Special to The Green Register by Kyle Crider, Manager – Environmental Operations, Ecotech Institute
“We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future.” ~John F. Kennedy
The latest United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil, dubbed “Rio+20,” has been met with mixed reviews, at best. The conference’s outcome document is named The Future We Want, but detractors such as the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) have renamed it “a future we can't live with.”[i]
But rather than curse the darkness, I’d like to focus on a couple of candles coming out of Rio…
The first is that private businesses often are leading when governments fail to lead. Amidst its criticisms, the UCS praises the more than 400 companies, which comprise the Consumer Goods Forum, who have pledged to achieve zero net deforestation in their supply chains by 2020.[ii] Also, banks, investors and insurers joined forces with more than 50 countries, as well as corporations such as Unilever , Puma, Dow Chemical and Mars Incorporated, to make a collective call for natural capital valuation and accounting.
The second candle is the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative, which was launched during a side event at Rio+20.[iii] To-date more than 700 institutions of higher learning from all over the world have signed the declaration, which reads as follows:
As Chancellors, Presidents, Rectors, Deans and Leaders of Higher Education Institutions and related organizations, we acknowledge the responsibility that we bear in the international pursuit of sustainable development. On the occasion of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, held in Rio de Janeiro from 20-22 June 2012, we agree to support the following actions:
· Teach sustainable development concepts, ensuring that they form a part of the core curriculum across all disciplines so that future higher education graduates develop skills necessary to enter sustainable development workforces and have an explicit understanding of how to achieve a society that values people, the planet and profits in a manner that respects the finite resource boundaries of the earth. Higher Education Institutions are also encouraged to provide sustainability training to professionals and practitioners;
· Encourage research on sustainable development issues, to improve scientific understanding through exchanges of scientific and technological knowledge, enhancing the development, adaptation, diffusion and transfer of knowledge, including new and innovative technologies.
· Green our campuses by: i) reducing the environmental footprint through energy, water and material resource efficiencies in our buildings and facilities; ii) adopting sustainable procurement practices in our supply chains and catering services; iii) providing sustainable mobility options for students and faculty; iv) adopting effective programmes for waste minimization, recycling and reuse, and v) encouraging more sustainable lifestyles.
· Support sustainability efforts in the communities in which we reside, working with local authorities and civil society to foster more liveable, resource-efficient communities that are socially inclusive and have small environmental footprints.
· Engage with and share results through international frameworks, such as the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, led by UNESCO, the UN University system, the UN Academic Impact, the Global Compact, the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Management Education initiative and the UN Environment Programme’s Environmental Education and Training initiatives, in order to exchange knowledge and experiences and to report regularly on progress and challenges.
As both a business and an institution for higher education, we applaud such efforts.
“An age is called ‘dark,’ not because the light fails to shine but because people refuse to see it.” ~James Michener
Kyle Crider is Manager – Environmental Operations at Ecotech Institute and Education Corporation of America. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a double-emphasis in Urban Planning & Policy Analysis. He is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND). He is currently in the Interdisciplinary Engineering Ph.D. Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Ecotech Institute or Education Corporation of America. Email Kyle at email@example.com