Recently, two Bradley University MBA students in the Foster College of Business, Dan Dugal and Veronika Koubova, turned an independent study course on sustainability into a community-based effort to improve awareness and engagement on campus. They spent the winter and spring 2012 terms preparing a high-quality sustainability report, complete with recommendations for Bradley University. The two were encouraged to approach the project as if they were professional consultants and Bradley was the client requesting an action plan.
The project began with research and data collection from numerous individuals and units of Bradley, including its facilities, student organizations, departments of human resources and accounting, community philanthropy and top administration. They garnered a sustainability report from these inputs, following guidelines published by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the leader in organizational reporting of sustainable practices.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR BRADLEY
by Dan Dugal & Veronika Koubova
As a result of our sustainability report, we offered the following recommendations:
- Continue to expand recycling with a zero-waste goal. Bradley has made extraordinary gains in its recycling rates, from 14 tons in 2009 to over 56 tons in 2011. The Bradley community consists of avid recyclers (82 percent of employees and 75 percent of students), which creates an opportunity to expand recycling and reduce costs even more.
- Publish the achievements made thus far. Bradley has many sustainability achievements already, not the least of which is the commitment to green building practices and submitting two recent projects, the Hayden-Clark Alumni Center and Westlake Hall, for LEED certification. But some members of the public, including potential students, remain unaware of these initiatives. Publicizing sustainability achievements creates an opportunity for Bradley to improve its brand image, attract students and grow its endowment by taking well-deserved credit for the progress already made.
- Establish a university-wide sustainability committee with a sustainability director as the lead. Key aspects of a sustainability initiative include transparency and collaboration. To accelerate Bradley’s sustainability performance in line with its strategic objectives, the university has the opportunity to promote student and employee engagement and cross-disciplinary collaboration by establishing a university-wide sustainability committee, comprised of students, faculty and staff from diverse departments, and to name a sustainability director to lead the effort.
- Leverage the Business-Engineering Convergence initiative. Bradley has the opportunity to leverage its Business-Engineering Convergence initiative between the Foster College of Business and the Caterpillar College of Engineering and Technology for leadership in sustainability. Such collaboration, supported by its new School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, can build regional thought leadership on sustainability, both for students and for the business community.
“We chose to use the GRI guidelines because they have become the global standard for reporting on organizational sustainability,” Dugal explains. “It provides a recognized framework for reporting the achievements that Bradley has already made.” The report covers the three main areas of sustainability: environmental, societal and economic, detailing Bradley’s economic and financial performance; energy consumption and characteristics, together with its “carbon footprint;” and its overall impact on the surrounding community and on broader society.
The recommendations were compiled from a host of surveys of faculty, staff and students. “The surveys helped us to gain even better insights on the Bradley community’s attitudes toward sustainability and green issues. I was happy to see we weren’t the only ones who sensed that there were opportunities for improvement,” says Koubova.
The report also included an assessment of university best practices—a qualitative market analysis of how other universities are approaching sustainability on campus. A management framework for creating sustainable strategic value (developed by Dr. Stuart Hart and Professor Mark Milstein of Cornell University) was used to develop the key set of recommendations, with directions aligned to Bradley’s five-year strategic plan, published in early 2012.
“By the end of the project, it wasn’t as much about getting a good grade in the course as it was about providing something valuable to our ‘client,’” Dugal explains. “It was a lot of work for just the two of us, and I was elated by the warm reception we received on both the sustainability report and our recommendations,” adds Koubova.
It’s no surprise the project was chosen as one of the highlights of this year’s Bradley University Student Exposition. It will certainly serve Bradley University well in its future sustainability endeavors. iBi