Sustainable University

In recent years, universities around the world have recognized the importance of embracing sustainability and integrating it into their operations. A sustainable university is one that promotes environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and economic viability. By incorporating sustainability into its core values, a university can not only reduce its environmental footprint but also inspire and educate the next generation of leaders. We have explored the concept of a sustainable university, highlights key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics used to measure its success, and presents some inspiring success stories from institutions leading the way.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for a Sustainable University:
To effectively measure the progress and impact of sustainability initiatives, universities utilize various KPIs. Here are some common KPIs employed by sustainable universities:
a. Carbon Footprint: Tracking and reducing greenhouse gas emissions generated by university operations, including energy consumption, transportation, waste management, and more.
b. Energy Efficiency: Monitoring and optimizing energy consumption across campus buildings, utilizing renewable energy sources, and implementing energy-efficient technologies.
c. Waste Management: Measuring waste diversion rates, promoting recycling and composting programs, and minimizing overall waste generation.
d. Water Conservation: Monitoring water usage, implementing water-saving technologies, and promoting water conservation practices across campus.
e. Sustainable Procurement: Assessing the sustainability credentials of suppliers, promoting fair trade and local sourcing, and reducing the environmental impact of procurement activities.
f. Social Impact: Measuring the university's contributions to the local community, fostering diversity and inclusion, and promoting social justice initiatives.

Metrics for Assessing Sustainability:
In addition to KPIs, universities employ specific metrics to evaluate their sustainability performance. These metrics provide detailed insights into the progress made in various areas. Here are some commonly used metrics:

a. Renewable Energy Generation: Tracking the percentage of energy consumed on campus that comes from renewable sources, such as solar or wind power.
b. Waste Diversion Rate: Measuring the proportion of waste diverted from landfills through recycling, composting, and other waste management practices.
c. Water Consumption per Capita: Calculating the average water consumption per person on campus, aiming to reduce this metric over time.
d. Sustainable Transportation: Assessing the percentage of students, faculty, and staff using sustainable transportation options, such as walking, biking, or public transit.
e. Sustainable Building Certification: Tracking the number of LEED, DGNB or other sustainable building certifications obtained for campus facilities, indicating environmentally friendly construction and operations.
f. Student Engagement: Measuring the level of student involvement in sustainability initiatives, such as participation in clubs, projects, and events related to sustainability.

Success Stories from Sustainable Universities:
Numerous universities have made impressive strides in sustainability and serve as beacons of inspiration. Here are a few notable success stories:

a. Arizona State University (ASU), USA: ASU has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2025 and has made significant progress by investing in solar energy projects, implementing energy-efficient measures, and engaging students and staff in sustainability initiatives.
b. University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada: UBC has established a robust waste management system that has achieved an impressive 70% waste diversion rate. They have also incorporated sustainable building practices and set ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets.
c. University of Copenhagen, Denmark: The University of Copenhagen is renowned for its commitment to sustainable research and education. It has implemented comprehensive sustainability strategies, reduced its carbon footprint significantly, and actively engages students in sustainability projects.
d. University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Australia: UTS has transformed its campus into a sustainable living laboratory, incorporating renewable energy systems, green infrastructure, and sustainable building designs. Their commitment to sustainability has earned them multiple awards and recognition.

Sustainable universities play a crucial role in shaping a more sustainable future. By setting KPIs, utilizing metrics, and sharing success stories, these institutions demonstrate the tangible impact they are making. Through their commitment to sustainability, universities become catalysts for change, inspiring and empowering students and the broader community to embrace sustainable practices and values.

SDGs & Sustainable University 

A sustainable university can contribute to several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their associated targets and sub-targets. Here are some examples:

SDG 4: Quality Education

  • Target 4.3: By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational, and tertiary education, including university.
  • Sub-target 4.3.1: Participation rate of youth and adults in formal and non-formal education and training in the previous 12 months, by sex. 

SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

  • Target 7.3: By 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency.
  • Sub-target 7.3.1: By 2030, improve energy efficiency in buildings.

SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

  • Target 9.4: By 2030, upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes.
  • Sub-target 9.4.1: CO2 emission per unit of value added 

SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

  • Target 11.4: Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world's cultural and natural heritage.
  • Sub-target 11.4.1: Total per capita expenditure on the preservation, protection and conservation of all cultural and natural heritage, by source of funding (public, private), type of heritage (cultural, natural) and level of government (national, regional, and local/municipal)

SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

  • Target 12.4: By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water, and soil to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment.
  • Sub-target 12.4.1: Number of parties to international multilateral environmental agreements on hazardous waste, and other chemicals that meet their commitments and obligations in transmitting information as required by each relevant agreement 

SDG 13: Climate Action

  • Target 13.3: Improve education, awareness-raising, and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction, and early warning.
  • Sub-target 13.3.1: Strengthen education, awareness-raising, and capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction, and early warning.

SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals

  • Target 17.16: Enhance the global partnership for sustainable development, complemented by multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology, and financial resources.
  • Sub-target 17.16.1: Number of countries reporting progress in multi-stakeholder development effectiveness monitoring frameworks that support the achievement of the sustainable development goals 


These are just a few examples, and the specific targets and sub-targets that a sustainable university can contribute to may vary depending on its focus, activities, and context.