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Our Approach

Sustainability and climate action is a vital part of SFU's identity and core principles, informing attitudes, decisions and actions at every level.

The global climate emergency affects everyone. SFU’s approach to sustainability and climate action reflects this reality, rejecting the idea that this work is the responsibility of any one group or person at our university. Whether staff, faculty, student, alumni or community member, there is a role for everyone to play in building a more sustainable and climate-just future.

Embedding Sustainability and Climate Action

Sustainability and climate action is woven throughout all vice-presidential portfolios at SFU, including planning and administration, operations, research, academics, campus and community engagement, and international partnerships.  

This approach was intentionally designed to align with SFU’s Sustainability Policy GP38. GP38 distributes the responsibility for sustainability work (including climate action) across each vice-president portfolio. It also defines sustainability at SFU as encompassing the interconnections between the planet (the environment), people (society) and prosperity (economy).

The ESCA project

In 2022, SFU’s executive team approved the Embedding Sustainability and Climate Action (ESCA) project. ESCA operationalizes the cross-institution leadership referenced in GP38 in a more formal way. As part of ESCA, several community groups are integrated into the planning and implementation processes at SFU. The Student Sustainability Leadership Council, Faculty for the Future and several topic-specific working groups and committees (e.g., energy committee) connect closely with the central SFU Sustainability team throughout the year—not just at intermittent strategic planning engagement touch points.

At SFU, sustainability isn’t just about regenerating planetary health.

It is also—and more importantly—about redesigning human culture(s) and economic systems to operate well within the natural limits of our planet and ensure an equal share of resources and habitat for all life on earth.

Explore our commitments & initiatives

Climate and Environmental Justice

The root of our environmental crisis can be found in the extraction and domination mindset that is central to colonization, unregulated corporate growth and wealth creation. Seeing ecosystems and whole groups of people solely as “resources” for exploitation has led to deep inequalities, injustice and the degeneration of life systems globally.

These injustices are visible in the unequal impacts of climate change on land and people in poorer countries and in the geographical juxtaposition of environmental pollution and racialized communities. The environmental movement for many decades was led by white, middle-class westerners who advanced an environmental colonialism that prioritized white voices and perspectives, natural space preservation over Indigenous land rights, and degenerative “clean” technology solutions (e.g., hydro dams displacing millions of people, electric-car battery mines on Indigenous land).

How SFU fits in

At SFU, we recognize that universities are colonial institutions and that the majority of those in leadership positions guiding the work continue to be white westerners. While this reality will not change overnight, where we can do better immediately—and are commited to doing so—is ensuring diverse perspectives are integrated into decision-making and action planning, and using resources that already exist, such as the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action and the Aboriginal Reconciliation Council (ARC) Walk This Path With Us Report, within our work.

We can also value and prioritize Indigenous and other non-dominant knowledge systems to respond to the climate crisis in ways that do not further harm. For example: The proliferation of destructive forest fires in British Columbia has ignited an interest in Indigenous knowledge about controlled burns and how to manage forests in ways that are beneficial for both the forest and for people. Community forests (another Indigenous land use approach) integrate people with the land and create opportunities for coexistence with nature in a sustainable way.  

COMMUNITY-DEVELOPED 20-YEAR SUSTAINABILITY VISION

In 2016, 2,400+ SFU students, faculty, staff and senior leadership came together to envision SFU’s sustainable future. The resulting vision lays the foundation for all institutional sustainability work. Share our vision (.pdf)

Sustainability and Climate Action Strategic Plans

Since 2013, SFU has been writing and implementing strategic plans to move the needle on sustainability and climate action. These plans prioritize action in 3-5 year time blocks and provide a shared and transparent roadmap for all SFU community members and our partners. Each year, the central SFU Sustainability team measures progress toward these goals and reports this progress in an annual report.

The most current version is SFU's 2022-2025 Strategic Sustainability and Climate Action Plan. This plan was co-written by SFU’s executive team and the central SFU Sustainability team with extensive feedback from the SFU community. Community engagement and co-design work for the 2025-2030 plan will commence in 2024.

Explore the plans