Posted May 7, 2012 by Elizabeth Stringer 

The Graduation Pledge of Social and Environmental Responsibility

Sherman Morrison, executive director of the Graduation Pledge Alliance, shares his perspective on the pledge.   

Twenty-five years ago, a group of young people at Humboldt State University gathered to discuss the challenges of the nation’s future and how to address them. They came up with the idea to create a pledge that focused on bettering society by increasing social and environmental consciousness after graduation. The idea to create a pledge turned into a national and global movement known as the Graduation Pledge of Social and Environmental Responsibility. It encourages schools and their students to pledge the following:

“I, _________, pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organizations for which I work.”

More than 100 participating schools run the gamut from liberal arts colleges to state universities to private research universities to schools outside the United States. The pledge is also in professional schools and high schools.

The pledge operates at three levels: students and graduates making choices about their employment; schools educating about values and citizenship rather than only knowledge and skills; and the workplace and society being concerned about more than just the bottom line. The impact is immense, even if only a minority of college graduating each year sign and live out the pledge.

The Graduation Pledge Alliance (GPA) coordinates the pledge at the national level and is a project of the Bentley University Alliance for Ethics and Social Responsibility. I have the pleasure of serving as the alliance’s executive director. And for the first time in the history of the pledge, any student from any school can take it online through the GPA’s website. In the past, the pledge was only made available to schools that were running an official pledge program on their campus. In the digital age, that just doesn’t make sense.

Many students who have signed the pledge are standing by its message.

  • Meredith Murgoch: “I signed the pledge via the Internet while attending Appalachian State University. I became enthusiastic about the pledge when the realization struck me that it was necessary to become more conscious of my actions in an effort to improve society through a think globally, act locally approach. I also believe the pledge takes on a transformative leadership role when student leaders become role models of social and environmental responsibility that other can emulate.”
  • Mary Munion: “My plan is to go to law school for environmental policy. I really want to work for a large corporation in the environmental department so I can better the quality of the environment and enable big corporations to realize that the actions they take play a huge role on the effects of our environment.”

Pledge alums have started their own environmental organizations to address community issues, persuaded their employers to refuse weapons contracts, encouraged more sustainable practices in the workplace, and refused to accept job offers from companies with poor environmental and social responsibility track records.

Information about 25th anniversary activities may be found at www.graduationpledge.org.
 

Elizabeth Stringer

Elizabeth Stringer is the Senior Manager of Marketing & Communication at ACUI.

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