Going Green: The Impact on Higher Education Institutions

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Campus greening poses potent challenges to higher education institutions to take an in-terest in decreasing its carbon footprint. To what extent does going green affect the strategic positioning of higher education institutions and how might campuses begin the process? If higher education institutions are able to stake out a competitive advantage through green initiatives, can the institution's operations sustain it? This article will explore a number of performance models to gauge best practices in higher education, particularly campuses pursuing a green business strategy. Furthermore, this article seeks ways higher education institutions may effectively bridge internal and external activities as well as assess current strategies in pursuit of a new trajectory towards building sustainable value.

INTRODUCTION

Across higher education, campuses are littered with utterances of green, eco-friendly, climate neutral, eco-chic lingos. The eco-lingo is a result of green trends overtaking campuses around the nation and the globe. In October 2006, presidents and chancellors of American col-leges and universities laid the groundwork for the President's Climate Commitment. This framework provided the structure and support for America's colleges and universities to go cli-mate neutral. The ultimate goal is to generate a broad, continuous, higher education effort on climate change with at least 1,000 participating institutions by December 2009. As of January 29, 2009, the American Association of College and University Presidents website showed a total of 607 signatories, a little over half of their target membership. The increasing number of universities and colleges yielding to the growing pressures to "go green" pauses one to question how universities and colleges are "greening" their institutions and what best practices exist to make this endeavor a sustainable one. In reviewing the activities of universities and colleges on various green lists as well as institutions with membership in various green groups, there is evidence of campus greening in regards to facilities and dorms, recycling and energy conservation, changes to the curriculum, yet much more attention must be paid to whether such green practices can be sustained and do such practices yield a competitive advantage.

This article develops a strategic perspective in regards to the pursuit of sustainable value by first exploring existing strategic models ofperformance, then identifying some potential chal-lenges associated with pursuing green initiatives in higher education, and finally proposing a model ofperformance to evaluate the organization's strategies and its capacity to transform the stated challenges into initiatives to increase shareholder value for the next generation of eco-chic students and other members of a campus community.

Strategic performance models were developed for managing organizational performance. There are a number of performance models that have been developed to assist organizations in achieving optimal performance. Across the board, performance models consist of activities such as developing goals, monitoring progress toward goal attainment, feedback activities to enhance continuous improvement or determine the need for adjustment of goals and performance objec-tives. Performance management systems are closely associated with determining compensation but its more effective use is as a system of accountability and a driver of organizational change (Howard, 1994). In reviewing the different models discussed in the strategic management litera-ture review, the models to be explored in this article were narrowed down to systems alignment (Labovitz and Rosansky, 1997; Howard, 1994), dashboard performance reporting (Kaplan and Norton, 1992; Hart and Milstein, 2003), and business process reengineering (Hammer and Champy, 1993). These models were selected based on their relevance to organizational change as well as its focus on organizational alignment to gauge performance. …