About the Sustainability Council

The Sustainability Council is an academic leadership unit that works with all faculties to spark learning, discovery and citizenship for sustainability.

We provide students with courses and experiential learning opportunities that lead to meaningful careers. We create avenues for academics to join a central conversation on researching and teaching sustainability issues.

The Sustainability Council is led by an academic team including our director, Robert Summers, and associate directors representing different campuses and disciplines. Our staff are based in the University of Alberta’s historic North Power Plant. Apart from developing and running academic programs and events, we represent academic sustainability on the institution's working groups and committees.

⮊ Learn more about our directors, staff and working groups / committees.

2021-22 Annual Report and Action Plan

It’s been quite a whirlwind year with a lot of really exciting achievements and many transitions in our office. We have also begun to set out an ambitious vision for the future, which is discussed later in this document.

The big news story for us this year was that the University of Alberta was ranked 11th in the world by the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings. More than 1400 universities placed in the rankings, which measure universities’ overall contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our academic programs are continuing to do well. The Certificate in Sustainability has grown to more than 450 students and the first offerings of our SUST 201 and SUST 202 courses were very well received. We’ve begun having conversations across campus about establishing a new master’s degree program and expect to have a proposal ready in the winter semester for engagement across campus. On the experiential learning front, we are thrilled to have two years of additional funding ($2.285 million) from the province to offer and expand our Adaptation Resilience Training program, which offers full-time, eight-month internships in climate change adaptation. We were also very pleased to see growth in our Sustainability Scholars program, with 21 participants this year compared to 19 last year. We have an ambitious agenda underway to expand student internship opportunities in sustainability. These are just a few highlights of a very busy year. Please have a look through this document to learn more about what we have been up to.

—Robert Summers

The University of Alberta's Board of Governors endorsed a sustainability commitment and guiding principles in 2008. This endorsement came after the Student Sustainability Coalition (SSC), a group founded in 2007 by graduate student Michael Rawson Clark, spent months broadcasting their vision of a leading-edge, sustainable campus far and wide. 

As the SSC’s project gained momentum, Clark met with Len Sereda, director of facilities management, who had been working with the university to build a sustainability strategy.  Their efforts, along with the work of many students, faculty and staff, culminated in the 2008 sustainability commitment. 

This paved the way for the creation of an Office of Sustainability, and for sustainability to be included in the university's strategic plans, including 2011's Dare to Deliver and 2016's For The Public Good.

The office formed an Academic Advisory Committee under the leadership of Provost Dru Marshall. Marshall appointed Colin Soskolne in 2008 as the Committee's lead. Soskolne's role was to set the foundation for the Academic arm of the Office, which was responsible for the development of teaching and research initiatives—principally, the development of an embedded certificate. Trina Innes filled the role of Chief Sustainability Officer in charge of Operations in 2009, and held this position until 2018. In 2012, Naomi Krogman took over from Soskolne after his retirement. Krogman was named Director of Sustainability Scholarship and Education in the Office of the Provost to move these initiatives forward.

Several key developments were made during her tenure. In 2014, the Certificate in Sustainability successfully launched for undergraduates in nine faculties. The following year, Sustainability Scholars piloted a graduate student internship in partnership with the City of Edmonton. In 2015-16, Naomi Krogman and Apryl Bergstrom led academic consultations for the institution's Sustainability Plan 2016-20. These consultations produced a companion document, Deepening Sustainability Education and Scholarship.

In 2018, the university announced a shift in its approach to sustainability initiatives. Facilities and Operations would ensure sustainability was embedded into the university’s standard operating procedures. The university would retire the Office of Sustainability and shift a portion of its resources toward a new unit dedicated to academic sustainability initiatives.

Taking up this new mandate, the Sustainability Council launched in Fall 2018 using Deepening Sustainability Education and Scholarship as a guiding document. The council focused on rapidly expanding enrolment in the Certificate in Sustainability and adding additional faculties. The long-running Sustainability Awareness Week was revitalized and a new academic lecture series was launched in Fall 2019.

The Sustainability Council’s mission is to develop and support a vibrant community of interdisciplinary sustainability scholarship, research and citizenship at the University of Alberta.

The Sustainability Council’s priorities include:

  • Developing, supporting and delivering academic sustainability programming such as the Certificate in Sustainability and establishing new initiatives at the undergraduate and graduate level;
  • Supporting excellence in sustainability education through instructor support; material and course development; coordination, innovation, and networking between faculties and between academic institutions;
  • Providing opportunities for innovative learning and development experiences for students and academic staff such as the Sustainability Scholars program, Campus as a Living Lab, visiting speaker series, opportunities for undergraduate and graduate research, and related initiatives;
  • Connecting sustainability researchers in an inter-faculty and inter-institutional network, in alignment with the university’s strategic, operational and advancement priorities;
  • Outreach, engagement and collaboration with the university community and others regarding academic sustainability initiatives and research.
The Sustainability Council’s mission reflects the university’s vision in For The Public Good: “to inspire the human spirit through outstanding achievements in learning, discovery and citizenship in a creative community, building one of the world’s great universities for the public good.”
Overview of University Sustainability Initiatives - This table includes links and descriptions of key documents such as 'Deepening Sustainability Education and Scholarship,' 'Our Commitment and Guiding Principles,' and the strategic plan 'For The Public Good,' outlining the university’s commitment to sustainability.
Deepening Sustainability Education and Scholarship

Deepening Sustainability Education and Scholarship outlines a vision that emerged from Sustainability Plan consultations with faculty, staff and students in 2015. The plan collates suggested goals and strategies to help attain that vision and closely informs the Sustainability Council's annual action planning.

Deepening Sustainability Education and Scholarship

Our Commitment and Guiding Principles

The university is committed to instilling sustainability into every aspect of university life. Read the University of Alberta's sustainability commitment and guiding principles, which were endorsed by the Board of Governors in 2008.

Our Commitment and Guiding Principles

For The Public Good

For the Public Good is the university's institutional strategic plan. The plan outlines five goals we will pursue over a decade and identifies how we will reach them. The plan calls on the campus community to "SUSTAIN our people, our work and the environment."

For the Public Good

The University of Alberta’s Sustainability Council believes that equity, diversity, and inclusion are integral components of sustainability. Ensuring that all members of society feel welcome and accepted for who they are is critical to their well-being and the well-being of society as a whole.

As part of our mission of supporting a transition to a more sustainable society, we embrace the fundamental necessity of being an inclusive, diverse and equitable unit ourselves.

Please follow this link for the full value statement and committed actions:

EDI Statement

Logo showing STARS® Gold certificationThe University of Alberta is a charter member of the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System™ (STARS®).

STARS is a voluntary self-reporting framework that helps the university recognize and gauge progress towards sustainability. It is the world's most widely recognized system for post-secondary sustainability reporting.

Learn more about STARS®