Using the Embedding Sustainability and Climate Action (ESCA) framework, SFU's central sustainability team facilitates collaborative climate action across each vice-president (VP) portfolio at SFU. 

Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) 2022-2025 Strategic Sustainability and Climate Action Plan was approved and launched in Fall 2022. It contains six goals, with each goal having an accountable SFU Provost/Vice-President (VP), executive lead and communications lead. Each Provost/VP portfolio is responsible for developing individual implementation plans related to their respective goal (and actions) which will be brought to the Executive teami for approval in December 2023. Along with this plan was the approval of the Embedding Sustainability and Climate Action (ESCA) framework.

What is ESCA?

ESCA is a “living” framework that has and continues to be adapted in response to changing conditions and needs.

ESCA provides scaffolding for three main purposes:

  1. Executive engagement: To guide the approach to SFU’s sustainability and climate action strategic planning and the associated implementation, evaluation and reporting activities through direct engagement and collaboration with SFU’s Executive team;
  2. Embedding: To guide and support the SFU community (faculty, staff, students and partners) in embedding mindsets and practices into their research, teaching, studies and work that aligns with sustainability and climate goals; and,
  3. Evolution: To intentionally activate and incubate systems thinking, cross-silo collaboration and inter-/trans-disciplinary innovation (including the identification of synergies between all SFU’s strategic plans) in the service of the university’s and global sustainability and climate action goals.

The ESCA framework was originally designed based on leading practice in institutional and organizational development research such as the work of Professor Stephanie Bertels in the Embedding Project in SFU’s Beedie School of Business. It continues to evolve to meet the unique context and particular needs of the university. 


SFU has a firm foundation of excellence and leadership in sustainability and climate action research, teaching, learning, engagement and practice. We also have an established central support team (SFU Sustainability) and active groups working on related goals across the university. SFU has set ambitious goals and made global commitments to sustainability (e.g., the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals) and climate action (e.g., UN Race To Zero global campaign). Sustainability-related practices are no longer add-ons or peripheral to SFU’s core business. They are reflected directly in our vision and priorities within SFU’s institutional strategy (What’s Next: the SFU Strategy) and across key strategic plans (e.g., SFU’s 2023-2028 Strategic Research Plan). Therefore, SFU has entered a more mature stage in our journey toward modeling how universities can transform themselves and the world for a sustainable future. The challenges we face in achieving our goals now are linked more to entrenched silos and lack of integration and coordination than the lack of interest or commitment by the SFU community that was present in earlier years. 

What is needed at this stage is a framework that supports engagement in university-wide (system), cross-portfolio/silo, and transdisciplinary co-creation so we can break through the ceiling of incremental advancements into transformational changes for SFU and the communities we serve. The ESCA framework is designed to do this.  

How is ESCA different than previous approaches?

  1. A key and critical component of the ESCA framework is a new approach to strategic planning for sustainability and climate action at SFU.  SFU’s Strategic Sustainability and Climate Action Plans (five-year timescales) are now co-designed and led by a cross-portfolio leadership team (see roles below for more information). This includes the Executive team (President, Provost, Vice-Presidents), the Deans (proposed), ESCA leads (senior direct reports - see below) and the central SFU Sustainability team. SFU Sustainability facilitates and coordinates the planning process every five years and the associated community consultations.
  2. Strategic plans now have integrated executive accountability and implementation has now been aligned to the GP38 Sustainability Policy. The Provost and each VP writes and is accountable for goals within the plan. They are also responsible for writing, resourcing, implementing and reporting on their respective implementation plan. 
  3. To ensure the strategic plans are resourced, implemented and aligned to other strategic goals (such as priorities within What’s Next: The SFU Strategy), the Provost and each VP assign a senior leader (direct report) as lead to act as liaison between their portfolio and SFU Sustainability. They are referred to as ESCA leads. A communicator from each Provost/VP portfolio is also assigned.  
  4. ESCA leads, communicators and the SFU Sustainability team work together along with the Provost/VP’s senior leadership team. Together they form what are colloquially called “Pods” by the working teams. The ESCA leads work with SFU Sustainability to write detailed implementation plans for each of their portfolios. They also support implementation, evaluation of progress, and related reporting and communications.  
  5. Community of Practice: To help advance skills, knowledge and systems that support each ESCA lead, the communicators and their colleagues in doing this embedding work, SFU Sustainability has launched a small and focused community of practice (CoP). The purpose of the CoP is to provide a container for learning, collaboration across the portfolios, and relationship building. It is within the container of the CoP where synergies between portfolios and systems thinking is encouraged and amplified. Current members of the CoP include the ESCA leads, the VP communicators and SFU Sustainability. Proposals for expansion of the CoP to include all Provost/VP direct reports and/or faculty leads have been discussed.
  6. ESCA is designed and continuously evolves to connect SFU’s sustainability and climate action work to SFU’s priorities and commitments related to EDI and Truth and Reconciliation. Applying equity-design, partnering with the Equity Office, and providing training in decolonizing practices make up a substantial part of the ethos of ESCA. 

