Developing an environmental management system for a multiple-university consortium

Developing an environmental management system for a multiple-university consortium

Journal of Cleaner Production 10 (2002) 33–39 Developing an environmental management system for a multiple-university conso...

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Journal of Cleaner Production 10 (2002) 33–39

Developing an environmental management system for a multiple-university consortium P. Barnes a b


, P. Jerman


Center for Manufacturing and Technology, 730 Devine Street, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA S.C. Sustainable Universities Initiative, 702G Byrnes Building, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA Received 1 December 2000; accepted 9 April 2001

Abstract South Carolina’s three research universities — Clemson, Medical University of South Carolina and the University of South Carolina — have come together through the Sustainable Universities Initiative (SUI) to incorporate sustainability into their own institutions, and, by extension, other institutions in the state. Coordinating an effort by three such large and diverse institutions is a challenge. One tool we think will assist us in this endeavor is an environmental management system geared specifically toward the needs of higher education. This paper briefly describes SUI and offers an in-depth view of our plans for the development of a statewide higher education EMS.  2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction In late 1996, representatives of an international foundation approached South Carolina’s three research universities — Clemson, Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and the University of South Carolina (USC) — and asked them to work together to incorporate sustainability into their own institutions, and, by extension, other institutions in the state. Among the three universities are two medical schools, a law school, and a variety of professional programs. Together, the three schools educate approximately 56,000 students — or 60% of those educated in public colleges and universities in the state. Coordinating an effort by three such large and diverse institutions is a challenge. Integrating the activities of the three is an even greater challenge. We believe that one tool which will help us to both coordinate and integrate activities at the research universities, and eventually at all institutions of higher education in the state, is an EMS geared specifically toward the needs of higher education. * Corresponding author. Tel.:+1-803-576-5554; fax: +1-803-5765547. E-mail addresses: [email protected] (P. Barnes), [email protected] (P. Jerman). 1 Tel.: +1-803-777-7760; fax: +1-777-5715.

This paper briefly describes SUI and offers an indepth view of our plans for the development of a statewide higher education EMS.

2. Vision and goals The following statement attempts to capture our vision for SUI. The primary focus of our efforts — our strategy — is to change the products of our institutions, and ultimately the state, by working with faculty to expand their teaching and research agendas, and with administrators and operations managers to ensure that our institutions are practicing what the faculty are preaching. SUI will serve as both an intellectual and a financial catalyst for activities which will make the state’s three research universities, other educational institutions, and ultimately, the state as a whole, more sustainable. It will also result in a new model for multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional cooperation within South Carolina’s higher education community.2


0959-6526/01/$ - see front matter  2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. PII: S 0 9 5 9 - 6 5 2 6 ( 0 1 ) 0 0 0 2 0 - 8

Sustainable Universities Initiative, Five Year Plan, January, 1999.


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Bearing in mind the ‘catalytic’ nature of the initiative, efforts are designed to foster discussion, inform debate, facilitate cooperation, encourage action by others, and keep principles of sustainability in the forefront of academic consciousness. The initiative will not become the sole locus of action for sustainability at any of the institutions — and will be most successful if the need for an organized campaign disappears over time as others claim ‘ownership’ of projects and programs. Four goals guide our approach to effecting change within our universities: 1. effect change within the faculty; 2. provide student and community educational programs; 3. conserve natural resources by making university operations more efficient; 4. share information with a broad range of individuals and institutions.

3. Organizational structure and administration support The Initiative is coordinated by a statewide steering committee comprising three faculty members, two administrators or operations managers, and one student from each of the three research universities. An executive committee consisting of one principal investigator from each university and the program manager makes many decisions. Each institution will have its own environmental policy committee, made up of faculty, administrators and operations managers, and students. These committees will become the focus of campus efforts, and will work closely with the EMS teams. The first step in effecting change was to secure the cooperation of the leadership at each university. All three-research university presidents signed the following statement of support. The South Carolina Sustainable Universities Initiative The South Carolina Sustainable Universities Initiative represents an intellectual community committed to the advancement of theoretical and practical knowledge, as well as a collection of physical operations rivaling small towns in size and scope of impact on the environment. Recognizing our role as a positive force in the state’s economic and social advancement, we believe it is incumbent upon us to cooperate in leading the way toward a more sustainable future through our teaching, research, community service and facilities management.

