Sustainability and Operations Management: Warrabura State School, Education Queensland

Warrabura State School is a primary school located in Gracemere in Central Queensland Region. The school is serving children from preschool to Year 6 and has been operational for three decades now. Sustainability is critical to the future of the school and the relevant stakeholders, but the institution has not initiated a comprehensive sustainability program/framework within the school. Leonard (2018) defines operational sustainability as “a method of evaluating whether a business can maintain existing practices without placing future resources at risk.” Warrabura State School has made some steps towards sustainability by being part of the Green Lane Diary, which is an education program, aligned to the national curriculum for years 3-7 (Green Cross Australia, 2018). The program entails the use of diaries by children to record action such as biodiversity, energy, water, waste, among others and implement practical actions towards conserving the environment. Despite these efforts, the school needs a sustainability program to ensure security of the future.

There are a number of reasons why the school has not adopted a comprehensive sustainability program/framework even after 30 years of existence. Firstly, there is a lack of collaboration between Waburra State School and other organizations. Solving the social and environment sustainability issues cannot be solved by the institution acting alone. There are numerous benefits associated with partnership or collaboration with other organization that include innovation, achievement of sustainability goals, gaining of skills and resources, and additional credibility (Gray & Stites, 2013). The school has failed to foster any formidable partnership that would compel and assist in achieving sustainability and developing a sustainability framework. The school needs a transformative partnership where they aim at empowering the members of the society and meeting the objectives of all the partners.

Cost is the second impediment to the school’s adoption of a sustainability framework/program. Any institution aims at reducing its operational costs and introducing a sustainability program would go against this principle. The issue of costs can be looked at various angles. In the internal capital allocation decisions, the institution lacks the proper mechanisms to value the benefits of sustainability (Perera & Putt del Pino, 2013). The school is unable to quantify the cost of water risks or energy on its supply chain. On the other hand, the school does not have the metrics to compute the external environmental costs, thus omitting it all together in decision making. The situation is accentuated by the budget constraints the school has to manage to provide the children with quality education.

The third impediment to the school’s adoption of a sustainability framework/program is lack of an effective system design. Andersson, Crafoord, Nauclér & Rosenfield, (2017) noted that the key driver of growth for any offering is when an institution has “the right design, at the right price point, that is driving sustainability and customer experience in a demonstrable way.” The only way of building operational sustainability is thinking of the future and having the capability to innovate. Warrabura State School does not have the internal capacity to develop a sustainable system design, neither has the institution procured an external vendor to assist in developing a sustainable framework. There is a challenge of identifying the appropriate suppliers that match the institution needs that will ensure sustainability as this is cumbersome and also costly.

Sustainability is viewed from three facets: economic, social and environmental, which are commonly referred to as the three pillars of sustainability (Lemons, Westra & Goodland, 2013). Economic sustainability is the ability of an economy or an organization to produce a particular level of production indefinitely. Environmental sustainability is the ability of an organization to maintain a particular level of natural resource extraction rates and environmental quality indefinitely. Social sustainability is the capacity of a social system such as an organization to function at a specified level of harmony and social wellbeing indefinitely. Sustainability is very important across all industries, and sustainability concerns have been a major driver for global organizations. Sustainable operation management is critical in the development of sustainable global supply chains to meet the needs of stakeholders in terms of responsiveness and cost (Gunasekaran & Irani, 2014). Previous research has found the importance of teaching the ethics of sustainability in schools as this was critical in their careers and provided a framework for thinking about sustainable practices in both their personal and professional lives (Biedenweg, Monroe & Oxarart, 2013). The primary importance behind sustainability is to secure the future economically, environmentally and socially. Education for sustainable development (ESD) in schools has increased academic performance in Australia and other countries compared to schools without and also increases the relevance of learning content for the schools with ESD (Laurie, Nonoyama-Tarumi, Mckeown & Hopkins, 2016). The improved academic performance is associated with assisting the students in recognizing their roles in the society and more engagement with the current global conditions.

