The Handprint Concept: Changing Structures towards Sustainability

Handprint Concept

ESD empowers learners with knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to take informed decisions and make responsible actions for environmental integrity, economic viability and a just society empowering people of all genders, for present and future generations, while respecting cultural diversity."
- UNESCO, 2020, Roadmap ESD for 2030, p. 8

We are pleased to present the handprint concept "Structural change towards sustainability" now also in English. The Germanwatch handprint is the basis of our educational work and focuses on transformative political forms of engagement. It also strengthens the pillars of democracy through negotiation processes.

With the handprint, we think beyond the concept of the footprint and emphasize the positive traces we leave on the earth. Structural conditions often make it difficult to act sustainably. The Handprint therefore aims to empower and inspire people to help shape social and political change in their environment and thus change structural conditions in the long term. This makes self-efficacy tangible and leads to sustainable behavior becoming the norm: Sustainability as the new normal.

However, due to different political situations, this concept is not applicable to every society and every country. We know that the fight against climate change and for social justice involves great personal risks in some countries. Therefore, the concept needs to be adapted to the specific situation, but can provide guidance and ideas for successful engagement.

It can also be difficult to decide which issue to start with, at what level and to what extent. Therefore, the test at the end of this flyer also shows with which topic, with which partners (friends, allies, strategic partners ...) and in which steps a transformation can be implemented in your area of impact. If projects have been successful at a smaller level, they can be transferred to the next level. This is how we gradually transform our society to make sustainable action possible for everyone.

ESD in action is citizenship in action.
- UNESCO, 2020, Roadmap ESD for 2030, p. 18

This flyer was written by Karo Senthlage and Stefan Rostock, based on an article by Marie Heitfeld.

Germanwatch e. V.
Publication date
Germanwatch e. V., 2024, The Handprint Concept. Changing Structures towards Sustainability.
Document type


Real name

Head of Division – Education for Sustainable Development, Promoter for Climate & Development in North Rhine-Westphalia

Real name

Policy Advisor – Education for Sustainable Development