Purpose The purpose of this paper is to assess the views of social workers concerning theoretical and practical courses covering their professional responsibilities, focussing on sustainable development and the natural environment. It also investigates the impact on their attitudes towards sustainable development referencing their adoption of ecocentric or anthropocentric attitudes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Design/methodology/approach This study used a structural equation model to answer six research questions, while the descriptive statistics answered one of the research questions through an online survey conducted with 315 social workers. Findings This study demonstrated the need to consider attitudes to sustainable development focussing on the ecocentric and anthropocentric attitudes, as well as the current COVID-19 global pandemic. Originality/value This study is the first initiative to examine attitudes towards sustainable development and the natural environment from a social work perspective focussed on the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, it is the first to emphasise the responsibilities of social workers in relation to micro, meso and macro level interventions during and after the global pandemic.