Looking back at part 1 and part 2 of our University leadership climate change blog series, we highlighted the ambitious renewable energy and carbon-neutral commitments of leading universities across Australia as well as showcasing their efforts in the built environment to improve their carbon footprint by aiming for and achieving Green Star certification.
In this article, we focus on universities’ commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals or ‘SDGs’. According to the ‘Getting started with the SDGs in universities’ reference guide, engaging with the SDGs will benefit universities by helping them demonstrate the impact a university can have, capture demand for SDG-related education, build new partnerships, access new funding streams, and define a university that is responsible and globally aware. Education and research are explicitly recognised in a number of the SDGs and universities have a direct role in addressing these.
Universities commitment to the SDGs
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their associated 169 targets were agreed by all United Nations member states in September 2015 and constitute a shared global framework of development priorities to 2030. They aim to bring an end to extreme poverty, promote prosperity and well-being for all, protect the environment and address climate change, and encourage good governance, peace and security.
The University Commitment to the SDGs is a short statement that affirms a university’s intention to support and promote the SDGs through their research, education and operations, as well as report on activities in support of the goals.
The Commitment was initiated by SDSN Australia, NZ & Pacific (AusNZPac) as a tool to engage senior university leadership on the SDGs, start conversations within a university on how it can support them, and demonstrate to external stakeholders why universities are critical for addressing the SDGs.
The universities’ commitments include:
- support and promote the principles of the Sustainable Development Goals
- undertake research that provides solutions to sustainable development challenges
- provide the educational opportunity for students to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development
- contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by ensuring campuses and major programs are environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive, and
- report on activities in support of the Sustainable Development Goals
Universities who have signed up to the SDGs
|State||University||Date Signed||Link to Commitment|
|QLD||James Cook University||19 August 2016||Website|
|SA||The University of Adelaide||26 August 2016||Announcement|
|VIC||University of Melbourne||31 August 2016||Sustainability Plan|
|VIC||Monash University||1 September 2016||Announcement|
|NSW||University of Technology, Sydney||2 September 2016||Announcement|
|VIC||RMIT University||12 January 2017||Website|
|NSW||Western Sydney University||3 March 2017||Announcement, Website|
|VIC||Deakin University||3 April 2017||Case Study|
|QLD||Griffith University||13 October 2017||Website|
|VIC||Swinburne University of Technology||21 June 2018||Announcement|
|WA||Murdoch University||29 March 2019||Announcement|
|TAS||University of Tasmania||18 April 2019||Sustainable University Report|
|QLD||Bond University||9 July 2019||Website|
|NSW||Charles Sturt University||20 September 2019||Announcement|
|NSW||University of Wollongong||25 September 2019||Announcement|
 At the time of writing, the web page was last updated in September 2019.
Deakin University, Griffith University, La Trobe University, Monash University, RMIT University, University of Melbourne, University of Western Australia, University of Wollongong and University of Technology Sydney are also signatories to the UN Global Compact.
The UN Global Compact is a voluntary initiative based on CEO commitments to implement universal sustainability principles and to take steps to support UN goals. Here in Australia, we have the business-led network of the UN Global Compact, the Global Compact Network Australia (GCNA). The GCNA brings together signatories to the UN Global Compact in Australia to advance corporate sustainability and the private sector’s contribution to sustainable development.
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