Western signs climate charter; sustainability work continues

Special to Western News

Western joined more than a dozen research-intensive Canadian universities as a signatory to 'Investing to Address Climate Change: A Charter for Canadian Universities.' The move is a continuation of the university's decade-long efforts to refine its sustainability principles.

Western has joined more than a dozen research-intensive Canadian universities to battle climate change through sustainable investing – part of the university’s ongoing efforts to reduce its carbon footprint.

As a signatory to Investing to Address Climate Change: A Charter for Canadian Universities, Western is also affirming its responsibility for modeling evolving global environmental practices.

“The charter is just one signal of Western’s commitment to an environmentally sustainable future,” President Alan Shepard said. “It acknowledges that our efforts against climate change continue to evolve.”

Each of the charter’s signatory universities agrees to set an institutional framework for strategies that measure, evaluate and shift investments to reflect environmental impact.

Western has been applying and refining its sustainability principles for more than a decade. More recently, the university has begun to monitor its fund managers for how well they integrate environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into their portfolio-building process.

Western continues to lead and build environmental sustainability in research, teaching and practice:

  • Researchers are committed to finding new solutions, including harnessing wind power, developing sustainable cities, advancing sustainable businesses, developing biomass as a fuel source and extending the life of rechargeable batteries.
  • Students in every discipline and faculty – from science and engineering to arts, business and philosophy – are examining the impact of climate change and coming up with innovative responses, including through the Western-initiated World’s Challenge Challenge.
  • Western’s physical operations have received provincial and national recognition for the construction of 13 LEED-certified facilities and for energy retrofits that have already halved greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions in two buildings, with more to come.

Recent investments in several projects will reduce Western’s GHG emissions by 12 per cent from 2018 levels. There are also plans to capture and employ ‘waste’ energy between buildings and to further reduce GHG emissions by 40 per cent over the next five to seven years.

The university’s strengths in addressing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals were acknowledged in the 2020 Times Higher Education Impact rankings, where Western debuted at number five in Canada and 26th in the world among 766 universities from 85 countries.

“We recognize there’s much that we and other universities can do to address climate change,” said Lynn Logan, Vice-President (Operations and Finance), and chair of the university’s Investment Committee. “On our own, universities hold a relatively small portion of investment assets and have a relatively low energy footprint. But if we’re going to talk about being world-changers – and universities are that, and more – we also need to help build a healthier future.”

An advisory board – made up of experts including Mark Carney, Pauline D’Amboise, Michael Sabia and Barbara Zvan – will review the charter periodically and share expertise on evolving investment practices.

Joining Western in signing the charter are:

  • University of Waterloo
  • University of British Columbia
  • McGill University
  • Dalhousie University
  • McMaster University
  • Queen’s University
  • Simon Fraser University
  • University of Guelph
  • Université Laval
  • University of Manitoba
  • Université de Montréal
  • University of Ottawa
  • University of Victoria
  • University of Toronto