To "sustain" is to keep going at a pace. Hence, to "develop" at a pace indicates marginal change without sporadic, radical alterations within a particular framework that has been laid down; whether that framework be economic, social, political or ecological. In essence, sustainable development is a pattern of societal evolution that does not damage the integrity of its supporting frameworks. The most finite and delicate of these, is of course, the natural world. Nature must be treated with care through sustainable practicies, thus supporting herself and the life within her, for future generations. Alternatively, the most basic of all instincts, those of survival, will tragically become a goal out of reach for all species on earth.
A more sustainable University of Waterloo would have an enforceable administrative Code of Practice for all faculties and service departments. Allowing the need for more sustainable practices to simply emanate from ES students and WPIRG is not satisfactory. Fortunately, U of W provides an ideal setting for the propagation and implementation of more sustainable methods. The campus as a small community provides an excellent opportunity to elicit such change.
Sustainable development is, however, far different than the common societal goals which have been in place since the Industrial Revolution. Mere upward mobility and the rapidity of technological change as two common ideals will each require an ethical change if they are to veer away from present values. We feel that a focus towards sustainability requires the social/political systems on campus to recognize, respect, and work in higher accordance with environmental and ecological processes. This requires the aforementioned Administrative Code of Practice to enforce and promote their consideration in all levels of decision-making, from student to university president.
The identification of common elements which attempt to integrate sustainable practices into managerial considerations is paramount. Questions must be entertained considering such concepts as: What drives or serves as impetus for changing the ways in which decisions are made in a given sector? What management strategies for bringing about shifts in an organization have proved successful? What tools or devices have been useful for implementing new or different strategies? What are the principle barriers to success? Once these questions are answered, the leaders of a community, such as the University of Waterloo, can adopt a Code of Practice. It is vital, in our minds, that this code be implemented at the administrative level considering the fact that the majority of decision making processes and implementation strategies are approved at this level of management. Further, sustainable development in this sense is no longer a management concept, but a management tool.
The adoption of a "sustainable" Code of Practice is essential for the integration of more sustainable practices within the university community. If instilled, many more opportunities will be created. They will eventually culminate into knowledge and experience, and if the practice can be adhered to, can be applied to other outside communities, thus creating more opportunities for a positive evaluation. Initially the adoption will demonstrate, to senior management, support for sustainable actions. It will encourage open and thorough review of existing practices and policies. Upon review, managers and policy makers will be able to identify opportunities to improve current performance of sustainable concept integration, thereby educating and informing employees, students, and other organizations who conduct relationships with the university community. Most importantly, the adoption of a Code of Practice will demonstrate to the public, a commitment to sustainable development thus setting an example for other communities to follow.
Unfortunately, as with the introduction of many new ideas and thinking, the implementation of a Code of Practice for sustainability may encounter barriers acting to retard success. Although good planning and communication may help to avoid many barriers, the application of theory is inevitably difficult in practice. Some barriers to sustainability include: poor consultation, limited funds and resources for implementation and education, linear as opposed to cyclical thinking, opposition and resistance to change, and initially poor performance reviews with respect to efficiency.
Our team at the Campus Transit Authority has developed some useful tools for overcoming these barriers. Part of the Code of Practice emphasizes the need for clear policy objectives and guidelines. These policies can be born from special environmental committees, who may be responsible for the development and introduction of new sustainable policies, and their evaluation. Performance appraisals, incentives, and an increase in the flow of information to other levels within the community, are the responsibility of these committees. Furthermore, and most importantly, there must be some form of monitoring and evaluation. This, in turn, will reflect the progress of implementing sustainable concepts, while mitigating any negative impacts or decisions which may obstruct the enforcement and policies surrounding the Code of Practice.
The Code of Practice, as part of a sustainable solution, must also include principles based on environmental and ecological sustainability. Without a healthy and ecologically functioning environment, the strategies and policies for socio-political infrastructure are deemed void. Life support systems must be protected and maintained through decontamination and waste minimization (preferably none at all). By maintaining or enhancing ecosystem integrity, through the aforementioned Code of Practice, biodiversity will also endure. The Code of Practice encompasses strategies and policies, both preventative and adaptive, and a platform from which to launch an attack on the existing non-sustainable ideology and practice. Thus by responding to smaller community initiatives to achieve sustainability, the threat of global ecological change is thwarted, not just reduced.
To assess the success of the sustainable strategies, outlined in the Code of Practice, specific indicators are required. They must be measured in terms of their efficiency and their effectiveness to identify both positive and negative aspects of new and existing policies. For the purpose of this paper, an exhaustive list of specific indicators shall be avoided. However, some broad examples include: the measurement of resource and energy use, waste output and material types (for recycling purposes), and the degree of self-reliance to which the community adheres. These indicators should act as a monitoring system where deviation from the objectives and strategies, as outlined within the Code of Practice, would meet with steps for mitigation and rehabilitation.
The Code of Practice we propose for implementation at the University of Waterloo defines a set of characteristics for a sustainable society. The community in this respect is the campus, where steps may be taken to illicit special project designs thereby achieving criteria as outlined in the Code of Practice. We propose to test the codes through our Greening the Campus Project, and in this way hope to push the argument for sustainability, through testing, the implications of the Code of Practice as outlined above.
Last Modified: 16-02-96