SAN FRANCISCO—Xerox Corp. is putting $2 million over five years into the Rochester Institute of Technology's efforts to develop sustainable business practices and technologies. The money will go to the university's Golisano Institute of Sustainability. RIT announced the donation and Xerox' role as its founding corporate partner in late April.
"Xerox and RIT share a commitment to advancing environmental sustainability through innovation," said CEO Anne Mulcahy in a statement. "Our collective efforts have the same desired outcome: making what's good for the environment good for business."
RIT has a long-standing relationship with Xerox, which has facilities in Rochester. Xerox has funded RIT's College of Computing and Information Sciences, and it is a founding partner of RIT's Printing Industry Center. More than 2,200 RIT alumni work for the company.
The institute currently works with 50 to 60 companies. It wants its collaboration with industry to result in better ways of doing business—along with profit. "The institute stands ready to help industry to move to more sustainable business practices and to improve their bottom line at the same time," RIT president Bill Destler said.
Sustainability in engineering means two things, according to Destler: one, moving to a global and social model in which resources aren't depleted, and two, minimizing the negative impact of the human population on the environment.
With its Golisano Institute, the New York university has ambitious plans to be the national leader in environmentally sustainable technology, he said.
Those at the forefront of the sustainability movement applaud RIT's efforts. "It's wonderful thing that they have created this institute," said Regina Clewlow, founding executive director of Engineers for a Sustainable World (San Francisco). ESW is a 4,000-member nonprofit with chapters across the country, including RIT. It works to promote engineering sustainability education primarily at the college and university level.
Golisano focuses on sustainable manufacturing and production. It has developed technologies to reuse Xerox Corp. printer and copier cartridges, for example, Destler said.
In another area of focus—renewable energy—it has used nanotechnology to develop more efficient solar cells, he said.
The institute was announced in September with a $10 million gift from B. Thomas Golisano, an RIT trustee and Paychex, Inc. chairman. Other funding included $6 million in federal money and $12 million from the state of New York.
While everyone in the engineering community may be talking about it, research and education into environmentally sound technologies aren't as far along as they could be, Clewlow said. "Sustainability in engineering is not mainstream yet," she said.
But RIT is making huge strides in furthering the cause, according to Clewlow. Other colleges and universities also are tackling sustainability, but RIT's efforts are significant because they're centered at an institution known for its technical programs, she said.
An additional $15 million in funding for the institute is expected this year, and plans for a "green" facility to house the institute are underway.
"It's been a fantastic success," Destler said. "What we're doing is building one of the largest sustainability institutes in the country."