Sustainability at Coe College - Business and Economics

David Hayes, Coe College
Download essay as PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 8kB Jun7 10)

Being tardy with my essay submission affords me the ability to piggyback on the work of my colleagues. Coe's current effort in terms of sustainability is well described in Dr. Marty St. Clair's essay. Let me add that our modest accomplishments all seem to be at the periphery of the college; the Sustainability Committee still struggles to be a central piece of the culture and operation of the college. Thus, one of my takeaway hopes for this conference is to learn new strategies from others that have more fully integrated green thinking into the fabric of their institutions.

In terms of sustainability curriculum on campus, Coe is currently mapping out a new interdisciplinary environmental studies major. However, there is some disagreement on what this major might include. I'll be interested in hearing experiences from other conference participants as it relates to successful programs. An additional roadblock with which we are struggling is given the current budgetary realities, there are no institutional funds available to bring in additional faculty. In the short run the program must be revenue neutral. I'm curious to hear about the growth of other programs and how resources were marshaled, expanded and built upon as the major gained steam.

My interest in sustainability stems originally from a life of playing outdoors. I have many sport interests that take me to wild and remote areas, and from an early age I was persuaded that these areas are dwindling in size and health, and as such, should be protected. During my college years I worked for Craig Matthews, owner of Blue Ribbon Flies and a co-founder (along with Patagonia's iconic Yvon Chouinard) of 1% for the Planet. Craig was the first person to introduce me to the notion that organizations could be about more than a limited, narrow purpose for profit, but rather might engage all communities, natural and human, in a manner that minimizes harm. Within my field of environmental law and business regulation, this complements the accepted understanding of sustainability, discussed in terms of triple bottom line accounting or more poetically, being in business forever.

My teaching in sustainability is done in two courses. First, I am an instructor at the Coe College Wilderness Field Station, teaching a course on wilderness preservation. Second, with support of the Kemper Foundation, I have developed and taught an interactive course on Business Sustainability on two occasions. For this course I have worked with and visited several of the recognized leaders in business sustainability, including Patagonia, Clif Bar, Aspen Ski Company, CORE, Surfrider and Fat Tire Brewery.