Sunday, October 11, 2009
Every college campus has a significant economic impact on the surrounding community. Colleges, communities, and businesses can work together to transform their regions into thriving sustainable economies. Colleges serve as dynamic economic multipliers. Their investment decisions have profound ramifications. What would happen if these decisions were made so as to train a new generation of sustainability leaders for a green economy?
Imagine our dynamic sustainable campus with its innovative energy systems, expansive gardens, and creative use of recycled materials. Consider these initiatives as the source for partnerships with green businesses. The campus becomes an incubator, the place where businesses and faculty work with students and community members to develop innovative entrepreneurial approaches. Faculty and business leaders work together to consider the technical skills, life experience attributes, and knowledge foundation that will best equip the new sustainability professions.
When large universities support green businesses they provide secure and stable markets that allow those businesses to reinvest in research. Smaller colleges can help support local farmers or other green vendors for whom the extra business may be crucial. By awarding contracts and opportunities to green businesses, campuses support the elements of a green regional economy.
Similar approaches can be applied to college investments. Are our portfolios sufficiently green? Which of our investments support sustainability initiatives? How might endowment investment guidelines incorporate rigorous ecological cost accounting? Is investment measured exclusively by the percentage return in a financial portfolio or do we consider criteria such as zero-carbon energy initiatives, ingenious recycling programs, or other green investment opportunities?