Sustainability

"Progress is measured by the speed at which we destroy the conditions that sustain life."

George Monbiot, British journalist and environmental activist
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This Business English lesson plan on sustainability has been designed for business professionals or other adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

In a world where customers are paying more and more attention to their environmental impact, sustainability is not only important to protect the environment, it also makes good business sense. In this Business English lesson plan on sustainable businesses, students will have the opportunity discuss and express their opinions on issues such as how industries harm the environment, how their own company could be more sustainable and how environmental regulations affect businesses.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.

PRE-CLASS ACTIVITIES

Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

LA Times | “Wal-Mart sets environmental plan as people seek green items”

The article talks about Walmart’s plan to become more sustainable in response to changing consumer trends. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was written? Can they think of any ways they might disagree with the content of the article?

Video activity
To save time in class, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below at home. In the class, the students will answer a number of conversation questions directly or indirectly related to the content of the video.

The video for this class is a TED Talk by Steve Howard called “Let’s Go All-In On Selling Sustainability” which highlights the importance of sustainability and how businesses can become more sustainable.

IN-CLASS ACTIVITIES

The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means, if they agree with it and how it could relate to business. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including how businesses can be responsible for environmental problems and how environmentally friendly the students think the companies they work for are.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with sustainability and the environment such as climate change, carbon footprint and greenwashing. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the conversation questions. Before the conversation, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about sustainability. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as the effect of government regulations on businesses, whether some companies are as serious as they claim about the environment and whether or not businesses will be more sustainable in the future.

HOMEWORK

After the class, students will write a report to their board of directors explaining how their company could be more sustainable. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise business-style writing as well as improving their grammar with the feedback from their teacher.

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