  • Voluntary extra curriculum track open for students in Msc International Strategic Management and Msc in Management.
  • Includes 5 workshops, 1 submission, 2 company visits, individual coaching and meeting with experts.
  • LUSEM's Career Services takes an active part by initiating and managing workshops and supporting with individual coaching sessions.
  • To get a diploma the students must participate actively in the workshops, company visits, individual coaching sessions and complete an assignment.
  • A possibility to get a sustainability profile but most of all to be prepared as future leaders to drive sustainable change. 

During the Sustainability Week

9 April 16:00 – 18:00

Living the Sustainability Idea – behavioural changes and its business implications

Part of the Sustainability Week programme.