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An analysis of Canadian STARS-rated higher education sustainability policies

Abstract

Uptake of sustainability into campus administration has been identified as important for establishing and maintaining campus sustainability initiatives because of its ability to institutionalize sustainability on campuses. This paper explores how higher education institutions (HEIs) are defining and enacting sustainability in campus administration, using policy documents as a tool to achieve this. This paper analyzes the sustainability policies of 21 Canadian HEIs that have used the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. The policies were coded thematically with a focus on the conceptualizations of sustainability, conceptualizations of campus sustainability, and how the documents address the dominant themes found in the sustainability in higher education scholarly literature. This paper finds that most policies conceptualized sustainable development using the Brundtland definition, with aspects of environment, society, and economy. Policies conceptualized campus sustainability as including teaching, research, operations, and community outreach, with policy goals that emphasize facilities initiatives. This paper contributes to our understanding of the challenges and priorities associated with integrating sustainability into the administration of Canadian HEI institutions at the end of the DESD.

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Acknowledgments

This publication draws on research from the Sustainability and Education Policy Network (SEPN), supported by a Partnership Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Grant No. 895-2011-1025, Principal Investigator Dr. Marcia McKenzie). For more information, to share an initiative or research project, or to join the network, please visit SEPN.ca. Many thanks to the collaborative coding team at SEPN: Kathleen Aikens, François Bregha, Marcia McKenzie, Rebecca McNeil, and Philip Vaughter. Additional funding for this paper was provided by the Québec Fonds de Recherche—Société et Culture.

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Correspondence to Lauri Lidstone.

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Lidstone, L., Wright, T. & Sherren, K. An analysis of Canadian STARS-rated higher education sustainability policies. Environ Dev Sustain 17, 259–278 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-014-9598-6

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Keywords

  • Sustainability in higher education
  • Campus sustainability
  • Policy
  • Canada
  • Post-secondary education
  • Education for sustainable development