Coro’s Blog: On Purpose

The Transformational College

Published on December 13, 2014

Education has changed many people’s lives for the better. Now the education sector has the potential to play a powerful role in the future health of our communities and larger world. Having worked in recent years to reduce their operational environmental impacts, many Canadian educational institutions are ready for the next stage on the sustainability journey. Most commit to positive transformation in the lives of their students. Others think further. They see the potential to play a catalytic and transformational role that will advance sustainability across their campuses, in student lives and beyond. But how? What guidelines can they follow to become more innovative, impactful and transformational?

I recently had the privilege of helping Vancouver Community College (VCC) update its sustainability plan. To inform their plan, I adapted the Qualities of a Transformational Company research, which I conducted for Canadian Business for Social Responsibility, to the post-secondary sector. Now colleges can use this new tool to move from incremental footprint reduction, to a net positive and ultimately a restorative, or regenerative, environmental role. The tool can help colleges think beyond engaging students and staff on sustainable lifestyles to include employers, industry, suppliers and alumni to advance and scale sustainability. If they understand and activate their transformational role colleges can go beyond improving their campus footprints to help society evolve towards sustainability.

VCC now leads the way in the college sector. By applying the principles of transformation, VCC adopted a compelling long-term vision and plan:

By 2023 VCC’s approach to environmental sustainability will be a key reason VCC is an educational institution of choice. Over 10 years, VCC will advance toward zero – and in some cases restorative –environmental impact. VCC will be a green community hub, catalyst and partner. VCC students will graduate with the competencies, connections and inspiration to play a leadership role in the region’s transformation to sustainability.

About 1,000 students graduate from VCC a year, most of whom go on to live and work in the Greater Vancouver area. Over 10 years—the life of VCC’s long-term environmental vision—they aspire to touch the lives of thousands of families and employees in the region and to inspire them to advance sustainability in their homes, communities and workplaces.

If educational institutions embrace their transformational power and harness all of their assets, competencies and relationships to advance sustainable behaviours, they will expand their educational role and broaden their impact to support a healthy future for life on Earth.

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