The 'Who' of ESCA: Roles and Responsibilities 

  • Provost and VPs write goals and high-level actions for their own portfolios for each Strategic Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (aligned with SFU’s aspirations and commitments). They approve detailed implementation plans and the integration of related work, processes and systems into their own portfolios. Ideally, future strategic plans will feature a mix of goals that encompass both portfolio-specific goals (what is my portfolios’ specific and unique contribution?) and cross-portfolio goals (what can we do better together?).  [Accountable]
  • ESCA leads are senior leaders who directly report to the Provost or VP. This senior leader has a direct line to their Executive leader and can operate with authority to plan and execute the work within their portfolio. They work with their senior leadership teams to write and deliver on detailed implementation plans to meet the goals of the strategic plan. The Provost/VP approves their own implementation plan. The Executive team approves them all as a package. [Responsible] 
  • SFU Sustainability is SFU’s central sustainability and climate action office. They support the whole SFU community with strategic planning, best practice advising, education and training, fundraising, community engagement, data collection, evaluation, reporting/communications, and convening SFU community members and partners. SFU Sustainability facilitates and coordinates all aspects of ESCA. [Responsible] 
  • Senior leadership teams from each portfolio work with the ESCA lead and SFU Sustainability to write the implementation plans, assign people and resources, and deliver on these plans. [Responsible] 
  • VP communicator representatives support the Provost, VPs, ESCA leads, and SFU Sustainability to effectively communicate progress and the ways the community can be engaged. They work with SFU Sustainability to development and deliver a cohesive SFU narrative. [Responsible]
  • SFU community members are regularly consulted and act as collaborators and co-designers on related planning and projects. For example, Embark Sustainability and SFU 350 (student groups) and Faculty for the Future (faculty group) regularly contribute feedback to SFU’s sustainability and climate action work. [consulted and informed]

ESCA Community of Practice members

Portfolio Accountable Lead ESCA Lead ESCA Communicator
VP Academic (VPA) Dilson Rassier (Provost and VPA) Mary Holmes (acting executive director, VPA) Rosetta Cannata (director, C&M, VPA)
VP Research and International (VPRI) Dugan O'Neil (VPRI) Shelley Gair (executive director, VPRI) Tia O'Grady (director, C&M, VPRI)
VP People, Equity and Inclusion (VPPEI) Yabome Gilpin-Jackson (VPPEI) Samir Traoré (executive director, VPPEI) Rachel Wong (director, internal communications, C&M)
 VP External Relations (VPER) Joanne Curry (VPER) Steve Dooley (executive director, Surrey campus) Angela Wilson (senior director, MRPA, C&M)
VP Finance and Administration (VPFA) Martin Pochurko (VPFA) Jennifer Espinos (executive director, VPFA) Laura Kohli (director, C&M, VPFA)
VP Advancement and Alumni Engagement (VPAAE) Erin Morantz (VPAAE) Alex Kouzin (senior director, advancement services, VPAAE) Ted Peterson (senior director, C&M, VPAAE)
SFU's ESCA community of practice, with representatives from each VP portfolio. L-R: Samir Traoré, executive director, VP People, Equity and Inclusion; Laura Kohli, director, communications & marketing (C&M), VP finance & administration (VPFA); Maria Spiliotopoulou, manager, regenerative systems education, SFU Sustainability (SFUS); Kilim Park, manager, research sustainability, SFUS; Shelley Gair, executive director, VP research & international (VPRI); Jennifer Espinos, director, VPFA; Candace Ratelle (Le Roy), executive director, SFUS; Alex Kouzin, senior director, advancement services, VP advancement & alumni engagement (VPAAE); Rita Steele, manager, campus sustainability; SFUS; Lindsay Bunce, director, SFUS; Steve Dooley, executive director, SFU’s Surrey campus; Angela Wilson, director, media relations & public affairs, C&M; Ted Peterson, senior director, C&M, VPAAE; and Tia O’Grady, director, C&M, VPRI.