INDUSTRIAL ACADEMIA INTERFACE TOWARDS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT – Rev. Dr. S. Xavier, HOD, Dept. Environmental Studies, St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata.

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The Ideal:

In an Ideal Situation, Industry and Academy should be complementary to each other like pen and ink, car and petrol etc. The complementing nature of each other should have Industry providing resources for the sustenance of academic institutions, while the academic Institutions provide the brains and the brawn to run industries. The Academic institutions will also provide the entrepreneurs who set up industries making the circle complete its course. This interaction will come about in search of the common goal is Sustainable Development – from a common desire to “future proof” today’s needs, by “Socially Responsible” Corporate Citizens on the one hand and “enlightened engineers of change” on the other.

The Real:

However, the ground realities are different in absolute terms and there are compelling reasons underlying the same. On the Industrial front, Sustainability is not ingrained, leave alone being at the core of the industrial effort.

On the contrary, Sustainability to a wide cross section of the industry is like “equal opportunity employer”, another mere term that is used to fill corporate brochures & for lectures in summits talk of minimizing carbon foot prints in gas guzzling air conditioned comfort making a mockery of the very term.

The Unanswered Questions:

Ask, which corporate interacts with the academia to have such issues in the curriculum? And the answer will be an overwhelming “none”. Similarly if you were to raise the question as to whether the corporates release their in house “experts” to interact / train students, the answer will be in the negative. If you want to embarrass them further, just ask them how much is the actual spend on matters relating to Sustainability? Don’t be baffled at the paltry sum vis a vis their Net Profits and ask them how much is spent on advertising the meager amounts and wait for the real bafflement to sink in.

By the same measure we at the Academic Front too can be pulled up. It is high time that we put our hand on our heart and ask ourselves as to what weight age is given to Sustainability in our course curriculum? In a performance driven world are our students being equipped with “values” or are we just creating mere mechanised mice to join the rat race? Are we aware of the skill sets that are actually required on the floor? Have we interacted with the industry to understand their needs? So the Prophet did not go to the mountain. But has the mountain contemplated visiting the Prophet?

What have we done to ensure that we leave behind a world that is cleaner, greener and more prosperous than what we had inherited? What is the lesson that we are imparting to the “enlightened engineers of change?” Ask at your own peril, for the silence will be deafening as we are just the other side of the same coin of apathy.

The Way Forward:

What then is the way forward? No, I will not suggest a game changer, but what will be required is certainly a complete change of heart, a new way of looking at things. And this has to come with a Heal thyself attitude, in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi when he said “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

The first step forward will be to create platform for industry – academia interaction and acknowledge the fact that “Sustainable Development” is an area of grave concern. We have to clearly state in our mission statement that it is our onerous duty to find ways and means of integrating Sustainability into key operations.

Once the broader parameters are set, we have get to the micro level and create Sustainability projects that can be funded by industry as its Corporate Social Responsibility ( CSR)  efforts.  Being more proactive we have to invite Industrial Experts to the campuses to share their knowledge & experience so that we may increase student exposure to actual industrial work and embrace a “value based” teaching system.

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed” said Mahatma Gandhi, long before it became fashionable to act green. We must embrace the underlying philosophy of the quote and ensure that industry be more responsible, not only to its stake holders but also to the world at large.

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” – Martin Luther King (Jr.). The entire debate around sustainability is not about those that are spilling the oils or are aiding the process of Global Warming or even the protagonists fighting for the cause – it is about you and me – common people who are not doing enough, our little bit for the world that we inhabit.

We have all sinned in our effort to play God. We have unleashed on ourselves the twin menace of Global Warming and Climate Change. Now the onus is on us to find ways of reversing the trends and diffuse the bomb. Sustainable Development is the way forward. Together – industry, academia, you and me –  we have to take the first step forward.

A Case Study

To walk the “green” talk, we at St. Xavier’s College organized the “1st Global Earth Summit” on the issue “ A Sustainable Earth – Nihil Ultra” on March 11th & 12th, 2013 at the College Auditorium. It was a unique three way effort – a). St Xavier’s creating the platform for industries to provide thought leaders from their ranks, b). Corporate sectors generously responded to the noble cause of this summit, and c). The students actively participated not only as part of the audience but also taking part in the deliberations.

The event, spread over two days was addressed by eminent personalities from the industrial arena and academic institutes, who, not only delved deep into their rich experience, but also helped students to look at issues from their vantage points. Interactions like these will be the order of the day if we are to take the writing on the wall with the seriousness that it deserves and take the fight forward.


 “Ask not for whom the Bell tolls”…it tolls for thee dear friends. The bleeding, weeping, gasping Mother Earth needs our attention. For the last one hundred and fifty one years, we Xaverians have been the torch bearers. Let us seize the day, Carpe Diem.

We are the soldiers of the order of NIHIL ULTRA, Nothing  beyond. We refuse to be daunted by the enormity of the task ahead. Come to join as we take the vow to cleanse the earth of the soot of development gone wrong. Come let us spur development in the true spirit of inclusive growth, help Mankind tread the path of sustainable development, to greener, cleaner tomorrow.