In the business world the quality management of sustainable development has been seen as a means to achieve ecological benefits in balance with economic benefits, lower costs and increased profits. But are we also able to define the quality management philosophy of sustainable development?
The concept of sustainable development has thus far been based on modernism. Generally speaking, as a continuation of the Enlightenment, modernism believes in one reason, and that human nature is the same every time and everywhere. Through rational discussion, people and societies can find the right goals and effective ways to reach them. Reason is the ability on which human relationships are based, and it is also what makes emancipation and progress possible.
Romanticism, however, believes that there is no universally applicable reason, but rather different belief systems that cannot be compared with uniform criteria. Romanticism is interested in what is special in individuals, groups, peoples and nations. One cornerstone of romanticism is expressionism, according to which genuine expressions of human emotion must take precedence over clinical and one-dimensional scientific or rational concepts of quality. In other words, romanticism emphasizes genuineness as a symbol of quality and human nature instead of artificiality.
In terms of sustainable development and quality assurance, we need a romanticism-based approach. Romanticism emphasizes distinction, differences, and the new tribalism that is created when people join and leave subcultures. The quality systems of sustainable development of different groups are equally valuable and cannot be evaluated with uniform criteria. This is especially important in the Arctic. Arctic society is a complex system that consists of individuals, communities and environments. When we talk about romanticism-based sustainable development, we understand that traditional knowledge manifests differently in Salekhard, Yakutsk, Greenland and Rovaniemi, simply because the surroundings, cultures, communities, livelihoods and people are different. The current discourse builds a divide between the ecological and unecological, but this is much more complicated if we look at it from a philosophical perspective. Locally-produced food is aligned with romantic sustainable development, but not the Enlightenment. On the other hand, industrial and ecological mass production of food – such as cultured meat – follows the sustainable development perspective of the Enlightenment, but not romanticism.
The modern conception of quality assurance of sustainable development entails a range of procedures, processes and systems that ensure and improve quality. Quality in this context means adhering to the procedures and processes that are clearly articulated and geared towards achieving the objectives. As Georg Henrik von Wright put it, “if you want A and think that you are in situation B, your most rational course of action is X.” In other words, it is methodical and consistent action which produces quality of sustainable development.
In quality assurance work at many universities, the values of institutions are integrated into the management systems whose purpose is to produce quality. However, management is not possible without constant analysis of the university in its operating environment. This process is based on the development of evaluation measures and indicators and the interpretation of the information they produce.
A critical approach is crucial to the university's ability to produce new knowledge. In The Egyptian, Mika Waltari described medicine in ancient Egypt as the transfer of tradition and ritual from one generation to the next. In contrast, modern science is self-correcting, and it constantly challenges received knowledge. Emancipatory knowledge enables us to challenge what we have considered to be self-evident – the truths that we hold dearest. The science of sustainable development can solve problems and transfer knowledge and skills from one generation to the next, but it can also challenge social truths. As a core value of the university, this last interest translates into the emancipation of and guaranteeing of equality for minorities. This is an aspiration that should be embraced by every member of the community, mindful as we are, in Julia Kristeva's words, that “the other is within us.”