We therefore singly and collectively commit to: fostering in our students, faculty and staff an understanding of the relationships among the natural and man-made environment, economics, and society as a whole; encouraging students, faculty and staff to accept individual and collective responsibility for the environment in which they live and work; serving as a center of information exchange for other institutions within the state; operating existing facilities and constructing new facilities so as to maximize efficiency and minimize waste, thereby protecting the environment and conserving resources.

4. Implementation The five-year plan was approved in March of 1999. However, work began in the fall of 1997, with a year spent assessing strengths and interests within our own institutions and planning for future efforts. Both the size and research focus of these universities makes communication among departments and disciplines a formidable task. We used a number of mechanisms to generate conversations about creating positive change, including group and individual meetings with faculty, administrators, operations managers and students, and a major conference. In general, we found a strong interest among faculty in including ‘sustainability’ in their teaching and research agendas, in developing research projects related to campus operations for students, and in seeing campus operations become more ‘green’. While some faculty members appear to be very comfortable launching into ‘sustainable’ projects on their own, many more are seeking ideas. While this requires greater energy on the part of project administrators on each campus, it also allows for greater coordination of research efforts. Administrators were interested in improving operations if it allowed them to save money. One of our challenges is to help all administrators consider long-term costs, and to link university budget categories in a way that allows for a more complete evaluation of costs and savings. For example, separate departments generally manage construction budgets and operations budgets. This reduces incentives for installation of more expensive water or energy-saving equipment in new construction, because costs will come from one budget, while incentives will come from another.

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Faculty and students alike seem to have a number of concerns related to campus operations (Styrofoam cups, leaf blowers, lack of public transit, etc.). Students are refreshing in their willingness to consider public transit, to volunteer, and to tackle tough issues in concert with campus administrators. Students are also very interested in courses and research projects focused on sustainability. The challenge for us will be to channel that interest in ways that lead to personal and societal changes. We discovered a number of efforts related to sustainability already underway, both at the research universities and at other campuses around the state. Our fiveyear plan (included on web page at sustainableu) attempts to build on those existing efforts and strengths. It also includes ideas raised in our many meetings. The scope of our efforts is broad, but we believe that at least initially our approach should be to ‘light many small fires’ to see which flare up and capture the attention of the larger university community. During the short time that the SC-SUI has existed, we have had a number of successes, a few of which are highlighted below.

4.1. Faculty change

Many faculty members have added material related to sustainability to existing courses. Others have encouraged students to undertake service learning or research based learning projects related to campus or community environmental management. We have already enjoyed significant dividends from funds used to provide summer support for faculty members interested in becoming more deeply involved in aspects of sustainability. To cite one example, an established mechanical engineering professor interested in changing his research focus initiated a student project to develop a more sustainable Habitat for Humanity house, aided interns engaged in making the campus more environmentally sound, created a new course in Sustainable Design and Development, and began several new research projects. One outcome of his research is a partnership with Fluor Daniel, a major international consulting firm. We have just completed our second round of ‘minigrant’ funding, offering support to approximately 20 faculty members interested in developing new courses or adding modules relating to sustainability to existing courses. Funded faculty are committed to sharing their syllabi with others. In addition, 15 research projects related to sustainability will be supported. Four of these projects involve faculty from two or more universities; it is expected that inter-institutional work will increase in subsequent years.


