The University of Alberta ranked 11th in a global list of the most sustainable post-secondary institutions and third in Canada. The ranking is a significant improvement from last year’s ranking of 64th.
The SDGs were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Bob Summers, academic director of the U of A Sustainability Council, said the ranking recognizes the U of A community’s contributions to sustainability.
“[The U of A’s contribution] often flies under the radar,” Summers said. “This is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate some of that work, and to celebrate the university’s contribution to these huge global issues that we face.”
The U of A has improved across all 17 SDGs compared to last year. The areas in which the U of A ranked particularly well are Life on Land, Zero Hunger, and Sustainable Cities and Communities.
These areas were strong for reasons such as academic publications, public lectures, conferences, campus heritage preservation, and affordable housing solutions. laboratory.
Summers said the University of Alberta has been making these types of lasting contributions for a long time, and a big part of increasing rankings is learning how the ranking system works.
“We learned a lot about what other institutions submit as evidence, and what is acceptable and not acceptable as evidence of our contributions,” he said. “So I think that’s a big part of the jump.”
The SDGs are a series of key issues facing society and drive progress to improve the world and long-term sustainability. The SDGs also allow researchers to target a specific area of sustainability and work towards a solution. Summers hopes the SDGs will continue to grow in importance.
“For me what they do is they give us goals and things that we can work on, and there are efforts to make them measurable, which I think is a good thing.”
Ranking high on the leaderboard made Summers “a little nervous when [he] saw this number 11.
“How are we going to beat this in the future? It’s a pretty impressive result,” he said. “But for me, the real importance is the actual work that gets done – ranking is an imperfect measure.”
Summers noted that with the way ranking systems work, there can be “a bit of luck” and “good fortune” that results in a ranking change.
Although the U of A has a lot of work in different disciplines, Summers said there is room for the university to enhance cross-disciplinary opportunities.
To address some of these concerns, the Sustainability Council has helped create cross-disciplinary opportunities by publishing SUST 201 and SUST 202. In these courses, students can bridge the gap between social sciences, natural sciences, and their problem-oriented courses.
“[In these courses] we talk about some of these big challenges we face, some of the reasons why they exist, and how and what we should be doing to address them.
Summers encouraged students, regardless of their discipline, to think about how they can contribute to solving sustainability issues.
“No one should feel pressured to make their career around the SDGs, but…with this goal of a better world for all and a more sustainable planet in mind, I think it’s really important .”