Walter Leal Filho

Walter Leal Filho

Walter Leal Filho (BS, PhD, DPhil, DSc, DL, DLitt) is a Senior Professor at London Metropolitan University, UK and heads the Research and Transfer Centre "Applications of Life Sciences" of the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, where he is in charge of various sustainability-related projects across the world.

In this interview Walter Leal Filho, Senior Professor at London Metropolitan University, UK and head of the Research and Transfer Centre "Applications of Life Sciences" of the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, explains that Education for Sustainability is about educating people to better understand about the world they live in.

How do you define education for sustainability?

Education for sustainability can be defined as a process by which we make people aware about the connections between what we do the connections between what we do and the environment, but also taking into account social issues, economic issues, and also political issues. Is about educating people to understand better the world they live in, not only the environment, but the world they live in. So that by understand we can catalyze more sustainable behaviors more sustainable practices.

Which are the challenges that the global HE community face regarding sustainability?

There are two main challenges that I think they face, they are facing right now and in the future. The first main challenge is, how can you place sustainability more centrally in university programs? That’s a think that have been discussed in the past, a lot of time and effort have been spent in order to look at this issue, but we have to address it, how can we place sustainability centrally in university programs?

The second main challenge that I see has to do with the fact that even though sustainability research is very useful we don’t have enough of it. There are many researches out there which are largely unmet. So it would be useful if we could have a research agenda and addressing its needs.

Which challenges could be overcome in a midterm (2-3 years)?

For this time the better integration, better communication among sustainability actors. That’s a very important thing. It’s about to k now what is available; we have to interact more, and exchange more ideas and exchange more good practices.

Another way, which I mentioned this morning on my presentation, is the pressing need for document the experiences and also assimilating them. I was explaining today in the plenary that even though there’s much good work out there, excellent projects, not all of them are really documented, even few of them are disseminated, we have to document them and also disseminate them.

How can universities and HEIs advance sustainability within their main activities?

They have to place sustainability more centrally in university life by having a formal commitment to outset. This also needs to place sustainability research also, a little bit let say higher, in the priority list, because if you only take research you can publish its research, disseminate what you are doing, and generate funding. And the other element I think university should considered is really support the staff working this field. I have many colleagues who are active at this research and have little or not support at all. So it’s a need for supporting this staff. So that, they become motivated towards sustainability and not in other areas.

Which are your current projects in the field of sustainability and HE?

We have a few of them. We have a project called yelawy(?). It’s a project linking European and Latin-American universities. It looks the issues of renewable energy in university systems. By discussing renewable we are automatically discussing sustainability. A further project we are validating now is called “salla” it’s a platform for climate change, also in Latin-American universities, where we try to put climate issues a bit more central in university programs. And a final project just now about to start has to do with the promotion of renewable energy in rural communities. The idea is that by looking the issue of solar energy, wind energy, and less in biomass, we can encourage people to use more renewable energy sources which are plentiful in developing countries. Lots of sunshine, lots of wind, lots of biomass available. And make this energy useful for people and improves people lives quality. The project is very practical and has sustainability as a cross cutting feature but deals real problems.


  • UNESCO. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
  • The Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP)

Sponsored by

  • Generalitat de Catalunya. Ministry of Business and Employment. Department of Research and Universities
  • Generalitat de Catalunya. Ministry for Foreign Action and Open Government