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Creating and implementing sustainability and climate action plans

Reflections from our focus group with chief sustainability officers

June 29, 2023 , By Maya Graham, Strategic Leader, Research

Last month, we held our second session for chief sustainability officers from around the world to discuss their experiences with creating and implementing sustainability and climate action plans. For those who missed it, we are sharing the highlights of that conversation below and encouraging you all to join us in July for our next discussion on smart campus investments. You won’t want to miss it!

Four major challenges

1. Creating a sense of urgency and agency for other campus partners

Facilities divisions are as successful in sustainability as the rest of campus. They are reliant on the support and buy-in from institutional leaders. It is critical that each division sees itself as a part of the solution to achieving sustainability goals.

2. Committing to a strategy enough to see it through

In this instance, leaders shared that in the midst of change, it is important to remain committed to a strategy long enough to measure its impact on sustainability. Throughout leadership changes, government policies, and stakeholder pressures, it’s important to create some constants so that the work can be measured in a meaningful way.

3. Collecting data effectively

While this felt like a common challenge, many agreed that data should be collected and shared in a way to help determine the best future investments in sustainability. Consistent and interoperable data will help to track progress and tell success stories.

4. Managing stakeholder pressures

Many institutions shared that both students and faculty express a vested interest in meeting sustainability goals, oftentimes more urgently that the rest of campus.

Four helpful things to consider

1. Ensure that the committees and task forces are diverse and share the labor

These groups should not only represent multiple divisions, but each of those committee members should also share the burden of the work.

2. Create a sustainability scorecard, and use it

Remember that the scorecard is a living, breathing document. It is a great way to keep track of what is being done and how close an institution is to reaching its goals. The scorecard can be brought to each meeting, shared publicly, and revisited on a regular basis to measure progress.

3. Consider contracting a data analyst

If there is extra room in the budget, consider hiring a temporary data analyst to create more capacity for this work on your team. This will help aid in consistent data collection and reduce the burden on staff whose primary focus is not data.

4. Go on an educational roadshow

In order to help create buy-in and to better engage stakeholders, some of the focus group members suggested that campus tours can help educate other divisions on what they can be doing to support the sustainability movement.

Four action items you can do now

  1. Participate in EAB’s sustainability plan review.
  2. Share your current sustainability plan with other chief sustainability officers—email us at [email protected] with your plan attached, or request examples that other institutions shared!
  3. Add your contact information to be shared with the group if you would like to be a resource or are willing to connect with others—email us with your contact information to get involved.
  4. Register and join us for our next session on July 19.
Maya Graham

Maya Graham

Maya serves as a Strategic Leader for Research where she collaborates with both public and private institutions to develop strategic goals and support their long-term planning. Prior to joining EAB, Maya worked directly with students planning large scale concerts, lectures, and events for the campus community.

Most recently, she served as the Assistant Director for Multicultural and Affinity Engagement in the Office of Alumni Relations at American University in Washington, D.C. Throughout her career, Maya has also served as a lecturer for leadership, diversity, and first year experience courses, as well as staff advisor for several experiential learning trips, which have granted her opportunities to see many parts of the world, including East Africa and Europe.

Maya currently resides in High Point, NC where you can find her serving as the volunteer curator for a local art gallery on the weekends. In her free time, Maya enjoys live music, swimming, and discovering local gems, old and new, in her hometown of Greensboro, NC.

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