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SFU tops Times Higher Education Impact Rankings for sustainable cities and communities

June 01, 2023

Simon Fraser University is number one for its global impact on sustainable cities and communities—and fifth in the world for its response on climate action—according to the Times Higher Education (THE) 2023 Impact Rankings.

The annual rankings measure universities’ strengths in advancing the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs), which call on developed and developing countries to partner on critical global issues.

SFU also topped the rankings for sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11) in 2020 and has consistently been among the top 10 universities worldwide in that category since then. Nationally, SFU also ranks third for climate action (SDG 13).

“Over the past year, I have seen students, faculty and staff at SFU come together like never before to support research, teaching and community engagement in the areas of climate action and sustainability,” says SFU President Joy Johnson. “I am so proud of our community for their passion and hard work as we advance our vision of building a more inclusive and sustainable future for everyone.”

SFU also ranks high for its impact on peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16), tied for 15th in the world and 4th nationally, and for its partnerships for the goals (SDG 17), 51st globally and 7th in Canada. In terms of its overall impact, SFU ranks 14th in Canada and 86th globally among nearly 1,600 universities.

Through its renewed 2022-2025 Strategic Sustainability and Climate Action Plan, SFU is well-positioned to address and achieve its sustainability and climate action goals and priorities. The university also recently launched What’s Next: The SFU Strategy with ‘resilience and sustainability’ as one of its core values.

In addition to building on its values through research and community engagement, SFU students continue to benefit and thrive from related programs in faculties such as Arts and Social Sciences and Environment, with programs in urban studies, sustainable business and development, and environmental science.

SFU is among universities committed to the UN-backed Race To Zero campaign, dedicated to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and its Board of Governors has formally declared a global climate emergency.

The university  further demonstrates sustainable practice in surpassing its own greenhouse gas emission goals and through its commitment to fully divesting from fossil fuels by 2025.

In 2022 SFU hosted the Times Higher Education University Impact Forum on Sustainable Cities, an event that brought together an interdisciplinary delegation of sustainability practitioners, researchers and government to explore opportunities to advance SDG 11.

“SFU has redesigned its sustainability initiatives, strategies and resources to build on and scale up efforts to maximize our sustainability impact over the last two decades,” says SFU’s Vice-President, Research and International, Dugan O’Neil.

“Part of the redesign is grounding this work in a wider framework of the SDGs. We are collaborating to leverage and enhance sustainability research, partnerships, projects and initiatives that are happening across the university.”

SFU’s results in the latest THE impact rankings follow top placements in the recent World University Rankings for Innovation, which for the third year ranked SFU as number one in Canada for overall innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and industrial application.

SFU’s sustainability and climate action highlights

  • SFU has launched its new 2023-2028 Strategic Research Plan. The plan embeds the values of the university’s institutional plan into research practice using six approaches and includes five research priority areas that demonstrate SFU’s commitment to the UN SDGs.
  • Community-centred climate innovation is a critical research priority at SFU and key component of the strategic research plan. As climate change intensifies, impacts will be felt at the community level. SFU's unique approach is founded on community partnerships, innovation and a deep commitment to Indigenous knowledges and perspectives.
  • SFU has partnered with the City of Burnaby to advance the Civic Innovation Lab, sharing leading-edge research and strengths in innovation and sustainability to develop practical solutions for the city’s most pressing urban issues—from diversity and housing to sustainable growth and environmental challenges caused by climate change.
  • SFU health sciences professor Meghan Winters is partnering with the City of Surrey—B.C.’s fastest growing city—to integrate health equity considerations into the city’s urban planning and population health interventions.
  • Resource and environmental management professor Andréanne Doyon has studied cities around the world, fueling her passion for sustainable and just urban planning while addressing climate change and creating more just and equitable societies.
  • SFU researchers are at work addressing Canada’s clean energy goals. Mechatronic systems engineering professor and Canada Research Chair Erik Kjeang and his team are working to develop the next generation of efficient, affordable and durable fuel cells and advance the national hydrogen strategy.

Learn more about how SFU is advancing an inclusive and sustainable future. Visit sfu.ca/sdgs.