Sustainability is an ideal state where human activity does not degrade the environment, but maintains natural systems and resources for future generations.
Sustainable development is the process that moves us closer to sustainability.
Since the publication of the Stern Review by the Treasury (2006), which outlined the economic case for acting on climate change, the business case for sustainable development cannot have been clearer:
‘No-one can predict the consequences of climate change with complete certainty; but we now know enough to understand the risks. Mitigation - taking strong action to reduce emissions - must be viewed as an investment, a cost incurred now and in the coming few decades to avoid the risks of very severe consequences in the future. If these investments are made wisely, the costs will be manageable, and there will be a wide range of opportunities for growth and development along the way’.
For FE institutions as businesses, it makes sense to make the operations of buildings and estate more efficient, and to invest in carbon reduction. With the expectation that carbon emissions will be heavily taxed and capped and that energy prices will continue to rise in the future, it is important to start to take action sooner rather than later.
For FE institutions as educators, it makes sense to introduce sustainable development into the curriculum to provide learners with the knowledge, skills and values that are needed to mitigate the effects of climate change. Students in FE need to be aware of and understand issues around sustainability, which are already important in the workplace, but will increasingly be so in the future. Students with the skills and competences gained through education in sustainability will have increased employment prospects and greater potential for career progression. Additionally, colleges have an important role to play in supporting local businesses and the wider community in their journey towards a more sustainable way of living.
Understanding the “business case” for sustainability is vital to ensuring that programmes are sustainable in themselves. This will not only help to ensure projects are well supported from the senior team, but also make them more resilient if budgets are cut. Be prepared to express and demonstrate the benefits of initiatives with indicators such as cost savings, legal compliance, staff development, student involvement or positive marketing achieved. Being able to demonstrate achievements will also ensure it is possible to celebrate successes. Applying for awards is a great way to gain recognition and garner further support from colleagues, and in particular from senior leadership teams!
What makes sustainability particularly relevant for the Learning and Skills sector?
The new Sustainable Development Goals were agreed in September 2015 by the UN’s 193 Member States. The aim is to achieve 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. “The seventeen Sustainable Development Goals are our shared vision of humanity and a social contract between the world’s leaders and the people” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “They are a to-do list for people and planet, and a blueprint for success.”
Education plays a big part in achieving these goals, and the FE sector is in a pivotal role to contribute, having contact and communications with so many learners.
The Sustainable Development Goals would be a great resource to focus a cross-organisational learning day on.
Click on the Sustainable Development Goals image to see what they all are.
A case study of Elmwood College which used the golf course and farm as living/working educational resources to increase environmental awareness.
A case study from City and Islington College, which donates its old computers to developing countries via the charity Computer Aid.
This case study explores how the Wheeltop Project of Beaumont College uses ICT to support the learning and development of physically disabled students.
When City of Bristol College encountered a growing number of servers with the related power and cooling requirements, it looked at virtualisation mainly for server...
Sustainable ICT in Further and Higher Education, a JISC report, provides useful information on good practice in environmentally sustainable ICT
Elmwood College has adopted an innovative approach for meeting the requirements of the ISO14001 Environmental Management Standard. It uses curriculum as a mechanism for...
A case study looking at City College Norwich who in December 2009 launched a five-year Strategy which contained an objective of developing 21st century environments that are...
Link to the HiPerBuild programme which takes forward HEEPI's decade long work on more sustainable buildings in universities and colleges.
EAUC Member, Wiltshire College, is a large General Further Education College in the South West region. It has a commitment to Sustainable Development and has been working to...
Schneider Electric has undertaken a pioneering project with the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) in Manchester to improve the college’s overall energy performance.
This pack from the Land Based Colleges National Consortium comes in 3 parts.