Western University has placed first in Canada and third in the world in a global ranking of universities working toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Released today, the Times Higher Education 2022 Impact Rankings assess more than 1,500 post-secondary institutions from 110 countries based on goals set by the UN in 2015 to achieve a better and more sustainable world by 2030.
Western is one of only two Canadian universities to place in the top 10 in this year’s rankings. Queen’s placed seventh, while other Canadian research-intensive universities in the top 50 included Alberta (11), UBC (13), Laval (36), McMaster (37) and Calgary (42).
The rankings are based on data provided by post-secondary institutions in the areas of research, stewardship, outreach and teaching. The measurements are mapped back to the UN’s 2030 targets, with each SDG assigned its own ranking.
Western placed in the top five in the world for four SDGs: no poverty, zero hunger, life below water and peace, justice and strong institutions, and improved its global ranking in 13 of the 17 SDGs.
“The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings are unique in examining universities’ contributions to building a better world, through each of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals,” said the organization’s chief knowledge officer, Phil Baty.
“It’s excellent to see Canada as a whole doing so well in these rankings, with special credit going to Western, not just for leading the way, but for making it to the overall world top three.”— Phil Baty, chief knowledge officer, Times Higher Education
Western President Alan Shepard said the university is proud to be among the institutions making a difference in practicing and promoting sustainability for the good of society.
“Embedding sustainability across the university is a key part of Western’s strategic plan and together, we’re working hard to build sustainable practices across our operations, our research endeavours, and in our teaching,” Shepard said. “We appreciate the dedication our entire campus community has shown in moving these initiatives forward.”
Western tracks its progress on all 17 of the UN’s SDGs as it continues to strengthen its commitment to sustainability, an important component of the university’s strategic plan Towards Western at 150.
More than 2,500 courses are available across Western’s main campus and affiliates relating to the UN’s SDGs, including Climate Change and Society, a new major designed to help students address the multidimensional challenges of the climate crisis.
Western is also home to more than 100 researchers dedicated to finding solutions to some of the most pressing environmental and sustainability challenges.
Significantly reducing the university’s carbon footprint on campus is a vital component of Western’s sustainability strategy, and these efforts are consistently being recognized. For the third consecutive time, Western received a STARS sustainability gold rating in January, the global standard for higher education that tracks progress towards sustainability in academics, engagement, operations and administration.
“Universities have a responsibility to be leaders in practicing and promoting sustainability. Just as we have been inspired by institutions around the world, we hope to do the same for others,” said Lynn Logan, vice-president (operations and finance) and co-chair of the President’s Advisory Committee on the Environment and Sustainability (PACES). “While we are pleased to be recognized for the impact Western is having on our local and global community, we know there is more work to do collectively to create a just, equitable and sustainable world.”
Recent and ongoing efforts to reduce Western’s carbon footprint include:
- Joining the University Climate Change Coalition (UC3), consisting of North American research universities working to accelerate local and global solutions to climate change through teaching, research and community resilience-building.
- Pledging to adopt a responsible framework in line with UN-supported Principles of Responsible Investment as a signatory on Investing to Address Climate Change: A Charter for Canadian Universities.
- Pursuing a policy on responsible investing with a goal of net-zero carbon emission by 2050. A recent analysis of the university’s long-term public equity investment shows its carbon footprint is now 65 per cent less than it was in 2015.
- Joining the University Network for Investor Engagement (UNIE), which engages organizations that are part of Western’s investment portfolio. The focus is to accelerate their transition to a low-carbon economy in key sectors, including energy, utilities, finance, transportation and manufacturing.
Andy Hrymak, PACES co-chair and Western’s special advisor to President Shepard on industry partnerships, the green economy and sustainability, said strong collaborations with public and private sector partners have been key to Western’s steady progress toward its sustainability goals.
“These rankings reflect our commitment to making an impact on global sustainability and the importance of continuing to work with innovative industry partners at home and around the world who share our vision to put people and the planet at the core of our research and teaching activities.”
Specifically, the Times Higher Education 2022 Impact Rankings recognize Western as a leader in the world for its contribution to these UN SDGs: ‘no poverty’ (first in the world), ‘zero hunger’ (second in the world), ‘life below water’ (second in the world), and ‘peace, justice and strong institutions’ (fourth in the world). The following are just a few examples of campus initiatives aligned with each of these goals.
No poverty: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
-The experiential learning program, Impact Experience, allows students to access co-curricular opportunities around the world. Locations include Hattiesburg, Miss., where students explore factors that link race and poverty; and Ecuador, where students examine the pressures of the global food system on the livelihoods of rural and Indigenous communities.
-Operated by the Faculty of Law, Community Legal Services provides free legal services to low-income people in the community. The clinic is among the most progressive legal clinics in Canada and a leader in the cause of access to justice. For every academic year, services are provided by more than 125 law students who work under the supervision of experienced staff lawyers.
Zero hunger: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
-A research collaboration between the Ivey Business School and Guelph-Wellington’s Our Food Future project investigates how farmers, manufacturers and retailers can create opportunities from waste and establish circular supply chains.
-The University Students’ Council combats food insecurity at Western by hosting cooking workshops and demonstrations throughout the year that promote sustainable eating, simple cooking skills, and sourcing affordable, local ingredients.
Life below water: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
-As part of the Environmental Studies in Marine Biology field course at the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, students can study marine birds, mammals, and fish as they learn important oceanographic field techniques and the impact human activities have had on this ecosystem.
-Western professor Bryan Neff is one of the principal investigators working with the newly formed GEN-FISH team, a collaborative initiative among 13 academic institutions to determine the location and abundance of Canada’s freshwater fish species, measuring how they are performing in the face of increasing stressors.
Peace, justice and strong institutions: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
-Western is a leader in transitional justice research and hosts the only program in North America at both the undergraduate and graduate levels that focuses on transitional justice.
-The Western Model UN Society provides a platform for students to practice diplomacy and discuss important international political issues in a setting that simulates the actual United Nations. Members can practice and apply skills such as debating, conducting research, problem-solving, and fostering cooperation.