Leveraging the Private Sector to Advance the ACUPCC

By Anthony Cortese, President, Second Nature and Andrea Putman, Director of Corporate Partnerships, Second Nature
(This article appears in the August, 2010 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCC represents a courageous and unprecedented form of leadership by higher education to lead society to a climate neutral and environmentally sustainable state in order to meet the individual, social and economic needs of all humans in the present and in the future.  Signatory schools have committed to be a model for climate neutrality and sustainability and ensure that their graduates will have the knowledge and skills to help all of society do the same.

One of the most exciting developments of this focus by higher education institutions has been the cultural shift that is taking place on many campuses.  Presidents and other campus leaders have recognized that achieving these goals requires the focus, involvement and collaboration of all parts of the institution – administrators, faculty, staff, students and trustees – in deep and synergistic ways.  They have told Second Nature and others that the Commitment has accelerated efforts to integrate academic, research, operational and community outreach actions into a holistic approach to sustainability and that it has done more to build a vibrant community and a sense of shared purpose across the institutions than any other initiative in recent memory.  Collectively, the ACUPCC network has become an important learning community and is helping to encourage all of higher education to make this commitment.

But higher education cannot lead this effort alone.  Nor can any other sector.  New collaborative relationships, government and other institutional policies, sustained sources of funding, economic drivers, technologies and social arrangements along with a new modus operandi for the private sector will be necessary given the magnitude of the transformation needed for all of society to become socially, economically and environmentally sustainable.

For these reasons, the ACUPCC has been drawing on the private sector for both expertise and some financial support to help signatory schools move toward fulfillment of the Commitment prudently, quickly, and cost-effectively.  Often, private companies have missions, business interests and expertise that closely align with the schools’ efforts to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and equip students to fully participate in and benefit from the emerging clean energy economy.  Moreover, many in the private sector realize that their ability to thrive and contribute to a sustainable society is dependent on higher education: today’s and tomorrow’s business and government professionals – architects, engineers, attorneys, business leaders, scientists, urban planners, policy analysts, cultural and spiritual leaders, teachers, journalists, advocates, activists, and politicians  – will need new knowledge and skills that only higher education can provide on a broad scale.

The ACUPCC provides a robust network of institutions with which the private sector can engage as we address the challenges of global climate change and integrating sustainability into curricula for all students.  From the perspective of the ACUPCC network, corporate support and involvement is a visible indicator that some parts of the private sector enthusiastically support this effort by higher education.  AASHE, which works with Second Nature to support the ACUPCC, has also recognized the importance of private sector involvement, has over 150 private institution members.

How can you be sure that corporate involvement is not influencing the policy or the direction of the ACUPCC?  Does the ACUPCC endorse any of the corporate supporters’ products or services?  These are important policy questions.  The Steering Committee of 23 presidents and chancellors makes all the policy decisions and sets the direction of the ACUPCC.  It makes its decisions based on what is best for ACUPCC signatories and the network with no input or influence from any of the sources of funding for the work of Second Nature and AASHE to support the network and individual signatory schools.

The Steering Committee has directed Second Nature to ensure that corporate participation and support help propel the whole initiative, recognize the contribution of the corporate sponsors but not recommend or endorse a company or its products or services to signatories.  They also do not want corporate sponsors to provide a large part of the ACUPCC network budget.  For 2010, corporate sponsorship will be about 22-25% of the budget.  This allows the network to have a lower individual dues rate for all signatory schools and also diversifies its sources of support.

In order to take advantage of what the corporate sponsors can do to help the network, the ACUPCC provides sponsors with opportunities to inform the signatories on both the operational and curricula ideas through avenues such as Implementer articles, webcasts, and networking at the annual Climate Leadership Summit.  This month’s Implementer is designed to help signatory institutions understand some of the perspectives and efforts of a few of the corporate sponsors of the ACUPCC.