The figure below depicts the sustainability challenge to universities. The three pillars of Sustainability Development (SD) or the 'Triple Bottom Line' - environment, economy, society - are considered to be three equal-sized overlapping circles. The area where the three circles overlap in the center represents the extent of sustainability or human well-being. The aforementioned circles should be understood as a way of asserting the need to strike a balance between environmental, economic and social outcomes. But lately, the limits set by the environment on economy and society are ignored.
Figure 1. Sustainability Challenges to Universities
The other three circles on the right side depicted in the diagram below, represents the university operations. They are usually called the 'Triple Bottom Missions' or ‘ESD Pillars’ and are categorized under the following areas: teaching, research and community. Teaching should be a mix of formal, non-formal and informal approaches with different delivery modes like face-to-face, distance and online. Research has implications of being both fundamental and applied (and action research) and includes innovation and marketing. Whereas community engagement may include both the university community and a wider range of communities, such as urban, industrial, business, policy-making, academic, cultural, political and other networks and project partners.
Inside the rectangular-shaped object at the center of the diagram, the sustainability issues are listed. The concerns are separated into two categories – sectoral challenges (WEHAB) and cross-sectoral issues. The sectoral challenges (WEHAB) include water, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity. Climate change, production consumption and population poverty falls under the cross-sectoral issues.
Due to overuse of resources in our environment, increase in population of our society and misuse of the economy, the sustainability challenges listed in the previous paragraph raise up. The mission of the three ESD Pillars is to address these challenges.