Illinois Sustainable Technology Center - University of Illinois

Monitoring Sustainability Culture at the University of Michigan: An Overview from a Multi-Year Program

Presented by Robert Marans - Emeritus Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and Research Professor Emeritus, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan.

April 12, 2016

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The scientific challenges of sustainability on which organizations and cities have focused their efforts represent only part of the necessary social transition to a sustainable society. Universities can play a pivotal role in addressing the more difficult yet critical aspect of the sustainability transition. That role is in creating and maintaining a “culture of sustainability� on university campuses which can serve as a model for what is needed in cities and in the corporate world. Culture of sustainability is defined as a culture in which people are aware of major ecological and environmental challenges, are behaving in sustainable ways, and are committed to a sustainable lifestyle for both the present and future. Therefore, in order to promote a cultural transformation, nothing less than a paradigm shift is needed in society generally, and more specifically in universities, other organizations, and in governmental thinking.

The talk reviews efforts to change the culture of sustainability at the University of Michigan (U-M) and discusses an approach to measuring and monitoring that change over time. The Sustainability Cultural Indicators Program (SCIP), initiated in 2012, is intended to inform U-M officials and others responsible for day-to-day operations of the University including its academic programs. Furthermore, it is intended to serve as a model demonstrating how behavioral research can be used to address critical environmental issues within universities, in other organizational settings, and in cities.

Following a review of the SCIP process including the use of surveys of people and buildings, findings to date are summarized as indicators of cultural change.

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