Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fast Times in Higher Ed

In the fast-paced business world, Fast Company has been keeping up with the winning trends at the leading edge. That's why it's very exciting that more and more they're seeing sustainability as a core strategic priority for any organization.

They've developed their own take on the concept, which they call Ethonomics and describe as follows:

"The end of the modern financial system as we know it has cleared the way for an era of ethical economics, or "Ethonomics"... Ethonomics is a hybrid of technology, design, and social responsibility, and at Fast Company we believe it is the future of business.

But we're not breathless cheerleaders for every daisy-splashed widget that comes down the pike. We have a skeptical eye out for greenwashing by large and small companies alike, and are impatient with lofty claims that stray too far from the marketplace or from Main Street."

What's even more exciting is that Fast Company sees the importance of higher education's role in developing and fostering this concept of Ethonomics, and driving the innovation, creativity, and prosperity-generation that comes with it. They've asked Tony Cortese and I to develop a 4-part blog series on the topic based on our work at Second Nature and with the ACUPCC.

In part one, we start with an overview of the education for sustainability movement and the basics of why this is the most important, core, strategic imperative for higher education and its students in the 21st century:

At colleges and universities, tomorrow's business leaders, architects, product designers, policy-makers, schoolteachers, economists, etc. learn about how the world works and how things get done. To date, they've learned how to do this in an unsustainable way. But a change is coming, with hundreds of U.S. colleges and universities transforming the way they teach and the choices they pursue in research and operations. Simply put, they are preparing students for 21st century citizenship.

To create a sustainable society, we need to be rethinking how we design just about everything - our products, our industrial systems, transportation systems, buildings, energy systems, agricultural systems, etc. - and we need to be doing so quickly. This is happening in many real ways in business and civil society, but the education sector is too often overlooked.

This is important in the medium-to-long-term as tomorrow graduates will soon be in the work force making decisions, and need a comprehensive understanding of sustainability - at the very least the basics of ecology, how social systems work, how complex systems operate, and what mechanisms undermine ecological and social systems.

But it's also important in the immediate-term. Colleges and universities operate as small cities, and can serve as great role-models for solutions. They have the social mandate to create the knowledge and graduates needed for a civil society and are set up to experiment with new and better ways of designing all of our systems.

Hundres of colleges and universities are taking this on in a real way with commitment from the top and incredible solutions emerging from all levels of the organizations - take a few minutes to check out a few of the 200+ climate action plans that have been submitted to the ACUPCC Reporting System to date.

Stay going.

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