Sustainability Policy

Sustainability Policy

Topic: University Grounds and Physical Facilities
Approval Authority: Board of Governors
Approval Date: Amendment approved June 27, 2023; Amendment approved October 2, 2023
Effective Date: July 1, 2023


As an institution of higher learning, York University has a responsibility to act on global challenges facing humanity, including ecological degradation, climate change and growing socio-economic inequality. York University is well positioned to lead by providing opportunities for its local and global communities to contribute to efforts advancing sustainability in institutional operations, teaching, and research.

The University acknowledges that sustainability includes addressing the root causes of inequality, and the importance of acknowledging sustainability in policy development, strategic planning, and initiatives to promote principles of rights of the planet, decolonization, equity, diversity, and inclusion.  All York faculty and staff members are responsible for acting in a manner that promotes and supports the objectives of this policy.

York’s sustainability pathway of continual improvement will honour globally recognized targets, advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, move forward our commitments to decolonization, equity, diversity, and inclusion, and meet our obligations under government legislation, as well as our commitments as an international signatory of the Talloires Declaration (Appendix A).

York will strive for a culture of sustainability that is reflected in the University’s core values, the policies it makes, and the actions it takes.  The University will focus on sustainability goals to achieve positive ecological, social, and economic outcomes. This policy will work alongside university policies and procedures related to equity, decolonization, and economic sustainability, while striving to achieve our ecological sustainability goals. York recognizes that delivering on its commitments under this Policy requires close collaboration with a wide range of partners and stakeholders, with that, our success is impacted by the actions and initiatives of other parties that lie beyond the University’s control.

1. Purpose

This Policy aims to foster environmental protection, sustainable development, and responsible stewardship within the university community. It establishes requirements for the development of a comprehensive sustainability strategy and framework to get York University to Net-Zero on Scope 1 and 2 and to significantly reduce Scope 3 emissions by 2040.

This Policy reaffirms York University's commitment to address complex environmental, social, and economic issues. By adhering to applicable environmental laws, allocating responsibilities to various stakeholders, and providing a platform for sustainable development efforts, this policy aims to create a holistic approach to sustainability that integrates seamlessly into all aspects of university operations, thereby fostering a culture of sustainability and contributing to a more sustainable future.

2. Scope and Application

2.1 This Policy applies to all employees of the University that support the delivery of teaching, research, and services.

2.2 This Policy should be read in conjunction with the University’s associated policies, procedures, guidelines, applicable collective agreement provisions and any relevant and applicable legislation, and any other policy that may become applicable and/or relevant.

3. Definitions

For the purposes of this Policy, the term

“Net-Zero” means a state in which the greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere are balanced by removal out of the atmosphere. To go net zero is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and/or to ensure that any ongoing emissions are balanced by removals. In the context of institutions of higher learning, this means all Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions and determining where emissions can be eliminated and where offsets will be required.  (Source: CAUBO)

“Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions” means:

a. Scope 1: Direct Emissions: Emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by the institution (such as Central Utilities, Fleet, Science labs)

b. Scope 2: Indirect Emissions: Emissions generated in the production of purchased electricity, heat, or steam consumed by the institution.

c. Scope 3: Indirect Emissions from Upstream and Downstream Activities: Emissions from sources not owned or directly controlled by the institution that are a consequence of the activities of the institution. This includes the procurement of goods and services, transportation (commuting & business travel) and investments.

“Sustainability” means development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (United Nations, 2015).

4. Policy

The President will:

4.1 develop a University Sustainability Strategy with an aim to achieve Net-Zero on Scope 1 and 2 emissions at York University and to significantly reduce Scope 3 emissions before 2040; consistent with global best practices to foster positive ecological, social, and economic outcomes.

4.2 develop and maintain a framework to shape and drive sustainability initiatives across the University community in its operations, and build capacity and awareness across the York community, locally and globally.

4.3 develop and implement a process to track, measure, evaluate and report to the Board on progress toward achieving the goals established under the University Sustainability Strategy, including milestones and implementation plans underpinned by conservation, decarbonization and innovation, applied to Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions.

5. Roles and Responsibilities

The President will be responsible for the implementation of this policy and has the authority to develop procedure to that effect, namely regarding but not limited to:

5.1 the establishment of sustainability standards for transportation, energy, procurement, waste management, biodiversity protection, land use planning and capital construction.

5.2 establish mechanisms to implement the University Sustainability Strategy.

5.3 define processes through which all divisions and units must track, measure, evaluate and report to the President on their progress toward achieving the goals established under the University Sustainability Strategy.

6. Review

This policy will be reviewed every 2 years at a minimum. During the review, the policy will remain in full force and effect.

Legislative History: Reviewed by President and Vice-Presidents, February 16, 2011; Approved by the Board of Governors, April 25, 2011, Amended and approved by the Board of Governors June 27, 2023; Amended and approved by the Board of Governors October 3, 2023.
Date of Next Review: 2025
Policies Superseded by this Policy: This amended policy supersedes the Sustainability Policy approved by the Board of Governors April, 2011,
Related Policies, Procedures and Guidelines:


The Talloires Declaration

The Talloires Declaration is a ten-point action plan for incorporating sustainability and environmental literacy in teaching, research, operations and outreach at colleges and universities. 1 It has been signed by more than 300 university presidents and chancellors in more than 40 countries. By signing the Talloires Declaration York University has made a commitment to the following 10 action points.

  1. Increase Awareness of Environmentally Sustainable Development
    Use every opportunity to raise public, government, industry, foundation, and university awareness by openly addressing the urgent need to move toward an environmentally sustainable future.
  2. Create an Institutional Culture of Sustainability
    Encourage all universities to engage in education, research, policy formation and information exchange on population, environment, and development to move toward global sustainability.
  3. Educate for Environmentally Responsible Citizenship
    Establish programs to produce expertise in environmental management, sustainable economic development, population, and related fields to ensure that all university graduates are environmentally literate and have the awareness and understanding to be ecologically responsible citizens.
  4. Foster Environmental Literacy for All
    Create programs to develop the capability of university faculty to teach environmental literacy to all undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.
  5. Practice Institutional Ecology
    Set an example of environmental responsibility by establishing institutional ecology policies and practices of resource conservation, recycling, waste reduction and environmentally sound operations.
  6. Involve All Stakeholders
    Encourage involvement of government, foundations, and industry in supporting interdisciplinary research, education, policy formation and information exchange in environmentally sustainable development. Expand work with community and nongovernmental organizations to assist in finding solutions to environmental problems.
  7. Collaborate for Interdisciplinary Approaches
    Convene university faculty and administrators with environmental practitioners to develop interdisciplinary approaches to curricula, research initiatives, operations and outreach activities that support an environmentally sustainable future.
  8. Enhance Capacity of Primary and Secondary Schools
    Establish partnerships with primary and secondary schools to help develop the capacity for interdisciplinary teaching about population, environment, and sustainable development.
  9. Broaden Service and Outreach Nationally and Internationally
    Work with national and international organizations to promote a worldwide university effort toward a sustainable future.
  10. Maintain the Movement
    Establish a Secretariat and a steering committee to continue this momentum and to inform and support each other's efforts in carrying out this declaration.