Business schools are providing a range of ways for students to get engaged in sustainability and become equipped with the skills to take a holistic approach to doing business. Whether that means looking at efficiency, innovation, wellbeing or productivity, these are all things that can fall under the banner of ‘sustainability.’ Monash University in Melbourne, Australia has taken a focused approach with its programme called “Green Steps”. This innovative programme, situated within the Monash Sustainability Institute, focuses on providing a select group of students with the tools to understand sustainability and to put it into practice across the campus and with outside organisations. I recently spoke with Monash University about this exciting programme.
What is Green Steps?
Situated within the Monash Sustainability Institute, Green Steps is an award winning not-for-profit environmental consulting and training provider to the private and public sector. It aims to educate students on how to become change agents in their careers and beyond. The Green Steps @ Uni extra-curricular programme provides group-based training for students across six days, focused on developing the practical skills needed to plan and deliver effective sustainable workplace solutions. Students then have the opportunity to put their skills to the test on a live sustainability consultation project. Green Steps also offers a range of services for other organisations including workshops on sustainability and the workplace and tailored programmes, in Melbourne and Sydney.
How did it come about?
Green Steps @ Uni was created in 2000 by a group of students who wanted to equip their peers with practical skills to contribute to a more sustainable future. Every year 15 students are selected to take part in the programme from a diverse range of disciplines including law, business, engineering and health. The programme is also open to students enrolled at a range of partner universities including Macquarie University, in Sydney, Adelaide University, and the Monash University campus in Malaysia. The programme consists of six days of sustainability training, an on-campus sustainability project and/or a 15-day internship with a local business, not for profit, or government organisation. At the end of the programme students receive a Green Steps @ Uni certificate and become part of a network of over 800 other Alumni. Many Green Steps participants have achieved senior roles in sustainability, some have started businesses in the sustainability sector and many were offered ongoing roles following their internships.
What are some of the projects that Green Steps is involved in?
The student interns are involved in many diverse projects, from creating and running communication campaigns that get staff and communities to change their behaviour to be more sustainable, through to analysis of carbon footprint across national organisations that have identified large economic savings while reducing emissions. Recently four interns were place at Monash Health to look at strategies for waste reduction, and achieved a drop in clinical waste going to landfill of eight per cent, and an increase of recycling by 33 per cent. Another intern worked at Dulux on a project evaluating commercial processes and assessing how to divert sludge waste from their paint production away from the landfill.
What have been some of the challenges? Successes?
Thirty-three students from the Monash Business School took part in the programme in 2013–2014, and 259 Monash students have been trained since 2000. Monash has worked with 16 universities globally, delivered Green Steps in three countries, educated 900 people and had live projects in more than 400 organisations. The Green Steps programme has won a number of prestigious awards including the Victorian Premier’s Sustainability Award, the United Nations Association Education Award and the Banksia Environmental Award.
Often there is disconnect in understanding the value for business of sustainable practice, beyond simply meaning ‘green.’ Our challenge is to help make that connection with organisations by having graduates work with and in these organisations as the drivers of change. What we do is great, but Green Steps type programmes should be niche so we look forward to supporting more universities to make this mainstream for all graduates. Monash is now helping universities move to a model where they can license the Green Steps programme and deliver this to their students with support and updated content from the Monash team in Melbourne.
What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?
Do it—and contact the Monash Green Steps who can help you! Schools interested in joining the programme are invited to contact Helena Fern, Green Steps Acting Programme Manager: firstname.lastname@example.org.