Vision for Environmental Leadership Initiatives for Asian Sustainability


The United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD) was proposed by then Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg 2002. In the same year a resolution designating the years 2005 to 2014 as the UNDESD was unanimously adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. Japan developed a UNDESD action plan in 2006.

The action plan addresses the importance of implementing sustainable development programs at higher education institutions as a first step. In June 2007 the 21st Century Environmental Nation Strategy and Innovation 25 was approved by the Japanese Cabinet. Both initiatives address the need for training future environmental leaders with the ability to meet environmental challenges both in Japan and overseas. In the same year leaders from countries across Asia, meeting at the East Asia Summit (EAS), high level meetings between China and Japan, and other meetings, agreed to work together toward developing environmental leadership in Asia.

The Ministry of the Environment set up a panel of experts from universities, companies, and nonprofit organizations to review the Vision for Environmental Leadership Initiatives for Asian Sustainability in Higher Education (Environmental Leadership Vision) and that Vision was adopted in March 2008.

Who are Asia’s Future Environmental Leaders?

Sustainable development initiatives in Asia

Asian countries are experiencing an escalating demand for natural resources, food and water on top of soaring pollution and health problems as well as increasing greenhouse gas emissions due to rapid economic expansion and population growth.

There is an urgent need in these countries to train future environmental leaders who will work to ensure sustainable development.

Two types of people are needed to achieve sustainable development:

1. Environmentally-conscious citizens: people whose lifestyles have a minimal environmental impact

Conventional environmental education has focused on raising people’s environmental awareness.

2. Environmental leaders: leaders who have the ability to make the socioeconomic system more harmonious with the environment through environmentally-friendly products, services, businesses, technologies, and policies

A vision for training such environmental leaders has been proposed by the panel.

Definition of environmental leaders in the Environmental Leadership Vision

Program Target
Program Target

Environmental leaders are those who look at environmental problems in light of their own experience and moral values, are committed to leveraging their area of expertise to realize sustainable development in their professional and private lives, and exercise leadership in fulfilling their social responsibilities.






Three requirements for leadership training

Leadership Tranning
Leadership Tranning

Interviews conducted with more than 200 environmental professionals at universities, companies and NGOs asking for their opinions about environmental leadership revealed that there are mainly three basic building blocks that go into making environmental leaders. These building blocks include commitment, expertise, and leadership.





Skills required for Asia environmental leaders in the long-term and short-term


Skills required for Asia environmental leaders in the long-term and short-term
In advanced Asian countries In developping Asian countries
Short- term In different phases
  • Ability to take action with a sound environmental ethic for complying with environmental regulations
  • Technological skills for analyzing and monitoring currently occurring
  • Ability to develop green technologies that will minimize environmental burden
  • Ability to acquire and maintain techniques that are suitable and feasible for each country such as environmental planning
  • Ability to accurately identify priorities and take action based on the significance and urgency of environmental impact
  • Ability to work on environmental conservation while meeting social needs such as poverty issues
  • Ability to assess and make decisions for short-term and long-term needs from a comprehensive perspective
  • Leadership or educational ability to disseminate environmental knowledge, information and technologies within a country
Long- term Government
  • Ability to analyze the social structure of a developing country based on an understanding of its historical, economical, and cultural background and social system related to environmental conservation as well as knowledge about environmental regulations
  • Ability to design and develop effective environmental measures and various incentive programs based on particularities and specific situations in a developing country
  • Ability to look at preventive measures against environmental problems that have already been experienced by advanced countries but have not yet become serious in developing countries as well as to design and develop feasible policies
  • Ability to seek and implement measures to integrate economic development and environmental conservation while avoiding the path taken by advanced countries that has led to economic growth without due attention to environmental conversation
  • Ability to take action with a sound environmental ethic for complying with environmental regulations enforced by the central and local governments
  • Technological and development capabilities to make production and manufacturing processes greener
  • Ability to take initiative to implement new systems, products and services that reduce environmental impact depending on the level of development
Civil Society
  • Ability to leverage knowledge and technologies necessary for sustainable development in Asia and pass these down to future generations
  • Ability to deal with various problems facing the community from a comprehensive perspective and determine priorities
  • Ability to choose environmentally-friendly systems, products and services