Sustainability education complements the goals of a liberal education and the mission of Luther College in many ways. First, sustainability education emphasizes an interdisciplinary, systems approach to thinking about problems. It promotes an understanding of social and ecological systems, an awareness of their interdependence, and an appreciation for the complexity of our world.
Second, sustainability education demands attention to the importance of place and community while simultaneously increasing students' awareness of cross-cultural perspectives and global interconnectedness. Finally, sustainability education helps students become informed, ethical citizens. The ability to assess empirical claims, think critically about alternative viewpoints, engage in political discourse, advocate change, and commit to action leads students toward a life of service and learning.
As a teacher in a liberal arts college, I think it is essential to introduce sustainability concepts wherever appropriate. A deliberate effort to As one of my colleagues, Aaron Swoboda, puts it, we know How many corn and bean fields will be planted where native forests and prairies were cleared?
How many invasive plants will threaten the remaining fragments? How will these fragments be used, preserved, protected? How will we deal with soil erosion, loss of soil fertility, increased fertilizer demands, run off and eutrophication of our waters?
And still feed a growing population? Sustainability at Ripon - Economics Dmytro Zhosan, Ripon College While in general sustainability seems to be becoming more and more popular as a topic these days, one thing that needs to be understood is what kind of sustainability we are talking about. There is no secret that the definition itself varies among people and among institutions. Some prefer to focus on small issues — like switching to local-grown food and going "trayless" in the commons, some decide to "go bigger" and replace grass on athletic fields with artificial turf made of recycled tires or turn to alternative energy sources for different campus needs.
Regardless of which particular actions we are talking about, the end goal seems to be the same for all — minimizing the environmental impact of human activity. Sustainability and Me Jim Farrell, St. Olaf College Curiosity brought me to sustainability, and it still keeps me interested. Many years ago, Alexander Wilson wrote a book called The Culture of Nature,a title that seemed so strange to me that I decided to teach it which is what I often do to satisfy my curiosity.
My first step was a course by that title in the first year writing program. We compared the two groups of companies in terms of corporate governance five metrics , stakeholder engagement 11 metrics , employees four metrics , customers 11 metrics , suppliers 11 metrics , and auditing 13 metrics.
For the five metrics on corporate governance, the percentage of adoption ranges from 8. On only one of the five metrics — the board has taken formal responsibility for sustainability — have more than half of the High Sustainability firms implemented this practice.
Standards of best practice regarding corporate governance evolve as the legal and social context changes. The explanation for the lower percentages on linking executive compensation to non-financial metrics regarding social, environmental, and customer performance dimensions is the difficulty of coming up with reliable measures. As standards for non-financial measurement are developed, it will be easier to make non-financial performance a factor in executive compensation for those companies that choose to do so.
In terms of stakeholder engagement broadly and suppliers in particular, nearly all of the differences between the two groups are highly statistically significant. This is driven more by the low numbers from the Low Sustainability companies than by the high numbers from their High Sustainability counterparts. For stakeholder engagement, the range across the 11 metrics is 0. For the 11 metrics on suppliers, the ranges are 0. There is almost no adoption of sustainability practices regarding stakeholder engagement and suppliers by the Low Sustainability companies and only around one-quarter of the High Sustainability companies have done so.
There are three possible explanations for this. The first is that the importance of these practices varies across industries since in certain industries the practice may simply not be that important. For example, certain business-to-business B-to-B industries that have little visibility to the public — such as general industrials, electronics, industrial engineering, and industrial transportation — may feel less need to focus on stakeholder engagement than highly visible business-to-consumer B-to-C industries such as beverages, leisure goods, personal goods, retailers and media.
However, these B-to-B businesses may find managing their supply chain especially important. This would be less important for companies that are at the beginning of the supply chain, such as those in industries which extract natural resources eg oil and gas production, and mining or convert natural resources into products eg chemicals and industrial metals ; for these industries we would expect a high level of attention to the environmental, health, and safety of their workers. A second explanation, which is a slight variation on the first, is that sustainability practices involve transaction and other costs.
In other words, managing sustainability practices as a portfolio of activities rather than individually may be the reason behind the apparent heterogeneity and indeed low adoption numbers. The third explanation is that we are simply at the early stages of adoption of sustainability practices.
These will undoubtedly spread, starting with the High Sustainability companies, especially if social expectations continue to place increasing emphasis on sustainability. Companies will vary in terms of the sequence in which they adopt sustainability practices, perhaps driven by those that are most immediately important to them.
They will also learn from each other. An important innovation by a firm in an industry for improving some aspect of non-financial performance in a way that contributes to financial performance will be imitated, to the extent possible, by its competitors, thereby spreading this practice. Furthermore, companies are still at the early stages of learning exactly what the best sustainability practices are and a period of experimentation will be required before these are well-defined.
The percentages of adoption are higher for the four employee metrics, ranging from Or it simply could be that there are some laggards even among the High Sustainability firms that will eventually adopt these practices.
When a practice is mandated by the government, companies have no choice but to implement it. In terms of customers and auditing, the percentages for both groups of companies are very low and, as a result, there are few statistically significant differences between the two groups. For customers, the range for the seven metrics for the Low Sustainability companies is 2. For auditing, Low Sustainability firms range from 0. For customers, we believe that one explanation is similar to the low adoption rates for linking non-financial performance to executive compensation — the lack of measurement standards.
For example, it is clearly difficult to measure the potential lifetime value, customer lifestyle, and cost of service of a customer. However, such metrics as geographical segmentation, customer generated revenues, historical sales trends, and products bought would seem to be relatively straightforward to measure.
The fact that most companies in our sample are not doing so suggests that either the appropriate customer relationship management systems do not exist or have not been installed since the company sees no value in doing so. We see this domain of customer metrics as one ripe for innovation.
Those companies that can figure out how to take these measures and use this information to improve financial performance will see a big benefit in doing so. The low rates on auditing are a consequence of the lack of measurement standards. Without measurement standards, it is virtually impossible to create rigorous auditing standards. Exacerbating this is the potential liabilities auditing firms perceive in conducting such audits. They already face substantial risk in their financial audits, even after years of development of accounting and auditing standards and supporting technologies.
Even if measurement standards are developed upon which auditing standards can be developed, it is likely that the spread of the practice of auditing non-financial information will require some kind of liability reform. This is a public policy issue and not something that can be resolved by auditors, companies and investors.
So is there an optimal level of sustainability? But that level is increasing due to three interrelated reasons: These government regulations will be driven in part by changing social expectations about what companies should and should not do, in many cases changing corporate behaviour even before new regulations are implemented.
Innovation by companies will be necessary in order to adopt more sustainable business practices that create economic value for shareholders. Some of this innovation will be in response to changing social expectations and new regulations, but some of it will be initiated by companies themselves who will see competitive advantages in doing so.
Yes, there is an optimal degree of sustainability and its precise definition will vary across countries, industries, and company strategy. Changing social expectations and regulations suggest that this optimal degree of sustainability will be increasing in the next few decades.
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