Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 503–516 | Cite as

Linking education to industry: water and energy sustainability in Latin America

  • Marta A. PaneroEmail author
  • Weslynne S. Ashton
  • Christian Izquierdo
  • Marta Hurtado Martin
  • Nada M. Anid


The sustainable economic development of Latin America depends in great part on a workforce that is equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to promote sustainability practices, including effective management of water and energy resources and minimization of carbon emissions and water pollution. Such a skilled workforce is necessary for the successful operation of industries so that they contribute to the development of societal and environmental well-being in these societies. The “Pathways to Cleaner Production in the Americas” (Pathways) partnership focused on offering practical training in cleaner production to engineering and business students at seven universities in Latin America. Experiential learning was a key feature of this partnership, as student teams worked with small, and medium enterprises (SMEs) in each host country. The students analyzed the companies’ operations and then developed relevant cleaner production recommendations for them. They conducted water and energy audits, along with mass balances, waste and carbon emissions accounting, as well as return on investment calculations. After vetting these recommendations, project advisors helped companies implement priority projects, and monitor the financial and environmental benefits realized. The students were expected to gain the expertise and capabilities during their practice to guide companies on a sustainable development path. In turn, the companies were expected to improve their environmental and economic performance by implementing the recommendations. The article asks whether the “Pathways” educational model has been effective in improving the environmental and economic performance of the SMEs, by helping them to reduce their water and energy consumption, along with other measures. To address this question the authors first focused on the student cleaner production recommendations in order to analyze their potential impact on the SMEs, and then quantified the companies’ water and energy savings post-implementation of the student recommendations. The analysis also looks at key factors that have influenced the success of the educational model in the various countries. When successful, the model helps the companies with water and energy savings, and in the aggregate, leads to a lower carbon footprint and improved water sustainability in the countries engaged through this initiative. Implications for longer-term impacts of the educational model are also discussed.


Cleaner production Industry-academic educational model Experiential learning Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) Capacity building Sustainable economic development 



The authors wish to acknowledge the funding support by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, via Higher Education for Development (HED), which made possible the “Pathways to Cleaner Production in the A mericas” project. We also wish to acknowledge our partners at seven universities in Latin America and the Caribbean, whose active participation and engagement of faculty, students and MSMEs made this project possible.

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Copyright information

© AESS 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New York Institute of TechnologyNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Illinois Institute of TechnologyChicagoUSA
  3. 3.World Environment CenterWashington, DCUSA

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