A community empowered to protect our planet

two images of the earth taken from space

One of the core values of York University is sustainability.

York’s continued dedication and leadership in this space is reflected in the University Academic Plan, Building a Better Future: York University Academic Plan 2020-2025.

The academic plan focuses on making positive change for York University’s students, campuses and local and global communities. The plan is deeply rooted in York’s history and values of excellence, progressiveness, diversity and inclusivity, social justice, equity and sustainability.

The UAP 2020-2025 contains six priorities for action, which are based on the University’s enduring commitment to critical inquiry and the pursuit of knowledge that comes from many differing perspectives and ways of knowing. The six priorities are:

  1. 21st Century Learning: Diversifying Whom, What, and How We Teach
  2. Knowledge for the Future: From Creation to Application
  3. From Access to Success: Next Generation Student Supports
  4. Advancing Global Engagement
  5. Working in Partnership
  6. Living Well Together

In addition to the six priorities, the plan also responds with a challenge to elevate York’s contributions to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). York University’s new UAP serves as a rallying call for students, faculty and staff – a call to bring their expertise from across disciplines to work together to build new tools, develop strategies and solutions to global challenges.

What are the Sustainable Development Goals?

The global goals are the core of the world’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. All member states of the United Nations adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 to work in partnership towards peace and prosperity for all people on the planet by 2030.

UAP Graphic
The University Academic Plan 2020-2025 identifies six academic priorities

The 17 SDGs represent the most pressing sustainability issues, defined by a list of 169 targets and 232 unique indicators. The goals are all integrated and interconnected as a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all” and recognize the problems the world is facing and that actions taken in one area may reduce outcomes in other areas. To be successful, sustainable development must include a balance of environmental, social and economic sustainability. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are:

UN Sustainable Development Goals infographic
An infographic showing the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals

How to take action

To achieve the SDGs by 2030, individuals, educational institutions, businesses, not-for-profit organizations and governments need to embrace creative approaches, innovation, technological advances, and restore the relationship with nature. These elements are needed from all members of society, in all contexts.

Quality Education for all, which is UN SDG 4, is not only recognized as one goal but also a key enabler for all other SDGs. Universities play a crucial role in society’s advancement of the SDGs through leadership in research, teaching and learning, and by modeling sustainability in their institutions. Universities bring together diverse perspectives from their local and global communities, including Indigenous perspectives, academia, government, and industry, to understand and localize the SDGs, identify knowledge and data gaps, and identify innovative actions and pathways to contribute to achieving a better future. Universities can influence decision making, promoting new behaviour and mindsets, and speeding the transition through innovative solutions.

Many York University community members are actively involved in the global efforts to achieve the SDGs. The new UAP is now challenging us to continue to elevate our contributions to the SDGs, and there is significant opportunity to accelerate our efforts and for everyone to get involved.