SFU Sustainability

Simon Fraser University is committed to developing innovative solutions to ecological, social, and economic issues both locally and globally. This site provides a snapshot of our history, commitments, and progress as an institution. SFU departments and individuals seeking services to scale their projects, or ways to get involved on campus, please scroll down below to "Participate."

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“SFU will pursue ecological, social and economic sustainability through its programs and operations. Through teaching and learning, research and community engagement, SFU will seek and share solutions. In its own operations, it will develop and model best practices, from minimizing its ecological footprint, to maximizing its social, health and economic strength.”

– SFU Strategic Vision

Established in the 1960s, SFU came about during a time of great change and disruption and quickly became known for its innovative spirit. Fifty years later, the world faces some of its biggest challenges, from climate change and ecosystem deterioration, to the rising gap between the rich and poor. SFU, with its recognized strengths in teaching and research, is at the forefront of the search for solutions.

SFU has clearly committed itself to sustainability, including its adoption of the Sustainability Policy (GP38), its recognition of sustainability as an underlying principle of the SFU Strategic Vision, and the development and implementation of a Sustainability Strategic Plan.  In 2017, SFU released its intuition-wide 20-Year Sustainability Vision and Goals, developed in conjunction with its community of students, faculty, staff, alumni and senior leadership.

The University is Canada’s Top Comprehensive University 2018, and both a designated ASHOKA Changemaker and Fair Trade Canada Certified Campus.  We continue to work towards advancing innovation, knowledge mobilization and engagement to build more resilient, equitably prosperous and sustainable communities.

Our Progress

We’ve divided our progress on sustainability into six categories. The indicators in these categories have been either chosen to reflect key indicators used by the internationally-recognized AASHE Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS), through which SFU reports, or to highlight work not captured in the STARS system. Learn more about the STARS methodology.

Energy & Emissions

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Mobility & Travel

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Consumption & Waste

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Learning & Discovery

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Society & Equity

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Risk & Resilience

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Our Stories

Across the SFU community, individuals and groups are working to identify and solve some of the world’s biggest sustainability challenges.

Pacific Water Research Centre

Pacific Water Research Centre

SFU is home to cutting-edge research that examines the path to a more sustainable culture. The Pacific Water Research Centre is one such example, linking researchers, students and community partners to inform innovative solutions to the world’s water issues.

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    • SFU is created

      The BC Legislative Assembly passes the University Act, making SFU one of two new provincial universities, along with University of Victoria.

    • SFU opens its doors

      During a decade of great change and disruption, SFU welcomes its first cohort of students and quickly becomes known for its innovation.

    • 1963
    • 1965
    • The geography of gender

      One of the first courses on topics in gender and women’s studies, “Geography 404: The Geography of Gender,” is offered in the Department of Geography.

    • New environment program

      The Resource and Environmental Management Program is created.

    • 1971
    • 1979
    • New Energy Management Program

      Facilities Services initiates an Energy Management Program.

    • Buyback program

      An SFU Bookstore Buyback program facilitates reuse of unwanted textbooks.

    • SFU Extends its Reach

      SFU’s Vancouver campus opens.

      SFU’s Faculty of Education runs an outreach program in Vancouver Island’s northern community of Alert Bay, bringing the campus – and instructors – to the community.

      The Centre for Sustainable Development is created.

    • 1983
    • 1987
    • 1989
    • SFU starts recycling

      Facilities Services introduces SFU’s first recycling program.

    • First Nations Studies starts to take form

      A minor in First Nations Studies is created.

      SFU Bookstore begins reusing packing materials from new books to send back old books.

    • Urban studies established at SFU

      The Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies is established.

    • SFU become Energy Innovators

      SFU registers as Energy Innovators under Canada’s Voluntary Challenge and Registry (VCR)

    • 1991
    • 1992
    • 1993
    • 1994
    • SFU develops first energy action plan

      SFU develops its first Energy Action Plan and is recognized as a Gold Champion Level Reporter for Canada’s Climate Change Voluntary Challenge and Registry.

