As a biologist, I am deeply proud of Laurier’s longstanding commitment in the areas of environmental, social and economic sustainability. Our strengths as an institution in academic programming and scholarly activities that seek to further our understanding of the natural environment, and our human interactions with such, are second to none.
Laurier has integrated its commitment to sustainability into its research, teaching and decision-making. The environment is one of five research focus areas in the university’s Strategic Research Plan. Much of this research is interdisciplinary, linking our understanding of ecosystems with the development of environmentally and economically resilient communities. As well, the university has developed innovative courses, such as the interdisciplinary Perspectives on Sustainability, to help students learn about the challenge of sustainability from philosophical, social, economic and cultural perspectives; students may proceed from this introductory course to an Option in Sustainability.
From land-based teachings in our Indigenous programs, to the Applied Water Science BSc at the Waterloo campus and community-focused programs at the Brantford campus, it is clear our graduates leave Laurier ready to engage fully in the complexities of global sustainability.
Sustainability is a key part of Laurier’s growth as a multi-campus, multi-community university. Our Milton campus, which will welcome its first students in fall 2019, will be located next to a stunning natural area recognized as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. The 150-acre Milton campus includes 100 acres of protected Greenbelt lands, providing space for nature and recreation and serving as a living laboratory for students and researchers. The Town of Milton, confident in our sustainability practices, donated this land to Laurier for stewarding.
Along with a dedication to teaching and research, universities have both the capacity and the responsibility to lead by example in the pursuit of sustainability in our operations. At Laurier, we continue to make a concerted effort to improve our practices and increase our efficiency. Over the past five years, we have introduced numerous programs and achieved or surpassed many of the goals we set in our first Sustainability Action Plan. In just one example, Laurier has achieved a 32 per cent reduction (tCO2e/ft2) in its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions since 2009.
In 2017, the university’s Board of Governors approved a number of recommendations put forward by the Responsible Investment Working Group, including the enhancement of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) risk management strategies; development of a responsible investment annual report; development of a fossil-free, impact investing endowment fund; and continued support for research into the effects of climate change, the sustainability of ecosystems and ESG-related issues.
It’s this commitment to the environment that has earned us the title of most sustainable campus in Ontario and the third most sustainable campus in Canada from the Corporate Knights.
But we can always do better.
This new Sustainability Action Plan is based on extensive consultation with the Laurier community and our external partners. It outlines further enhancements to our operations, such as conservation and waste reduction initiatives to help us achieve new and existing external mandates. It also describes possible opportunities to expand our academic programming and experiential learning opportunities that will raise awareness among students and help prepare them for existing and emerging trends in employment and global challenges.
The pursuit of sustainability is an ongoing and collective endeavour. I would like to thank the many staff, students and faculty from across the Laurier community who have worked so hard to develop our latest Sustainability Action Plan. It is a clear and progressive strategy that will help Laurier continue to lead by example and inspire change.
PhD President and Vice-Chancellor, Wilfrid Laurier University
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