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Awards and recognition

SFU ranks among world's top 50 universities in Times Higher Education Impact Rankings

April 21, 2021

By: Braden McMillan

Simon Fraser University ranks among the world’s top 50 universities for its commitment to sustainability, according to Times Higher Education’s (THE) 2021 University Impact Rankings. The rankings measure environmental, social and economic contributions toward meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. 

Overall, SFU ranks 46th in the world among more than 1,115 institutions from 94 countries. The rankings place SFU in the top 10 for three key SDGs: climate action; sustainable cities and communities; and peace, justice and strong institutions.

“I am so proud of our students, faculty and staff who, despite facing enormous challenges over the past year, have continued to champion sustainability in everything we do,” says SFU President Joy Johnson. “As a global leader, we will continue to take action to address climate change and promote efforts to build healthier, safer and more resilient communities.”

The UN's SDGs address global challenges for well-being and good health, quality education, gender equality, building sustainable cities and communities, climate change and other critical issues that the world currently faces. The rankings’ indicators provide comparisons across three broad areas, including research, outreach and stewardship. 

More information about SFU’s top global rankings:

#5 in Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions (SDG 16)

As Canada’s engaged university, SFU is an active community partner, helping to facilitate productive conversations about issues of public concern.

SFU’s Community Engaged Research Initiative (CERi) is the university’s first research infrastructure developed for the purpose of extending community-engaged research to provincial, national and international communities. The initiative is empowering researchers to mobilize knowledge to understand the complexity of the social, economic and political forces that challenge global communities.

Researchers at SFU are engaging on questions of equity and justice in relation to environmental, educational, health, economic and governmental systems. This is embodied within priority research challenge four of SFU’s Strategic Research Plan: strengthening civil society by advancing justice, equity and social responsibility.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, pivotal public engagement initiatives, such as SFU Public Square, have adapted to bring the university into conversation with local and global communities through innovative and virtual methods.

SFU subject matter experts have also continued to be at the forefront of the COVID-19 response by providing advice and modelling to local and international government agencies, including the World Health Organization. Meanwhile, the SFU Covid-19 Action Now initiative has harnessed university resources to respond to the pandemic and prepare to support our communities with social and economic recovery in the months ahead.

#6 in Sustainable Cities & Communities (SDG 11)

Across all three campuses, SFU provides a sustainable environment for those who work and live as part of the university community, with ongoing efforts to minimize its environmental footprint through infrastructure sustainability and other efforts. New buildings are built to sustainable standards, including the recently completed student union building and the soon-to-be-completed Phase One residence buildings, both targeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification.

The university also plays a key role in the preservation of culture and the cultural life of communities with access to numerous public buildings, museums and cultural spaces. The First Nations Language Centre is working to revitalize and preserve Indigenous language and heritage, and a planned First People’s Gathering House will serve as a cultural hub of activity and education for all community members.

A new Burnaby campus art museum, set to open in 2024, will further enrich the cultural landscape and help the public gain an appreciation and understanding of modern and contemporary art across B.C. and Canada.

#7 in Climate Action (SDG 13)

Aligned with the UN objective of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, SFU’s efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emission through strategic planning, energy saving measures and behavioral changes in energy use are reflected in a continued decrease of the university’s GHG emissions, as SFU remains on track to reduce its operational emissions by 50 per cent by 2025.

SFU’s five-year Strategic Sustainability Plan aims to mobilize the entire institution to embed climate action throughout its operations, research, academics and community engagement. The plan includes 16 climate action targets to guide the institution over the coming years.

SFU’s Adaptation to Climate Change Team brings leading experts from around the world together with professional practitioners, industry, communities, NGOs and all levels of government to explore climate change risks and advance opportunities for sustainable adaptation. The new schools of Sustainable Energy Engineering (SEE) and Environmental Science are also targeting the critical need for skilled graduates in the emerging fields.

Researchers at SFU are advancing strategies and developing interventions that improves our collective welfare and ensure a sustainable future. This is embodied within priority research challenge one of SFU’s Strategic Research Plan: addressing environmental concerns and creating a sustainable future.