The Role of Literacy in Sustainable Development

Updated: Aug 21, 2020

Written by Satya Shekhar

In the past 10 years, the United Nations has pushed for sustainable development more than it did in the previous 5 decades. The year 2005 marked the beginning of the UN’s Decade of Education for sustainable development. But the agenda that was highly campaigned was the role of literacy in sustainable development. It is based on three basic pillars: economic development, social development and environmental protection. And the driving factor which practically empowers and acts as a key lever of change is literacy.

In the coming years, literacy can be a major tool for improving living standards and increasing awareness of the role of sustainable development. Various studies show that it has already been a medium for eradicating poverty and improving family health. Moreover, if implemented properly, it can further advance in promoting democratic participation by gender equality and fair employment opportunities. Recently, most of the literacy programs have been focused on fulfilling the local needs such as environmental protection and community development.

There are around 800 million illiterate adults and 60% of them are women. Every year more than 100 million children do not have access to primary and secondary education. But organizations such as P&G (Procter & Gamble) invest heavily in India for providing free education through their program called ‘Shiksha’. It has supported over 140 school and 280,000 unprivileged children to provide their right to education. Big organizations like P&G are also supported by the local government for their philanthropic efforts. And it is very important that government bodies push these initiatives into action too as such approaches seek to facilitate the high-quality literacy that focuses more on embracing life skills in a dynamic environment as literacy is at the heart of sustainable development.

In my view, development is not about building more factories, breaking sales records and achieving high profits. Development is about humans achieving high-quality living standards and meeting their basic rights. Development is about all lives matter equally and everyone receives equal opportunity. And to make this possible, it is very important that big businesses who have public funds invested in it understand that it is their moral responsibility to push for a sustainable future.

As a ‘Business Development Manager’ myself who works in a consultancy firm, I try my best to control the wastage of paper or over usage of energy on a daily basis. Moreover, my consultants reach out to social enterprises like ‘’ to provide discounted services to them as it is one of our ethical duties this year to push for sustainable development at the workplace.

Finally, in the words of Jenny Darroch, I want to conclude that ‘Business, as usual, is not an option’. In the past decade, the transition in industries has proved that more companies are coming forward to fulfill their ethical duties.

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