How Green Is Your Campus? an Analysis of the Factors That Drive Universities to Embrace Sustainability

By ord, Sarah L. | Contemporary Economic Policy, July 2011 | Go to article overview

How Green Is Your Campus? an Analysis of the Factors That Drive Universities to Embrace Sustainability


ord, Sarah L., Contemporary Economic Policy


I. INTRODUCTION

Much has been written on corporate sustainability and the factors that affect it, both in the academic literature and in the popular media. The literature on sustainability efforts at institutions of higher education (IHEs) is much smaller, although colleges and universities can also pose significant environmental liabilities. Like many corporations, IHEs consume large quantities of energy and water. (1) In addition, IHEs generate significant volumes of solid wastes, including toxic and hazardous wastes. (2) Also like corporations, IHEs currently face significant pressure to adopt sustainable practices. However, while corporations and IHEs face similar challenges in deciding whether to adopt sustainable practices, there are many reasons why sustainability efforts on campuses may depend on different factors than corporate sustainability efforts. Obviously, the non-profit nature of most IHEs suggests that campus leaders can make investments in sustainable practices that corporations would not find profitable. Additionally, the types of stakeholders that have an interest in sustainability efforts vary significantly across IHEs and corporations. Although companies may be pressured to adopt sustainable practices by consumers and investors, IHEs must respond to the concerns of students, faculty, and alumni.

The goal of this article is to examine campus sustainability efforts to determine the factors that drive IHEs to adopt sustainable practices. Given that recent congressional education bills have included provisions for the establishment of sustainability programs in the Department of Education, we are likely to see increased government efforts to promote sustainable practices on campuses in the future. (3) A more complete understanding of the factors that drive campus sustainability will be essential for crafting effective policy on this issue. This knowledge should also help increase the effectiveness of private groups that are trying to promote campus sustainability.

The analysis uses the same general framework that has been used to study corporate adoption of sustainable practices to highlight similarities and differences between the factors that affect corporate and campus behavior. Thus in addition to helping design programe to promote insight into the different in environmental decision making at non-profit and for profit entities more generally.

In Section II, I present a brief summary of the related literature and outline a conceptual framework for my analysis. Section II, I discusses the analytical approach in detail, describing both the data and the econometric model used in the analysis. I then present the results of the analysis and discuss the policy implications of my findings before concluding.

II. RELATED LITERATURE AND THE CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK FOR THE ANALYSIS

The majority of the literature on campus sustainability is directed toward people who want to increase sustainable practices on particular campuses or at IHEs in general. (4) The general focus of these articles is on why sustainability is important or how it can be implemented at IHEs. This literature includes many case studies of successful sustainability programs. Additionally, there are few studies that take a more aggregate approach to understanding the factors that influence the success of sustainability initiatives. For example, based on 7 years of experience in implementing sustainable practices at IHEs, Sharp (2002) identifies a number of approaches to sustainability that have proved to be most successful including management support, effective communication, partnerships with students, and continuity. Looking at the issue from the opposite point of view, Velazquez, Munguia, and Sanchez (2005) identify barriers to implementing sustainable practices on campus. The authors find that the factors that are most frequently cited as impeding campus sustainability initiatives are a lack of awareness and interest in sustainability, the organizational structure of the institution, lack of funding, and lack of support from administrators. …

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