I penned this missive after a seminar on a strategy to reduce the carbon emissions of a local university. To me, there did not seem to be any connection being drawn between the output, Knowledge and the resources employed and consumed in the processes, and whether they were essential or redundant.
After this afternoon I would like to step back and try to express my thoughts on the role of HE institutions within our society and their crucial contribution to surmounting to the challenges we face.
John Cleese in one of the Video Arts, management videos has a badge labelled ‘WHAT AM I HERE FOR? If we pin this badge any HE institution, and we accept the view that resources are constrained, whether, economic, environmental or social, than the answer can only be,
“We are here to liberate the creativity needed to enable our stakeholders to continually reduce the ‘resource intensity of society’ at continually reducing ‘resource intensity of knowledge’ both in its creation and transmission.
This reflects the immutable balance that the ‘one planet equation’ 1 = P x C x I requires; so if population (P) or Consumption (C) of goods and services increases, then resource intensity, I must decrease, at least, by the change in the product P x C.
This can be stated as the ‘first law of sustainability’, that in a resource constrained environment, goods and services can only grow at the rate at which they can be dematerialized.
The temptation to interpret this imperative as a new paradigm must be resisted, and its intent is best realised by applying Quality Management principles to continually reduce the ‘loss to society’ created by the processes necessary. These being determined and improved by the continuous application of the Virtuous Circle.
‘Quality’ being defined as that ‘which maximizes the ‘value added to society’ from the creation, use and disposal of goods and services, whilst minimizing the ‘lost to society’ that results.
Notions such as ‘fitness for purpose’, ‘conformance to specifications’ and ‘delighting the customer’ are clearly subsets of this definition.
In the context of Higher Education, Education for Sustainable Development, ESD, can also be usefully defined as the management of education and educational establishments to continually improve quality, thus maximising the value added to society.
Some examples from this afternoon
- The subject of supply chain losses was mentioned – these directly increase the RIoS(ociety) and are of direct concern in the delivery of management courses as well as in the RIoKnowledge underlying the delivery of the courses.
- Realising law students depend for a career on the failures within society that increase its Resource Intensity can radically recast the way courses are delivered.
- Ineffective use of space increases the RIoK as does the ineffective organisation and use of energy and other resources