In 2011, a ‘sustainable development’ team took on the task of tracing the history of sustainable development at the university’s seven locations. Two years of hard work, research and interviews recorded past successes and failures, took an inventory of the present, and found promising initiatives for the future.
First observation: Sustainable development is in UCL’s DNA. ‘Soft mobility’, integrating and respecting biodiversity, living together in cultural diversity – since its creation the university has cultivated a sustainable development mindset.
Second observation: Both individually and in small groups, the university community has long since taken concrete action. UCL itself has engaged in many sustainability initiatives without having labelled them as such.
Strategic brainstorming followed, with the help of three key references:
Conceived and developed in France, Le Plan Vert directly targets higher education institutions. It’s both a strategy that addresses all dimensions of sustainable development (social, economic and environmental) and a genuine management tool to help drive effective integration of sustainable development practices in education, research and governance. Between October 2009 and June 2010, the plan was tested by almost 70 higher education institutions. It should eventually lead to a labelling process.
The ISO 26000 standard, established by the International Organization for Standardization, defines and clarifies the concept of social responsibility for the purpose of applying it to any type of public or private organisation regardless of size or geographic location. It’s a non-binding standard that can serve only as a basis for certification, but it does provide a set of operational guidelines for organisations to practise social responsibility.
The GRI is an international independent standards organisation that helps businesses, governments and other organisations develop and improve sustainability reports. Its standards provide principles, indicators and guidance that enable organisations to measure, understand, improve and report on their sustainable development performance.
These useful references guided UCL in drafting its own sustainable development plan in 2013. The plan is not only a solid foundation for affirming its sustainable development policy; it’s the bold, living charter behind the university’s focus on four strategic areas and nine projects. Thus, as of today, both the plan and its actions have already been largely put into practice.