As we emerged from COVID lockdown in Tasmania late last year you may be forgiven for missing two big announcements at the University. On 19 October, our Vice Chancellor Professor Rufus Black announced that the University is divesting from fossil fuel-exposed investment funds by the end of 2021. The commitment is to apply a negative investment screen to fossil fuels and a positive screen to companies and funds which contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). From October 2020, there would be no further new investment in companies or funds with exposure to fossil fuels.
“Globally, our researchers have for 30 years been at the leading edge of contributing to an ever-greater understanding of the imminent threat we face from climate change and what we need to do about it… We have arrived at this juncture through the collective wisdom and effort of a great many people. Our staff and students expect us to be sustainability leaders and we are intent on honouring that expectation. I also acknowledge today the ongoing efforts of our Sustainability Committee, our academic communities of interest and groups such as Fossil Free UTAS in guiding how we think about the threat we face and urgent need to create a more sustainable world.” Professor Rufus Black.
Due to COVID restrictions only a small number of students were invited to attend the announcement to represent the many more who have campaigned and supported divestment here at UTAS.
In 2020, we also became the first Australasian university to measure our sustainability performance through STARS (the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System). STARS is a rating system that provides publicly available reporting from over 1,100 universities internationally. Each criteria is mapped to the UN SDGs, and captures many of the ways that universities can contribute to the UN SDGs. In 2020, we received a Silver rating for our submission and we are working to achieve a Gold rating for 2021. Criteria that are measured and reported on, include operational sustainability as well as how you learn about sustainability through your degrees and the student experience both on campus and online.
The work that we do at UTAS is implemented through a new strategic and operational sustainability integration approach and guided by four goals outlined in our Strategic Framework for Sustainability:
- A leader in sustainability governance and implementation.
- A leader in sustainability education and research.
- Partnerships and engagement activities deliver sustainability outcomes.
- A University committed to sustainability in its facilities and operations management.
If you would like to know more about sustainability at UTAS go online to utas.edu.au/sustainability
Words by Corey Peterson, Associate Director – Sustainability, University of Tasmania.