In May 2011, the ECS was founded as an independent platform for sustainability research and as a transdisciplinary competence center at Zeppelin University. It has two objectives. On the one hand it wants to give independent impulses towards sustainability research on a national and European level, on the other to contribute to the progress of sustainable action and ways of thinking on a national and regional level ("three-country-border").
In its understanding of sustainability the ECS closely follows the so-called Brundtland Report, the report by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED 1987). This defines "sustainable development" as a development "that meets the needs of the present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". Because of the "three-pillar model" of this approach, however, which in addition to the ecological requirements also considers the social and economic ones, the ECS approach is more comprehensive in two important aspects.
On the one hand, the understanding of "the economic aspect" is not merely copied. Thus, we do not accept the definition of economy as a mechanism for allocating scarce resources, i.e. a battle for resources. If it is defined as the one practice (and doctrine) of the generation of common benefits by means of cooperation, a completely different concept of the requirements and restrictions of the economic calculus is the result. On the other hand, our understanding of sustainability also includes immaterial resources, such as recognition, social overhead capital, and cultural wealth, as well as the question how they can be maintained and expanded while they are being used.
Today we have to see sustainability in a broader sense, as a question of the economic, demographic, political, cultural, technological, ecological, and last but not least ethical development not only of individual societies, but also of the world society as a whole.
It has to be seen as an achievement of the last two decades that sustainability is now widely accepted as an interpretative framework of modern times, and as a guiding principle of future changes in human society. Thus, sustainability will also become a "core business" of companies and the capital market in the next years and decades, as well as a permanent topic of technical innovation and political strategies. No area of social activity - be it in the area of energy, the utilization of air and land, the technological development, the world-wide urbanization, and last but not least education.
At the European Center for Sustainability Research in Friedrichshafen we are working on the development of an approach that can meet these requirements.
The ECS receives basic funding by private sponsors. The main sponsor is the Rolls-Royce Power Systems AG. For Rolls-Royce Power Systems AG, a leading company in the area of drive technology and of energy plant construction, sustainability is an overall responsibility, going beyond their own company. By sponsoring the European Center for Sustainability Research, Rolls-Royce Power Systems AG wants to contribute to the solution of current and future social challenges and to invest in a sustainable future of the environment, society, but also their own company. Additionally, the AUDI AG sponsors the Audi Chair of Social Economics & Sustainability.
The ECS finances the further expansion of its research activities by participating in national and international research programs and funding institutions (Federal Ministry of Education and Research, EU, Foundations, etc.).
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