4.2. Student and community education Students learn by doing, and can better understand the relationships among disciplines when they put classroom ideas into practice. All three schools have existing internship programs and some degree programs require an internship for graduation; however, we encouraged new and expanded opportunities for research and service learning. Internships and research-based learning have already yielded significant results in the project schools, winning the cooperation and interest of university administrators. Of special note is the internship program associated with Clemson’s Central Energy Facility, which has employed over 60 students, allowing them to solve real problems for the university and making them more ‘workplace ready’. The program will expand even more when the Energy Systems Laboratory is completed and ready for use. Examples of projects undertaken by interns or research assistants during the 1998–1999 academic year include an assessment of trash disposal which not only saved the University approximately $10,000/year, but taught 130 undergraduates that they, too, were waste generators; initiation of an energy conservation education program; analysis of public transportation options on campus leading to elimination of some parking areas in the central campus, and a student-coordinated end of the year ‘move-out’ effort which led to the donation of approximately four truckloads of clothing, as well as non-perishable foods and other goods, to charities. SUI sponsored an essay contest focused on sustainability, and were pleased to have participation from a number of beginning English classes. We believe the act of writing an essay forces students, most of whom are in their first year of college, to consider issues they might otherwise never explore. The program will be significantly expanded in subsequent years. Sometimes informal learning can be just as effective as formal learning. We want to provide a variety of ways to capture student interest and capitalize on ‘teachable moments’ outside of routine classroom, or course-related activities. In the US, Beach Sweep/River Sweep is an event in September devoted to cleaning up our waterways. In 1998, a graduate student organized a force of approximately 150 university students, augmented by faculty, staff, and a few middle and high-school students to canoe the river near campus and collect trash. While the amount of trash collected was astonishing, the ‘teachable moment’ was even more valuable. Students who prepared ‘reaction papers’ afterward made it clear that they would never look at a river in the same way again. Earth Day provided similar opportunities; students have organized seminars and presentations, as well as volunteer projects to clean up campus or nearby waterways, plant trees, etc. We have been very pleased with the community


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(broadly defined) response to our efforts. During the past year, we have been able to partner with a variety of groups to maximize our influence around the state. Recently, we sponsored a gathering of government, nonprofit and commercial groups interested in some aspect of sustainability. Approximately 40 groups were represented, and all present expressed an interest in continuing to gather on a routine basis.

tives. Thus, it is natural to consider the EMS as a tool for managing environmental impacts of institutions of higher education.

6. History of higher education EMS development in SC

In recent years, facility managers at each of our institutions have introduced many changes resulting in greater conservation and efficiency. Without exception, they have been interested in working with SUI, and with students, to continue the momentum. During the planning year, each school set aside approximately $15,000 to use for operations-related problems. We found the funding enabled us to do several creative things, which would otherwise not have been done. We also found that having funds available allowed us to leverage existing sources of revenue, getting far more than the actual dollar figure would indicate for our efforts. For example, MUSC doubled a small contribution from SUI by using it to match state funds in order to build an experimental animal waste vermicomposting facility. Animal bedding and food from the cafeteria will be composted and processed by worms, eliminating a significant waste stream from the landfill and contributing nutrients to the campus landscaping operations. How do we maintain the momentum? One strategy is to keep ‘sustainability’ in the forefront of campus thinking by continually providing new sources of information and inspiration. Another — the focus of this paper — is to use the development and implementation of an environmental management system (EMS) as a way of ensuring continual examination of the physical operations of our universities.

The University of South Carolina and Clemson University began looking seriously at environmental management practices in the early 1990s. Student groups and individuals began developing environmental management programs to alert university personnel to the university’s impact on the environment. The first environmental audit by students took place in 1992 at Clemson and in 1996 at USC. During the same period, researchers at USC were also investigating, i.e. British Standard 7750 (BS 7750), the European Environmental Management and Auditing Scheme (EMAS) and the International EMS Standard ISO 14001. In June 1996 a program to implement an EMS was designed and presented to various internal and external organizations, notably a forum at George Washington University, interested in university environmental programs.3 However, due to funding constraints and doubts about implementing an EMS at a university, the project was put on hold. The SC-Sustainable Universities Initiative (SC-SUI) provides another avenue for implementation of ideas developed in 1996. In its current iteration, the EMS will include both Clemson and USC and possibly other schools in the state, and will heavily involve faculty and students in its development and implementation. Having multiple universities involved offers the opportunity to have students from one school audit another school, simulating the outside auditor function familiar in industrial settings, while giving students valuable work experience.

5. EMS overview

7. Challenges

The EMS was developed to provide a systematic structure for environmental management. Until recently, the EMS was a tool used primarily by manufacturing or chemical processing plants. Corporations such as DOW Chemical, 3M, Monsanto, Philips Electronics, SKF Steel and others began implementing a management systems approach to environmental management for regulatory requirements, and soon discovered many other benefits of using a systems approach for controlling their environmental impacts. In today’s more environmentally aware global culture, managers and administrators of other types of organizations — hospitals and even municipalities — are asking how an EMS could assist them in meeting their environmental goals and objec-