Various adjustments can be made to the Warrabura State School to enhance their implementation of a sustainable program or framework. First is to deal with the challenges of service design or unavailability of a partner/supplier. The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Marketing) consultant is necessary for the school as they demonstrate a diverse range of engaging innovative academic courses. The STEM consultant will bolster the institution’s intention to have a sustainable program through evidence based pedagogy and learning practices. According to Education Queensland, the proper procurement process needs to be followed when outside vendors are sought for any services in the schools. The basic requirements of engaging any contractors for the schools in Queensland is that there should be a formal contract and there needs to be a supplier panel (Queensland Government, n.d.a). The Queensland education department has set the procurement process in such a way that the schools in the region get value for money. The criteria set aside by the government of Queensland in screening the suppliers is adequate for procuring the desired vendor or partner such as the STEM consultant.

In order for the school to adopt a sustainable program for the school, they need to have a high risk appetite. As noted earlier, Warrabura State School has not adopted a sustainability program due to its inability to quantify sustainability associated with society or the environment. Notes that according to the enterprise risk management framework, the benefits of having a high risk appetite is the ability to pursue innovative initiatives that come with benefits such as better/improved student outcomes (Queensland Government n.d.b). The innovations adopted as a way of ensuring sustainability provide outcomes that are better than the status quo. The school needs to adopt the enterprise risk management framework that constitutes: targeting the risks emerging from the operation environments, use of structured processes to assess the risks, identification of the trend for the risks and opportunities, provision of risk assurance, governing the risks and finally assess the risk appetite to determine what can be accepted or not.
The adoption of the performance improvement and accountability framework will assist the institution to adopt a sustainable program. Queensland Government (n.d.c) noted that “all staff are accountable for performance improvement and the framework is designed to help staff better understand how their work contributes to student and customer outcomes. The framework only asks for action as lack of it would lead to no change. Warrabura State School has previously engaged in activities that are meant to conserve the environment but more needs to be done, especially on programs that educate the children on sustainability. Better sustainability children outcomes can be achieved through continuous improvement, performance, and accountability. Accountability is the most important aspect for developing a sustainability program as all the personnel in the institution are responsible for ensuring there is a sustainability and its implemented as opposed to leaving the decision to the c-suite. There needs to be a culture shift for the school personnel by instilling a sense of accountability.

Warrabura State School needs to implement the evidence framework as evidence is critical in making insightful decisions. Queensland Government (n.d.d) developed the process of building better evidence that includes practice and innovation, evaluation, data and analysis, and research. Sustainability programs cannot be approached blindly and therefore it is necessary to have innovation that will generate reliable evidence. The use of ad hoc sustainable programs are bound to fail as they lack statistics to back their suitability. Queensland Government (n.d.e) went further to note that better performance insights such as individual data are critical to improvement in early years’ outcomes. Proper and adequate assessment of information collected from the field needs to be carried out to determine the best teaching practices of the subject matter.

Lastly, the department of education in Queensland provides environmental sustainability that basically involves the management of resources around the school. The focus on environmental sustainability by Queensland Government is primarily on energy efficiency, water efficiency and waste management (Queensland Government, n.d.f). Energy efficiency can be achieved through the use of efficient lighting such as use of bulbs with lower watts. The best way to ensure water efficiency is through tracking it in order to determine the points of water wastage and leaks. Smart water meters are essential in ensuring water efficiency. The school can reduce the cost and environmental impact associated with waste through recycling and reuse.

All in all, Warrabura State School currently does not have a comprehensive sustainable program/framework. Compared to other schools across the globe, they have adopted the program in a bid to protect the future through educating the children. The main challenges Warrabura State School face with regard to implementing the sustainable program include lack of collaboration, cost and lack of effective system designs. Implementation of the sustainable program has benefits in school such as improved outcomes, engagement and participation, preservation of the future and sustainability of the three pillars. All these challenges can be remedied through the use of STEM consultant, enterprise risk management framework, performance improvement and accountability framework, and evidence framework.

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