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Sustainability Action Commitment

As an internationally recognized leader in sustainability, York University has a responsibility to act on global challenges facing humanity, including ecological degradation, climate change and growing socio-economic inequality. The bold actions we are taking on our campuses, and in our local and global communities will build on the strong foundation we have created and move us closer to our goal of becoming one of the most sustainable institutions in Canada.

— Rhonda Lenton, President and Vice-Chancellor

York University announces new goal to achieve net-zero emissions a decade early   

With bold ambition to become one of the most sustainable institutions in Canada, York University is accelerating its timeline and aiming to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040 – a decade sooner than its previous commitment. Our previous commitment to reduce emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 is well underway and supported by a strong plan that is expected to produce a total emission reduction of ~31,000 metric tons by 2027. 

To shrink our carbon footprint and increase transparency and accountability, York has taken the following sustainable actions: 

  • Released our own comprehensive emissions data and ecological footprint assessment – the first Canadian institution to do so. This new report from the Ecological Footprint Initiative provides us with more information than ever before to identify opportunities to reduce our emissions and develop innovative solutions to support a more sustainable future.  
  • Renewed our sustainability policy, which also includes a commitment to develop and implement a process to track, measure, evaluate and report progress toward net-zero emissions. 
  • Engaged the York community though consultations that are currently underway to update the Sustainability Strategy, with an aim of completion for spring 2024.
  • Developed new, action-oriented sustainability framework. It will enable the University to create greater interdisciplinary synergies to create positive sustainable change.

York's previous action commitment

In October 2022, President Rhonda Lenton announced that York is implementing bold new actions and initiatives that will see York become one of the most sustainable universities nationally, embracing a holistic approach to sustainability and amping up targeted resources in support of a plan that will get York to net-zero: 

  • Growing York’s Office of Sustainability, including recruitment for a Chief Sustainability Officer (COMPLETE)
  • A new one-million-dollar fund for Sustainability Innovation (COMPLETE)
  • An open access microlecture series and badge in Sustainable Living (COMPLETE)
  • Pledge to reduce direct and indirect emissions by 45% by 2030 (ONGOING)

York University Digital Badge in Sustainable Living

York University has launched its free Microlecture Series in Sustainable Living, an innovative, open access program that gives participants the opportunity to learn from six of York’s world-renowned academic experts on a diverse range of topics related to sustainability.

Well aligned with the University’s efforts to inspire positive change, the Microlecture Series tasks participants with making tangible sustainability-focused changes in their daily lives based on tips from each professor. Those who complete the series will earn a first-of-its-kind Digital Badge in Sustainable Living – offered by York’s Division of Research and Innovation – which can be added to LinkedIn.

The Microlecture Series is the latest example of how York University is living its longstanding values of social justice, equity, and sustainability.

Quick Facts

In 2023, York ranked among the world’s top 40 universities in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, an international benchmark that aligns with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

In 2023, York announced its aim to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040.

In 2021, York established a new Centre of Excellence called One Water, it aims to address the diverse aspects of the ongoing water sustainability crises.

In 2023, York’s Board of Governors approved a new Sustainability Policy.

In 2023, York was named one of Canada's Greenest employers for the 11th consecutive year.

In 2015, York became one of the first universities in Canada to phase out the sale of water bottles on its campuses.

In 2016, York opened the Lillian Meighen Wright Centre in Cost Rica. The Las Nubes Ecocampus that operates as a local, national and international hub dedicated to education and research.

Home to the first environmental
program in Canada
, now the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change.