The coordination of three universities in the implementation of an EMS is a complex undertaking, and is not without its drawbacks. The traditional approach to development of an EMS-decision by a CEO to proceed, with the organizational hierarchy falling in line-will not work well in a university. In the first place, the ‘product’ of a university is intangible, consisting of knowledgeable students, sound faculty research and teaching, and so forth. While the environmental damage caused by a university is certainly related to its product,

4.3. University operations

3 Barness, Phil and Chris Thomas, USC EMS presentation, George Washington University, June 1996.

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the relationship is far less clear than in the case of an industry producing widgets with an effluent of widget juice and air emissions related to the drying of widgets. Thus, operations managers who are responsible for minimizing the organization’s environmental damage are less closely linked to the core functions of the organization than they would be in an industry. A second challenge faced by anyone attempting to develop an EMS at a university was captured succinctly by one professor at Clemson University who said “in an industry, you have one CEO who tells people what to do. At a university, the faculty amounts to about 1500 independent entrepreneurs”.4 Combine these independent entrepreneurs with operations managers reporting to several different vice presidents, and chaos may result. As with any organization, an EMS is a tool to achieve the environmental goals of the organization. However, within the university setting, the EMS may also be used to develop goals, or to synchronize the goals of various stakeholder groups. Many faculty and administrators have given little or no thought to environmental goals. When they have considered such goals, their motivations may differ significantly. Operations managers may have environmental goals based on regulatory compliance, administrators may have environmental goals based on the need to cut costs, students may be more interested in ‘saving the world’, and faculty may be interested in staying current with industrial organizations’ employment needs. An EMS provides an avenue for bringing these disparate goals together. Finally, turnover seems to be a more significant problem at a university than in industry. One of our universities lost its strong environmental focus when a provost moved on; another suffered when a key staff member took another job. Students, of course, are generally in residence for about four years, thus limiting their ability to serve as a ‘conscience’ for the university. Because of our strong emphasis on student involvement in campus operations, we believe that any EMS should rely heavily on student participation in both development and auditing. We have identified a leader for EMS development for each of the campuses. Each campus will also designate several graduate students to work with campus leaders. These individuals will form the team charged with developing the initial campus EMS proposal, and with securing the support and cooperation of relevant campus entities. Graduate students will then test the EMS, traveling to each other’s campuses in order to simulate an outside audit. After the initial field testing, the EMS will be modified and

retested until the development team is satisfied. We hope by this time to have identified a cadre of faculty who view the EMS internship opportunity as a valuable asset for their students, and a cadre of operations personnel who see the advantages of an EMS which assists them in meeting their goals. Finally, we hope the process of continual evaluation will lead to cost savings, winning the support of upper administration. Clearly, the value of EMS development will be lost if universities do not institutionalize the process of continual examination and review. One of our major challenges is to institutionalize support for student EMS auditors. We believe that if the auditing process is seen as valuable both to the universities’ core mission — education of students — and its need to improve environmental performance, it will have a greater chance of succeeding over the long term. Support for the development of student auditors will be brought about through the need of university management to verify the EMS is operating at its maximum capacity. What better way to sustain an EMS than to ensure those with the most influence on the system take ownership? In the paper presented at George Washington University in 19965 the following statement was made: “shortcomings of auditing efforts include the lack of standardization, the inability to quantitatively score audit results for comparison, and the perception that auditing is too difficult to undertake in the first place. Some schools have gone so far as to hire, at great expense, private consulting firms to conduct environmental assessments. Together, these shortcomings have been a major deterrent to the development of successful environmental management and auditing systems at the university level”. The development of a university auditing program that teaches students the techniques of EMS auditing will no doubt ensure the continuous improvement of the EMS and reduce the university’s impact on the environment.

8. Project description The EMS will be established using the structure of ISO 14001. As the EMS is developed, changes to various elements of the ISO standard may be implemented to better fit the objectives of SC-SUI. The participating universities will select EMS representatives to coordinate implementation and audit activities. An EMS Steering Committee will be formed consisting of faculty, staff and students. Working closely with campus Environmental Policy Committees, the EMS implementation


John G. Surak, PhD, Professor, Department of Food Science, Clemson University. Personal Communication with P. Jerman, October, 1998.



Barnes and Thomas.


