LeadSuS: Units and Elements

The LeadSUS training programme combines both the management and engineering aspects of integrating sustainability in organisations and their products, services, and processes. It also deals with the assessment of an organisation’s sustainability performance and provides a practical approach to setting up relevant programmes, objectives and targets in a strategic sustainability approach. This approach leads to positive social, environmental and economic impacts in the long run. The training drives leadership understanding through strategic business approaches and innovation performance, taking into consideration environmental and social aspects as key issues toward sustainable development.


Unit 1. Foundation - Understanding Sustainability

This unit explains the objectives of the training program in terms of helping organisations to strive for sustainability. It elaborates on the meaning of sustainability and on relevant international standards and norms.

1. Dimensions of Sustainability – Ecologic, Economic and Social

This element explains the three principal dimensions of sustainability. Sustainability has become a keyword (or ‘buzzword’) for product development in several sectors. In this training context the term sustainability should be associated with the notion of the environment. It thereby covers the intersection between challenges, requirements, and constraints imposed by the three dimensions of the environment: society, ecology, and economy. The concept of environment is defined as “The surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates”. Sustainability is very often reduced to the economic factor only, and often considered for achieving a sustainable profit growth. In the presented training sustainable design fully considers the three areas, including their overlapping regions.

2.    Relevant Standards and Norms

This element gives an overview of standards and norms that apply to the subject of sustainability. The proactive management of environmental aspects converges with enterprise risk management, corporate governance, operational, financial practices, and performance. Therefore international standards are becoming increasingly important for organisations to work with, towards common and comparable environmental management practices. The sustainability standard compliance supports their commitment and performance to the integration of sustainability in their organisations, products, and services. The program explains the scope and key benefits of the ISO standard families 14001, 26000, 31001, 50001.


This unit explains basic technical concepts for improving sustainable performance by the level of resource management with a focus on water, energy, materials and waste. The underlying methodology is derived from the Resource Efficiency and Cleaner Production (RECP) program that is jointly driven by the UNIDO and the UNEP.

1.    RECP Methodology (Resource Efficiency and Cleaner Production)

This element introduces a program jointly driven by the UNIDO and the UNEP to advance sustainable industrial development, consumption, and production in developing and transition countries. Specifically, their joint Program on Resource Efficiency and Cleaner Production (RECP) aims to improve resource efficiency and environmental performance of organisation, such as private businesses. 

2.    Water

This element focuses on RECP measures related to water resource sustainability. 

3.    Energy

This element focuses on RECP measures related to energy resource sustainability. 

4.    Materials and Waste

This element focuses on RECP measures related to materials and waste resource sustainability.


This unit explains Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and its principal challenges with a particular focus on stakeholder involvement, communication challenges for sustainability, as well as social impact assessment. 

1.    Definition of Social Responsibility

This element explains Social Responsibility in the context of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which refers to companies taking responsibility for their impact on society. As evidence suggests, CSR is increasingly important to the competitiveness of enterprises. It can bring benefits in terms of risk management, cost savings, access to capital, customer relationships, human resource management, and innovation capacity. 

2.    Social Impact Assessment

This element explains Social Impact Assessment (SIA) as a methodology to review the social effects of infrastructure projects and other development interventions. 

3.    Stakeholder Management

This element investigates the issue of involving numerous different stakeholders directly or indirectly affected by sustainability measures inside and outside a particular organisation.


This unit deals with “sustainability by design”, i.e., taking into account sustainability in the very design of products, services, and processes. Hereby, the notion of the product/system life cycle plays a central role. Sustainable design targets a “cradle to cradle” approach that goes beyond the often-cited notion of “from cradle to grave”. Taking into account life-cycle issues in integrated product/system design requires developing systematic Life Cycle Engineering (LCE) methods which are in the focus of this particular training unit. 

1.    Understanding of the Life Cycle

This element teaches key knowledge about the life cycle of products and services in terms of its phases and involved stakeholders. Life cycle awareness and knowledge is the very basis of sustainability thinking and engineering.

2.    Eco-Design and Sustainability

This element explains an integrated design approach towards the sustainably design of products, services and processes. The principal objective of eco-design is taking into account environmental sustainability aspects together with “usual” design in an integrated manner. 

3.    Life Cycle Assessment

This element explains and demonstrates Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), which is an increasingly important technique for assessing the potential environmental impact associated with a product or service. 

4.    Life Cycle Costing

This element teaches the fundamental notions of Life Cycle Costing (LCC) as a technique to establish the total cost of ownership (TCO). It is a structured approach that addresses all the elements of this cost and can be used to produce a spent profile of the product or service over its anticipated life-span. The results of an LCC analysis can be used to assist management in the decision-making process.


This unit deals with management aspects related to sustainability. One key lever of introducing sustainable design and thinking into a business organisation is to make sustainability an engine of innovation of products, services, and processes. While nowadays in many organisations sustainability measures are still considered as a “necessary must”, sustainability leaders have understood turning sustainability into a competitive advantage rather than an additional burden. Therefore, considerations for the successful management for sustainability presented in this unit mainly aim at the creation of added value through integrated solutions of products/services/processes driven by sustainability considerations. 

1.    Sustainability driving Innovation

This element teaches the awareness for the importance of sustainability aspects for innovation. It is essential to understand the environmental considerations offer innovation opportunities both in products, services and processes.

2.    Sustainable Business Models

This element explains the innovation opportunities thanks to new business models inspired by sustainable added-value solutions. 

3.    Value Chain for Sustainability

This element explains different aspects that are linked to creating added value by product-service-systems, i.e., integrated solutions of products enabling the provision of added-value services. 

4.    Strategic Sustainability Management

This element investigates key issues related to the development of a business strategy for sustainability. The establishment of useful Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) assumes a central role in such a strategy. 

5.    Deployment of Sustainability in the Organisation

This elements deals with issues related to the actual deployment of sustainability measures within an organisation. In particular, the methods IEMS (Integrated Environmental Management System) and Environmental Cartography are explained. 

6.    Leadership in Sustainability

This element explains the notion of leadership and the personal and organisational traits that characterise leaders in general and in the particular context of sustainability.