Exploring Alignment Between UCalgary's Institutional Sustainability Strategy and the SDGs

Overview:

In partnership with The Office of Sustainability, Andres Gomez Blanco, an MSc candidate in Sustainable Energy Development, developed his capstone project addressing the following research question: to what extent does the University of Calgary Institutional Sustainability Strategy (ISS) contribute the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The project identified that recent studies do not report the higher education sector's contribution to the SDGs. Also, the use of frameworks and guidelines was not clearly stated. This research gap was addressed by applying the SDG Compass’ steps to the ISS and reviewing the U of C's materiality matrix.

The findings demonstrated that the Compass serves as a tool to identify the ISS contribution. Besides, the materiality matrix was a crucial driver in determining the material aspects in the ISS scope.

Outcomes:

  • Six SDGs, eight SDG targets, and nine SDG indicators comprise the Strategy’s contribution with specific actions regarding education, clean energy, innovation, responsible consumption, climate change, and sustainability partnerships. This contribution represents roughly 35% of the total of the 17 SDGs. However, this percentage comprises the majority of the common SDGs, programs, and research topics addressed by higher education institutions, according to the literature review conducted. From 2018 to 2019, this contribution integrated six SDGs and eight SDG indicators.
  • A higher education institution can apply the SDG Compass’ steps to measure contribution to the SDGs. However, it is vital to define the scope on which each step can be applied. Through this process, a materiality matrix was identified as a useful tool to limit the scope and to identify and prioritize material aspects towards future actions.
  • A set of 25 indicators were designed to measure the ISS contribution from 2020 to 2021. As an outcome from this process, it was suggested to modify, where applicable, the ISS goals and strategies to use the indicators better and drive performance.

Next Steps:

  • The materiality matrix should be updated, given the current circumstances due to COVID-19. This process could incorporate new significant and relevant aspects, according to the university and stakeholders' needs and expectations.
  • The University is on the right path to demonstrate contributions to the SDGs. However, the need for an SDG framework that considers the research courses and programs in sustainability is vital. This framework can be a helpful resource when setting priorities and could be synchronized with policies and initiatives to foster local and regional contributions to the global goals.