Mason Commits to Two Sustainable Initiatives

Posted: August 1, 2012 at 12:12 pm, Last Updated: August 2, 2012 at 6:43 am

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By Beth Pullias

As Ángel Cabrera settles in as Mason’s new president, one of his first acts has been to reaffirm the university’s commitment to promoting sustainable development globally by joining the UN Global Compact (UNGC) on July 1, 2012.

The UN Global Compact “seeks to align business operations and strategies with 10 universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment, and anti-corruption, and to catalyze actions in broader support of UN goals.”

Cabrera has been involved with the UN Global Compact for about a decade, and he has served as senior advisor to the UNGC for academic affairs since 2007.  In that capacity, he chaired the task force that authored the Principles for Responsible Management Education, now endorsed by more than 400 business schools around the world.

“For our university to fulfill its promise and responsibility to society and to serve the public interest, we are entrusted with power that should not be taken lightly,” Cabrera wrote in a letter to UN Secretary-General H.E. Ban Ki-Moon on joining the UN Global Compact. “I look forward to working with our talented community of faculty and administration to help Mason apply this power to help realize the goals of the UN Global Compact and its associated initiatives.”

At Rio+20, the UN conference on sustainable development held in June, Mason also joined the UN Global Compact and its partners in launching the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI).  As part of the HESI, Mason made a commitment to accomplish the following by 2015:

  • Teach sustainable development concepts
  • Encourage research on sustainable development issues
  • Green the campus
  • Support sustainability efforts
  • Engage with and share results through international frameworks

Since Cabrera was not yet president of Mason at the time of Rio+20, he informally represented Mason at the conference. Meanwhile, outgoing Mason President Alan Merten built upon his longstanding legacy of sustainability leadership by signing the HESI agreement before he stepped down.

For academic and operational activities, respectively, Mason’s Fellow of Sustainability Studies and the Office of Sustainability play ongoing coordinating roles in pursuit of initiatives like HESI and the Global Compact.

The Sustainability Office tracks numerous public commitments and offers many sustainable programs for the university.  Public commitments to sustainability began in 2007 when the university signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, which committed Mason to becoming climate neutral by 2050.

Other public commitments include participation in Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education initiatives, a transportation master plan to become a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly campus and a pledge to build all new construction and major renovations to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver standards.

Mason has numerous programs in place for educating its students, staff and community neighbors about sustainability. These include more than a dozen “green leaf” academic programs and scores of sustainability-related courses.

Another major program, the Patriot Green Fund, provides $100,000 worth of grant money for “sustainable facility upgrades or installations and student research projects” for supporting sustainable efforts and making the campus green.

Other programs include living learning communities for students, Mason Sustainability Institute workshops and efforts to help various offices and departments become more sustainable.

 

 

Write to Beth Pullias at bpullias@gmu.edu

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