sustainability strategy

Sustainability strategy

Inspiring a culture of sustainability both locally and globally

The University of Sydney Sustainability Strategy guides our commitment to a revitalised institutional focus on sustainability, outlining our ambitious targets for contributing to the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals.

Our vision

The University of Sydney Sustainability Strategy 2020 (pdf, 4MB) aims to deliver solutions to the interconnected problems facing our shared future by:

The University will be a place that drives social and environmental change and where sustainability is integrated into our campus life by implementing world-leading research and education in our everyday lives on campus.

We acknowledge our significant impact on the Country where our campuses reside, and accept the moral and social obligation to leave a responsible footprint where we tread.

Lessons from our peers show that institutional support for sustainability is crucial. An enduring commitment to incorporating sustainability through our research, education and operations to enact change will be critical to its success.

Caring for Country underpins this strategy, framing our intent and actions. Our work to become a more sustainable university must observe multiple knowledge systems, including those of our First Nations communities, that will continue to build long-term sustainability.

Our targets

We define our commitments, targets and activities across a number of key focus areas. Some of the targets we are aiming to achieve include:

  • Net zero emissions by 2030
  • Zero waste to landfill by 2030
  • Reduce potable water use by 30% per person
  • Source 100% of electricity from renewable sources
  • Minimum 5 star, Green Star rating for new buildings, and 4 star, Green Star for all complete building refurbishments
  • Introduction of sustainable procurement practices to reduce waste and increase social sustainability

Find out more about our targets and how we are going to achieve them.

Addressing climate action

The University recognises that one of the greatest global challenges is climate change and its effects. In August 2020, we launched our Climate Action Statement, adding our voice to a growing body of institutions calling for urgent action on climate change.

The following statement, which highlights our commitment to ambitious new targets, was launched alongside our first whole-of University Sustainability Strategy to guide action across our core business and progress systemic change.

In view of the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations (UN) Production Gap Report, the University of Sydney recognises the need for immediate and comprehensive action to meet, and preferably exceed, the Paris Agreement targets. The clear scientific consensus is that the global community urgently needs to make deep and sustained reductions in the emission of greenhouse gases, to limit global temperature rises to 1.5°C and thereby avoid longer and more intense bushfire seasons, water stress, extreme weather events and the collapse of ecosystems, including coral reefs. Actions on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction are also imperative.

Reducing emissions and adapting to climate change is a complex challenge, with implications for areas as diverse as ecology, energy, agriculture, health, cultural heritage, law, politics, migration, inequality, urban planning, finance, insurance and international security. The University of Sydney is confronting the many challenges of climate change through our research, teaching, infrastructure and policies and through our national and international collaborations.

The University of Sydney is home to Centres, Institutes, and researchers who are already engaged in finding solutions to complex real-word problems. In the 2020 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, that assess universities against the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the University of Sydney was ranked 2nd overall, and in the top 10 for six specific goals (SDGs 2, 8, 11, 15, 16, 17). We aspire to attain top 10 status in SDG 13, Climate Action and to translate the important research we do into practical actions on campus. The University of Sydney will also continue to offer interdisciplinary programs and units of study which educate students about sustainability and climate change.

Given the gravity of the situation and the enormity of the challenges, we as a University declare openly that more immediate and comprehensive action is needed to address climate change. As scientists have warned, ‘the time to act is rapidly closing’. Our next step will be the adoption of a Sustainability Strategy in 2020 which includes actions on emissions reduction and uptake of renewable energy. We recognise that effective action requires all institutions, including governments, corporations, and all civil society actors, including universities, to review and enhance their actions on climate change on a regular basis, consistently with climate science. Consequently, in addition to the annual review of our targets and annual reports on the implementation of the Sustainability Strategy, the University of Sydney commits to reviewing its progress on addressing climate change and SDG 13 every two years commencing in 2022, and to enhancing its performance where necessary.

We are committed to reviewing the University's progress on addressing climate change and SDG 13 every two years, and to enhancing performance in alignment with the Climate Action Statement and through efforts to reach targets within the Sustainability Strategy.

Read our inaugural SDG13: Climate Action progress report 2022 (pdf, 2.9MB)

Project Manager for Strategic Collaborations (DVC Research) and Advisory Group member Katie Moore unpacks the campus initiatives that celebrate Indigenous culture.


Progress and achievements