On the heels of ambitious new sustainability goals, appointment of the University’s first chief sustainability officer and targeted plan to achieve net-zero sooner, York celebrates its 11th consecutive year as one of Canada’s Greenest Employers.
This year’s list of organizations recognized as Canada’s Greenest Employers for 2023 was announced April 18 by Mediacorp Canada Inc., the organizers of the annual Canada’s Top 100 Employers project. The editorial competition, now in its 16th year, is designed to highlight employers in Canada that are leaders in creating a “culture of environmental awareness” through “exceptional sustainability initiatives.”
“York has long been a leader in sustainability and we have ambitious goals for the future,” said Mike Layton, York’s new chief sustainability officer. “This recognition as one of Canada’s 2023 Greenest Employers provides us with continued momentum to expand our sustainability portfolio and create lasting change for our community and the world around us.”
York’s track record as a greenest employer is due to its strong suite of sustainability initiatives aimed at reducing the overall environmental impact of the University through conservation and measurement, decarbonization and innovation. This year’s recognition highlighted many of the University’s long-standing initiatives across York’s multiple campuses locally, including Keele and Glendon campuses in Toronto, and globally in Hyderabad, India and Costa Rica. One such example is Zero Waste, York’s comprehensive, multi-faceted waste management program that was first established in 1990 and has been expanding for over three decades. The program has continually surpassed its targets, growing from an initial goal of 50 per cent waste reduction to a recent achievement of 70 per cent of waste diverted from landfills in 2019.
In addition to waste reduction and recycling, York’s commitment to embed sustainability into all facets of teaching, research, operations and campus life further solidified its recognition as a greenest employer. The University is governed by the Sustainability Policy that outlines its responsibility for and commitment to sustainability, provides the framework for ongoing implementation of the policy and assists the community in incorporating sustainability into decision-making. The policy is enacted in conjunction with the University Academic Plan (UAP) which underscores York’s overarching social and environmental responsibility and its commitment to net zero.
In the areas of teaching and research, York has over 500 course offerings across several Faculties that focus on sustainability and the environment, and is home to the Waste Wiki program in the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change, Canada’s largest research initiative devoted to waste management and policy. The University has also developed a research collaboration with Stronach International to develop and test a new generation of affordable, electric micro-mobility vehicles. The SARIT electric micro-mobility vehicles are currently being tested within University operations while faculty and students continue to study the impact and develop custom solutions for different industries and uses.
Operationally, the University has undertaken a variety of energy management programs over the past decade to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, including the installation and expansion of building automation systems, modifications to heating and cooling plants, implementation of energy efficient lighting, installation of green roofs and motor replacement. Other notable operational improvements include the installation of 33 electric vehicle recharging stations at the Keele and Glendon campuses, expansion of on-campus cycling infrastructure and the University’s green cleaning program which has become the benchmark for institutional cleaning.
“York was built on a strong foundation of social change and is guided by values that continually challenge us to innovate and be at the leading edge of solutions to the most pressing issues of our time,” said Layton. “As a university community, we must continue to work together to advance our work in sustainability and achieve our goal of becoming one of the most sustainable universities in Canada. The sum of our individual actions will fuel our collective progress.”
Learn more about what makes York University one of Canada’s Greenest Employers.