This Sustainability Strategic Plan was developed by a University Sustainability Council appointed by Provost Rodney Erickson during the period April-December 2011. The Council’s charge was to “integrate sustainability in a way that adds value to our institution, communities, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and beyond.” The plan is the result of a collaborative process, featuring input sessions with faculty, staff, administrators, and community leaders held at nearly every campus and involving more than 500 people. The Council also worked in subcommittees for deeper analysis and further input solicitation. The subcommittees were: benchmarking, sustainability metrics, the business case, and communications. The Council reviewed its draft Sustainability Strategic Plan with President Erickson and Interim Provost Pangborn in January 2012 and developed a proposed implementation strategy by July 2012. The Sustainability Strategic Plan and implementation strategy, which recommended the creation of a cross-cutting Sustainability Institute, were shared with the Board of Trustees in September 2012. The Provost and vice presidents of Finance and Business, Research, and Outreach agreed to resource the start-up of the Sustainability Institute in Fall 2012. The Sustainability Institute opened its doors January 1, 2013.
The Council’s work, as presented in the Penn State Sustainability Strategic Plan (SSP), features three sustainability goals that are applicable for all of us, whether staff, student, faculty, community, alumni, partner, or friend:
- Literacy—Having the understanding to recognize the need for change, act upon it, and recognize and reward the actions of others
- Solutions—Putting knowledge to work in our practices and approaches
- Leadership—Inspiring others and enlisting their aid in the common pursuit of innovation in policy, practice, and knowledge
These goals were selected as an irreducible set of steps to fulfill our vision to embed sustainability as a fundamental value. When taken together and acted upon in a full and collaborative partnership by all, they set us on a course to answer the new call of a land-grant institution, embrace the opportunity to provide leadership to all of higher education, and fulfill the promise of delivering a new generation of global citizens that can shape the future that we envision and desire. Ultimately, as these goals come to fruition, the University will function as a sustainability living laboratory, embodying responsible and restorative use of resources and promoting these values in our teaching, research, and community partnerships.
In June 2013, interim Provost Pangborn formally launched a new strategic planning cycle for the University. In his instructions to unit leaders, Provost Pangborn asked each unit to include a sustainability component in their five-year strategic plans. The Sustainability Strategic Plan is intended as a framework for units to consider how to address sustainability literacy, solutions, and leadership in their respective plans. The Sustainability Institute will serve as a resource to units, by offering facilitation, tools, resources, and infrastructure.
Each goal is presented with a roadmap of strategies and actions gleaned and refined from the input of the planning process. The strategies and their accompanying actions do not collectively represent a checklist that every unit must complete. Instead, they represent a collection of individual steps that are impactful, readily implementable, and measurable, and can be addressed in the context of a unit’s own goals and mission. Each unit may formulate its unique contribution to sustainability literacy, solutions, and leadership, choosing to implement those strategies and actions that align with their goals and mission. When these individual actions by units are combined across the institution, the construction of the living laboratory will accelerate and become the vehicle towards our vision of a sustainable Penn State, a place where responsible and restorative use of resources is the norm, and we promote these values in our teaching, research, and community partnerships.