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Pathways to cleaner production in the Americas I: bridging industry-academia gaps in the transition to sustainability

TitlePathways to cleaner production in the Americas I: bridging industry-academia gaps in the transition to sustainability
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsAshton, WS, Hurtado-Martin, M, Anid, NM, Khalili, NR, Panero, MA, McPherson, S
Date Published03/2016
ISBN Number0959-6526
KeywordsCleaner production, Experiential learning, Higher education, Micro, Multidisciplinary education, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), Sustainable development

AbstractThe transition to sustainability in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is hindered by low demand for environmentally-benign industrial development strategies, and a limited supply of professionals to enact such strategies. The “Pathways to Cleaner Production in the Americas” project was a multinational effort aimed at facilitating the transition to sustainability in the region by addressing both of these concerns. The project incorporated multidisciplinary education in business, engineering, and the environment that enhanced sustainability awareness, technical competence and innovative skills of industry professionals, while exposing micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to cleaner production (CP) opportunities. In an alliance of nine universities in eight countries, project partners trained 648 university students to assess CP opportunities, while directly benefiting 136 MSMEs. The project developed a unique industry-academic partnership model for experiential learning. Faculty members collaborated with CP industry experts in their respective countries to prepare their students to conduct energy, process and material audits, and develop recommendations for improving financial and environmental performance. The project’s CP experts supervised student interns and provided follow-up assistance to the MSMEs to implement the prioritized recommendations. The universities also hosted workshops for industry participants to learn best practices developed through the project and strategies to implement those in their enterprises. In this paper, we share the most valuable lessons from this model, which can be more widely adopted to facilitate industry-academic engagement in the transition to sustainability in LAC and other parts of the world.