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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Development and Implementation of an online degree Master of Science Sustainable Chemistry for Professionals of the Chemical Enterprise: Interdisciplinary Higher Education in Chemistry for Sustainable Development.

International Sustainable Chemistry Collaborative Centre/ Leuphana University (
Academic institution

    The online degree M.Sc. Sustainable Chemistry is a novel interdisciplinary higher education program teaching chemistry in the context of sustainability. Due to the central role of the chemical sciences for value creation in the socio-economy, the chemistry profession is an important stakeholder group for aligning current practices with the requirements of sustainable development. The program provides corresponding essential knowledge, training and tools, addressing the molecular level of sustainability as well as global resource and product flows, alternative business models, ethics, entrepreneurship, and international regulations for chemicals management.

    Implementation of the Project/Activity

    The online degree M.Sc. Sustainable Chemistry was developed jointly by the Institute for Sustainable and Environmental Chemistry of Leuphana University (ISEC) and the Research & Education Hub of the International Sustainable Chemistry Collaborative Centre (ISC3), combining academic expertise in sustainable chemistry with strategic work of the ISC3 in supporting collaboration, multi stakeholder exchange and implementation of sustainable chemistry for sustainable development. The curriculum for the two-year program was developed during the course of the year 2019, encompassing the selection and composition of relevant content and learning aims, conceptual planning and timing of online learning and selected on-site laboratory and networking sessions, and acquisition of international lecturers for the program. Program development was concluded by March 2020 with the award of two accreditation labels according to German and European guidelines for higher education in chemistry. The program is hosted by the continuing professional development (CPD) institution Leuphana Professional School, the latter providing long-standing expertise as well as initial support in the conduction, accreditation and evaluation of online-based CPD programs. The M.Sc. Sustainable Chemistry was launched in March 2020 for the first time and is offered yearly.


    The two-year curriculum of the M.Sc. Sustainable Chemistry delivers training in sustainability-related chemical sub-disciplines (teaching of chemistry: Environmental Chemistry; Toxicology and Ecotoxicology; Modelling of Chemical Properties and Fate; Benign by Design) and then progresses to interdisciplinary modules placing chemistry into the normative context of sustainable development (training about chemistry: Sustainable Chemistry and Renewable Energy; Resources, Recycling and Circular Economy; Sustainability Assessment; Law, International Regulations and Chemicals Management; Business Models and Strategies; Society and Responsibility). It is implemented as online degree, with selected laboratory and networking sessions, and practice-based project and thesis work. This set-up enables the participation of international professionals from multiple world regions, supporting swift implementation of relevant expertise in practice.

    Enabling factors and constraints

    Program development was funded by the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety as part of the educational activities of the International Sustainable Collaborative Centre and its Research & Education Hub at the Institute for Sustainable and Environmental Chemistry (ISEC) of Leuphana University. Curriculum development was based on longstanding expertise in research and education in chemistry for sustainability at ISEC. Operational implementation including the accreditation of the program was and is continuously supported by Leuphana Professional School

    Sustainability and replicability

    The M.Sc. Sustainable Chemistry offers urgently needed expertise and tools for aligning the practice of chemistry with sustainable development goals and the demand in professionals with sustainability training on higher education level is high. This allows to project stable and steadily increasing participation in the program in the future. The hosting institution Leuphana Professional School is a renowned institution for online-based, international CPD programs, providing a long-term stable and secure infrastructure for offering the program. The online format of the M.Sc. Sustainable Chemistry facilitates the transfer of related content to universities in other world regions for the scale up of education for sustainable development. Such scale up could be implemented in various formats (study programs, summer schools, trainings) for a variety of stakeholder groups (students, professionals, civil society with or without training in chemistry).

    Other sources of information Elschami M, Kümmerer K, 2020. Design of a Master of Science Sustainable Chemistry. Sustain. Chem. Pharm.

    COVID-19 Impact

    The M.Sc. Sustainable Chemistry is a predominantly online-based continuing professional development (CPD) program for which tuition fees apply. Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, onsite sessions intended for networking and laboratory classes have not been possible so far. This has been compensated by interactive live online sessions. COVID-19 related economic instability has occasionally impacted participants’ ability to cover tuition fees and might have impacted the number of applications to the program for the year 2021. At the same time, the online format of the program supports continuity in important global sustainability discourse by enabling global participation despite COVID-19 travel restrictions.

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    This initiative does not yet fulfil the SMART criteria.
    15 March 2020 (start date)
    15 March 2050 (date of completion)
    ISC3 Research and Education Hub at Institute for Sustainable and Environmental Chemistry, Leuphana University
    Other beneficiaries

    International professionals of the chemical sector from academia, industry, authorities, NGOs or consultancies are trained for direct application of sustainability-oriented tools for the practice of chemistry in the socio-economy.

    Contact Information

    Klaus, Development and Implementation of an online degree Master of Science Sustainable Chemistry for Professionals of the Chemical Enterprise: Interdisciplinary Higher Education in Chemistry for Sustainable Development.