When sustainability is not a priority: An analysis of trends and strategies

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Date of Original Version



Purpose – Institutions of higher education (IHE) should be leaders for demonstrating sustainable building, landscaping, and operational practices. IHEs intensely use resources and are nearly microcosms of the larger world. Yet, relatively few IHEs have assumed a strong leadership role by pursuing sustainability in a comprehensive manner. In particular, few examples exist where top administrators have made sustainability a high-profile, campus-wide priority. In the absence of strong administrative leadership, proponents of sustainability need to develop strategies that do not assume a top-down approach. Design/methodology/approach – This article examines the institutional structures and demands at many IHEs that make it unlikely that top administrators will make sustainability a priority. It also examines why supporters of sustainability will have to contend with faculty, staff, and students who may not see sustainability as an important issue or who must engage in sustainability efforts within the constraints of other institutional demands. Findings – The authors present two overarching strategies for supporters of sustainability. First, they look for ways to push sustainability on to the IHE's “action agenda”. Second, they work to implement sustainability incrementally through discrete projects. Originality/value – The authors offer specific recommendations for overcoming barriers to participation, pushing sustainability on to an IHE's action agenda, and keeping the process of incremental implementation moving forward. © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education