Graduation Pledge of Social and Environmental Responsibility

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The Graduation Pledge of Social and Environmental Responsibility has been offered since 1987 at colleges and universities throughout the United States and the world. The Pledge states: 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. The purpose of the Pledge is to encourage graduating students to be mindful of the social and environmental impacts of their employment as they enter the workforce or continue their education. It is up to students to define for themselves what socially and environmentally responsible means. Over one hundred Universities and colleges as well as some high schools use the pledge to some extent. There are several different types of schools involved, including the following:

Students who voluntarily sign the pledge seek out employment that reflects their values, sometimes turning down jobs with which they do not feel comfortable. Others work to make changes after they are on the job. Some examples include promoting recycling at their workplace, removing discriminatory language from training materials, working for gender equality in athletics, and helping to convince employers to reject contracts that would clearly have negative impacts on society or the environment.

The Pledge was first established at Humboldt State University, California, in 1987. Manchester University in Indiana hosted the effort from 1996 to 2007, at which time Bentley University near Boston became the host. The project takes shape in different ways depending on the institution. At some colleges, for example, students sign wallet-sized cards with the Pledge written on them that they can keep as a reminder of the commitment they've made. Some institutions put the Pledge into the formal program for their Commencement ceremonies. At other institutions, pledge signers wear green ribbons or green tassels at Commencement to signify their commitment (some schools use a different color of ribbon). At Bentley University the pledge is a "capstone" of its four-year Civic Leadership Program [19] and at Humboldt State University, the student government funds a student Pledge coordinator internship. The Pledge serves to promote social and environmental responsibility on three different levels: Students and alumni who are making choices about employment; schools including values and citizenship in their curriculum as opposed to just knowledge and skills; and the workplaces and wider society being concerned about issues beyond just the bottom line. The Graduation Pledge Alliance maintains a web site for campus organizers and those who have signed the Pledge.[20] Further Reading:

  • The Graduation Pledge of Social & Environmental Responsibility: An Effective Tool for Education and Action on Human Rights, by Matt Nicodemus.[21]
  • Starting a Campus Tradition: A Graduation Pledge of Responsibility, By William Ihne.[22]


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