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Table 1 EMS project description ISO 14001 as basic structure EMS Steering Committee EMS Implementation Teams Team Training in ISO 14001 EMAS, Other EMS Designs Design SUI-EMS Implementation Plan Department Selection Auditor Training Environmental Review Department Training

actions, the auditors will begin visiting the other SC-SUI participating institutions and auditing selected departments. Audits of other universities will not take place until each university’s EMS has been implemented and verified as having met the SC-SUI EMS requirements. Each university’s auditing team will audit another university department. After completing and passing audits from at least two other university audits the SC-SUI will provide a certificate approving the implementation of the SC-SUI EMS.

9. SC-SUI EMS standard team will develop the structure for the SC-SUI EMS. See Table 1. Students have already been identified on each campus to participate in the initial development of the EMS. Ideally, as the EMS becomes institutionalized, permanent funding will be identified for an EMS Assistantship Program. Students interested in learning about EMS implementation will submit an application, which will be reviewed by the EMS Steering Committee. Students will be selected based on auditor skills criteria set forth in ISO 14012 and used by the US Registrar Accreditation Board (RAB).6 These criteria include strong analytical skills, ability to communicate well, etc. It is anticipated that students from a wide array of university disciplines will apply. We anticipate training selected faculty or staff as lead auditors, and using students to assist. All auditors will be required to attend a 40 h course on EMS auditing or will take a semester-long course offered for credit. An ISO 14001 certified auditor from USC’s Center for Manufacturing and Technology will develop course materials. Certification of the auditor course will be applied for through the American National Standards Institute and the Registrar Accreditation Board. The course will include exams, and team audits with an experienced auditor. During and after the course, auditors from consulting firms, who have volunteered, will take student auditors on EMS audits within different industries. Exposure to different industry settings will provide the students with a variety of auditing situations and will increase their auditing skills. Student audits of university departments and operational facilities will take place after the course and at least five training audits with experienced auditors. Audit schedules will be coordinated by the EMS implementation team and will take place at various intervals during the semester. After auditing their university’s EMS and following up on all non-conformances and corrective

6 ISO 14012; 1996, Guidelines for Environmental Auditing — Qualifications for Environmental.

The SC-SUI EMS implementation team will develop training manuals, audit questionnaires, forms and audit reports. Although ideally all materials will be uniform across campuses, the independent nature of universities, coupled with real differences among them, may result in a variety of approaches. However, our intention is to maintain equivalency, if not identical standards, among universities. The SC-SUI EMS Standard will be implemented within each campus by the EMS implementation team with team members from each university taking the lead during implementation at their university. The SC-SUI will have an EMS network established giving each university access to the same EMS standard and materials. Guidance manuals will be developed to assist university personnel in the assessment, implemen-

Fig. 1.

SUI-EMS information flow.

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tation and auditing of the SC-SUI EMS. Each university can modify the SC-SUI EMS as long as all requirements have been met. The SC-SUI EMS will have annual management reviews by the upper administration of each university. Management reviews will consist of the findings from EMS audit reports and regulatory compliance audit reports. Plans call for the establishment of a control center for data collection from each university’s EMS audit results and results from corrective actions and management reviews (see Fig. 1). Each university has started its EMS by implementation within one school, college or department. Environmental aspects and environmental impacts (effects) will be identified. A SC-SUI EMS network will be established through the use of EMS software developed by the Center for Manufacturing and Technology. The platform established will house each university’s data.

10. Vision for the future As we develop and test the SC-SUI EMS we will actively seek other educational institutions to network with in creating an EMS standard for higher education. Using the structure of ISO 14001 will allow universities


to be audited by teams from different universities. In the United States audit teams from different states would have the opportunity to gain tremendous experience by traveling to and auditing another university. Undertaking a national or international agenda would lend itself to the creation of an Academic Institute for Environmental Certification (AIEC). This institute could be established to act as a central clearinghouse for disseminating the standardized EMS and auditing resources worldwide. Exchange programs would allow students from different cultures to experience auditing a department similar to the one at their university or college. The AIEC would compile and maintain a global scorecard of all certified institutions. A national or international institute such as AIEC can establish its own EMS standard for academic institutions, train its auditors and certify institutions that meet the AIEC EMS criteria. Although the establishment of such an institution is in the distance future, the steps currently being taken by a number of academic institutions may shorten the journey to the establishment of sustainable universities. Acknowledgements The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the South Carolina Sustainable Universities Initiative.