Ecological economist takes leadership role at Victoria Uni  

By jay

Victoria University is boosting its sustainability credentials with the appointment of Associate Professor Marjan van den Belt as Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Sustainability).

Marjan was previously Director and Principal Ecological Economist of Ecological Economics Research New Zealand. She has a Master’s of Business Economics from Erasmus University in Rotterdam. She holds a Graduate Certificate in Ecological Economics. And she has a PhD in Marine, Estuarine and Environmental Science from the University of Maryland in the United States.

Her appointment demonstrates the University’s continued commitment to evidence-based sustainability. In December 2014 the University became the first in New Zealand to divest from fossil fuels. 

Marjan says: “Victoria is a university that is ready for this. I have been quite impressed by their stance on sustainability. When you look at the campus operations they have already made great progress. They have considerably reduced energy use and made significant savings.

“They have had a serious look at staff transport. I have noticed solar panels on roofs, I have heard of water savings. There’s a green wall on campus. That’s much more than I have witnessed so far in other universities. They have done some of the basics. They have gained experience and they understand that this is simply good business. They are ready for the next step, to look at the actual business of being a university.”

Marjan is tasked with creating a sustainability office at the University. It will reach all areas of the University, from teaching and research to facilities and operations.

Sustainability has become a key point of difference for universities around the world. It’s a powerful way to attract top students, staff and partnerships. 

Marjan believes there’s plenty more to do. 

“Academia still largely operates as a 20th century institution. Sustainability is an opportunity to bring it into the 21st century. We will be looking at how we can integrate the research, the teaching and the engagement. We need to ensure we have an ability to sustain well-being for future generations on a finite planet. The business model for the 21st century has to be and will be fundamentally different from what we have seen. If not it’s just re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.”

Marjan van den Belt will be speaking at Victoria University on Sustainability – a journey of navigating paradoxes at 5.30–6.30pm, Thursday 2 June . If you would like to attend email rsvp@vuw.ac.nz with ‘Sustainability’ in the subject line by Monday 30 May.