My Reflections on the New Guide for Reporting on the SDGs: A Guide for Canada’s Universities & Colleges

Last month, I attended (virtually) the launch of the New Guide for Reporting on the SDGs: A guide for Canada’s Universities & Colleges. The session kicked off with Jon Beale, Manager of Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Canada, followed by a number of notable speakers who are featured in the new guide. The guide is a collaboration between SDSN Canada, in partnership with Colleges and Institutes Canada and Universities Canada. 

Philip Landon, Interim President at Universities Canada, presented the new guide as a resource aimed at accelerating the reporting on the SDGs. The intention is to increase awareness of SDG commitments and initiatives from universities and colleges across Canada. Carolyn Vézina, Director of Strategy, Governance and Research at Colleges and Institutes Canada, added the value of reporting progress of the SDGs and the contribution of institutions across Canada in their efforts to advance sustainability and identify areas that require further action.

Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, the guide offers a flexible framework and case studies for post-secondary institutions across Canada, with the focus to increase awareness of SDG projects and foster collaborations across campuses. The guide is also a valuable resource for institutions to assess their reporting efforts and identify areas for improvement. The 5 key components in the guide include the following: Defining Objectives, Mapping Current Efforts, Engaging the Campus Community, Utilizing Indicator Systems, and Articulating Institutional Commitment. 

Alexandra Hiniker, Director of Sustainability Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University, provided insights into her experience with the voluntary university review process regarding the SDGs. She highlighted the origin and importance of this process in involving cities, local governments, and academia in the SDG agenda. I was particularly inspired by how Carnegie Mellon University used innovative methods to understand their existing initiatives before committing to new actions, such as using surveys, focus groups, and an online exercise called “17 Zooms,” to analyze the ongoing efforts related to each of the 17 SDGs. Their reporting process is interactive and continuous, rather than just a yearly event, in order to keep the university community engaged. Hiniker concluded by stressing that the objective of the reporting process goes beyond simply producing a report. It aims to foster ongoing engagement and uncover hidden connections within the university community.

Candy Ho, a Career Development Practitioner from Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU), shared valuable insights into their experience with SDGs and highlighted the significance of collaboration and continuous efforts within their campus community. KPU embarked on an extensive project to identify and map SDG-related initiatives throughout their campuses, involving faculty members, staff, and students. This process encompassed conducting an environmental scan and implementing measures to enhance awareness and knowledge about SDGs within the campus community. Moreover, Candy ended her session by sharing her advice and tips based on her experience, encouraging the community to reflect on their personal connections to the SDGs. 

Overall, I found this session very informative which helped me to understand more about post secondary institutions working towards the SDGs. Here are my five key takeaways from this event: 

  1. The guide is presented as a road map to enhance SDG reporting in post-secondary institutions across Canada, recognizing their pivotal role in advancing sustainable development.
  1. The discussion highlights the interconnectedness of the SDGs and their role in guiding post-secondary institutions toward teaching, research, sustainability and social impact. 
  1. Post-secondary institutions should be flexible and adapt their approach to their unique contexts for measuring and reporting ongoing efforts toward SDG implementation and achievement.
  1. SDG reporting process isn’t a one-time event but requires ongoing and interactive process, fostering continuous engagement within the university community.
  1. Post-secondary institutions are a catalyst for SDG action. Collaboration and ongoing effort among faculty, staff, and students are required to achieve the SDGs.