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Partnerships in education

| June 11, 2011 | 1 Comment

By Simon Curtis and Angela Hobbs

Recently at the Ridge school, we reviewed our mission statement and, in so doing, developed a charter to act as a guide to take us into the future.

Part of this charter is about our commitment to the community, both local and more global. This led us, after discussion and very meaningful assistance from parents and local business, to adopt the United Nations Global Compact. Within South Africa, The Ridge School and the University of South Africa are the only two academic institutions that are currently participating in the UN Global Compact. We are also currently the only South African school to enter into this compact – and, for the well-being of our environment in particular, we thought we would share the path we have chosen and the journey upon which we have just embarked.

The UN Global Compact asks companies to embrace, support and enact – within their sphere of influence – a set of core values in the areas of human rights, labour standards, the environment and anti-corruption. One can find the 10 universally accepted principles at

Camco an environment partner

While the school executive and board have all 10 principles in mind and are committed to them, it is principles seven, eight and nine – dealing with environmental issues – which have been the focus of our attention with staff and boys as we began 2011. We began with awareness through discussions with our partner, Camco (a leading international climate change and sustainable development company), on how the school could raise awareness of environmental issues and actively tackle environmental challenges. Next we implemented a theme, ‘Our World, Our Future’. Staff members were tasked, along with input from our partners, to highlight concerns and issues with our boys, who will be the future policy makers and captains of industry.

Our first practical exercise beyond educating our boys generally about the environment was to analyse our carbon footprint for 2010 and see how we can reduce this in 2011. A fun tool to analyse carbon footprints – developed with the assistance from Camco for Standard Chartered Bank – can be found at We believe that by committing ourselves to an external ideal like the UN Global Compact, and involving parents and local businesses, the impetus will gain momentum – radiating out from our school into the community. With the assistance of our partners, we are optimistic we can maintain our commitment to our ideals and benefit from their knowledge and drive.

In the spirit of our shared agenda, Angela Hobbs from Camco ( – who has presented to both our staff and boys – offers the following insights.

Understanding carbon footprints

The most common greenhouse gases that are emitted by human activities are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, and these, along with man-made greenhouse gases, are the substances quantified in a carbon footprint. Once the size of a carbon footprint is known, a strategy can be devised to reduce it. Such a strategy is usually referred to as a climate change strategy, or a carbon management strategy. The carbon footprint exercise for The Ridge School is an exciting opportunity to gauge and address the climate change impact of the school’s activities during 2010. This will serve as the baseline for future carbon footprints to indicate fluctuations in the emission profile of the school. As with all Camco carbon assessments, the carbon footprint for The Ridge School will be in line with current best practice in greenhouse gas quantification and reporting. Camco will thus assess all six greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol and encompass Scopes 1, 2 and 3 emission sources, in line with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and World Resources Institute’s (WBCSD/WRI) Greenhouse Gas Reporting Protocol best practice guidelines.

Both staff and students will participate in the collection of the data required by Camco to calculate the carbon footprint, as this will give a hands-on understanding, to the boys in particular, of the process involved. The types of activities that will be assessed under the carbon footprint are indicated in Figure 1.

A number of steps to be taken

Once Camco has completed the analysis, the total emissions emitted as a result of the school’s activities ill be known for the 2010 period. These  results will be presented at an assembly to prompt discussions around reducing the carbon footprint. Following the establishment of the carbon footprint baseline, it is possible to engage in various activities and measures to reduce the school’s footprint.

Many of these measures are fairly simple energy-saving and environmentally friendly activities hat can support classroom interaction and learning, while others  may require more complex planning and decision making by the school community.
As mentioned above, aside from reducing emissions of greenhouse gases from the school’s activities, it is also possible to progress to achieving carbon neutral status through offsetting the school’s unavoidable emissions. Such an approach has, in recent years, been led by educational institutions – for example, in the UK, where colleges, schools and universities help to set the trend of going carbon neutral.

Carbon neutrality the goal

Carbon neutrality is a complicated area that looks at specific types of carbon credits that are compliant with certain standards nd includes initiatives such as tree planting, which many schools can undertake. The concept of a carbon-neutral school has not yet been realised in South Africa, but does represent an exciting prospect.

Climate change is now widely regarded as one of the leading global issues facing the world today. Addressing this issue begins with measuring your carbon footprint, finding effective means to reduce this footprint, and engaging all members of society on how to tackle this problem. The importance of addressing the environment as well as the other themes encompassed by the UN Global Compact is essential for building South Africa’s future environmentally aware and responsible business leaders, and there is no better place to do so than in our schools.


Category: Winter 2011

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