Environmental and Social (E&S) Governance is increasingly becoming complex today. Earlier, project developers had to comply only with the regulations imposed through various acts and rules – but now there are requirements coming from investors and lenders, supply-chain & markets and the neighbourhood. These requirements in many cases go beyond the laws of the land.
Further, concepts such as shared value and benefit sharing have come up and of course the CSR – and more and more transparency is demanded in the project implementation and operations. Recognition and integration of E&S perspectives is now becoming central or pivotal in strategizing and managing business. E&S management has thus become “material”.
Given these changing paradigms, the Project developers are in some sense caught in a cleft-stick. How to be consistently compliant with the Government, Investors and Markets (GIM) and yet be competitive has been the daunting question. This requires commitment from the “top”, operation of proactive management systems and culture of knowledge management towards fostering innovation. Without eco-innovations, one just cannot meet the targets that otherwise seem impossible!
But the key is to have right kind of trained human resources who understand the complexity of the E&S Governance and importance of eco-innovation. We need E&S graduates who are exposed to the emerging topics with additional skills such as communication, conflict resolution etc. There is an awful deficiency of human resources in this arena. “We would like to hire – but where are the right kind of people?” companies often ask me – and so the financing institutions and regulators. And there is no easy answer.
The courses offered at most universities today are still traditional, primarily focus on “end of pipe” and do not address topics on contemporary E&S governance. We don’t see courses that cover environmental management, environmental economics, market regulations, responsible investing, social impact assessment, CSR etc. It’s not just the issue regarding topics or courses, but that of faculty. We simply don’t have teachers who are well exposed and resourceful to teach such topics. And that’s my serious concern.
We all in the E&S profession need to work collectively to address this issue.
“Modernizing” the course curriculum is one option. But this takes time. This is something we need to move step by step over next 5 years as we build faculty. Every major graduate program in Environment in India for instance should brainstorm and prepare a 5 year curriculum transformation plan. This plan will also guide recruitment of new faculty. Such transformation plans are unfortunately seldom made. The student body should press upon the department head to ask for such plan. The Alumni should also get actively involved. I will be most glad to help if any department will be interested.
And how do we get the faculty? One idea could be to “identify” potential faculty who are “outside the academic campus” but are both resourceful and interested to teach. There many such “gems” around but not connected to academia. We need to engage them in the teaching of the courses – even few lectures – giving them as much flexibility as much possible. If any of you are interested, please let me know and send me your CVs and topics of interest and I will hook you up with the graduate teaching programs I am connected with.
We could also run summer and winter schools over 3 to 5 days for teacher training. I did one such training event at Suratkal this year where we had 80 faculty and doctoral/masters students participating. I will be most happy to repeat such programs at other locations. Those interested to join me are most welcome.
Another possibility is to conduct what I call as “Finishing Schools”. These Finishing Schools can be conducted on the university campus for graduating students and cover some of the “missing” and “essential” topics. The school can be open even for young professionals. I conducted one such Finishing School over 4 days at NITIE in Mumbai where around 60 “students” participated. We got very positive response.
Of course we need to float a number of continuing education programs – both open house and in-institution – in the form of “modules” addressing contemporary topics. These modules could be a blend between Face to Face (F2F) and e-learning platform and interspersed so as to allow implementation. You can for instance teach a 6 week module on CSR, with F2F sessions on Friday half day, fully supported over 6 weeks by e-learning platform, providing access to knowledge resources, group interactions, mentoring and assessments. The course could be designed such that the end of 6 weeks, each participant is able to prepare a CSR implementation plan for his/her organization. That’s another take away apart from capacity building. I have designed a few such programs in the past and plan to launch them shortly through www.ekonnect.net By the way, on this website; you will be able to access reports of the Suratkal and NITIE training events. Please do take a look.
Let us work together to come up with a multi-pronged strategy to upgrade or improve our environmental education and training programs. I would like to form a National Working Group to steer. Through this post I would like to invite all those who would be interested to join. Please write to me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Look forward to your ideas and support
(image sourced from http://www.maropeng.co.za/content/page/education_and_sustainability)