      SFU’s Bookstore works with suppliers to ensure the clothing it sells is manufactured under fair labour conditions.

    • A new campus and a new program

      SFU’s Surrey campus opens its doors.

      The Semester in Dialogue program begins.

    • Sustainability and ethical procurement

      The Sustainability Advisory Committee is created by SFU’s senior executive.

      The Ethical Procurement Policy and Committee are created.

    • SFU works with community partners

      SFU and BC Hydro partner to achieve energy savings through ongoing programs.

      SFU hires first Energy Manager

    • New Energy Committee

      An Energy Committee is created.

      SFU Bookstore begins to offer an environmentally responsible alternative for every core office/school supply item and ensures all bath and beauty products are free of animal by-products.

    • SFU goes green

      SFU becomes first North American post-secondary institution to achieve Go Green certification from the international Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA).

      SFU is the first to pilot BC Hydro’s Continuous Optimization Program on optimizing building energy use, and to pilot the solar hot water panels program.

    • New faculty and new student group

      The Faculty of Environment is established.

      Sustainable SFU (now Embark) registers as an independent, student-led non-profit.

      A full-time continuing Sustainability Coordinator position is created in Facilities Services.

    • 2001
    • 2002
    • 2005
    • 2006
    • 2007
    • 2008
    • 2009
    • Sustainability ambassadors program begins

      Sustainability Ambassadors program begins with initiatives to promote plastics recycling, use of zero waste containers and paper conservation.

      First Carbon Neutral Action Report (CNAR) submitted to Climate Action Secretariat.

      SFU develops Energy Statement of Action and is designated a PowerSmart Leader by BC Hydro.

      Procurement begins including sustainability language in requests for proposals for large contracts.

    • SFU achieves Silver rating

      SFU achieves Silver rating in AASHE Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System.

      Go Green Container Exchange Program initiated by Ancillary Services, Facilities Services and Residence.

      Energy Specialist position created.

      Sustainability Network partners co-host the Sustainability Festival.

    • Sustainability a guiding principle of SFU’s Strategic Vision

      Sustainability becomes one of the six guiding principles of SFU’s Strategic Vision.

      The Senior Executive approves the creation of an Office of Sustainability and a new Director to lead a more extensive sustainability initiative at SFU.

      A Senior Sustainability Council is created to draft a new Sustainability Strategic Plan for SFU.

      SFU becomes the second campus in Canada to be designated a Fair Trade Campus, with an official certification awarded by Fairtrade Canada.

      Zero Waste Committee is formed to coordinate waste reduction and waste diversion efforts. Membership includes Procurement, Ancillary Services, Sustainable SFU (now Embark) and Facilities Services.

      The Discovery 1 building renovation is completed to LEED Gold Standard.

      Real time energy displays and dashboards are displayed in buildings across the Burnaby campus and on the Sustainability website to give feedback to occupants.

      Three high-efficiency boilers are installed to reduce GHG emissions.

    • Sustainability Strategic Plan

      The SFU Sustainability Strategic Plan takes effect, guiding sustainability priorities through to 2016.

    • SFU earns Gold for sustainability

      SFU achieves Gold 2.0 rating in AASHE Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System.

      SFU exceeds provincial 2016 target of 18% below 2007 greenhouse gas emission levels two years early.

      Zero Waste (Stations) Initiative is launched.

      SFU’s Facilities Services receives an Environmental Star from the City of Burnaby in the category of Communications for developing a targeted communications campaign that encouraged individuals to adopt behaviours that save energy in the operation of SFU buildings.

      SFU’s Ancillary Services receives the Burnaby Business Excellence Award in Environmental Sustainability in 2014.

      SFU is named the Campus of the Year by Fairtrade Canada in September 2014.

    • SFU Envisions a Sustainable Future

      A university-wide engagement process is launched to envision SFU’s sustainable future and build the next Sustainability Strategic Plan: SFU2021.

      The Sustainability Reporting Initiative offers both the SFU community and the broader community a snapshot of how far we’ve come as an institution, how we are currently developing and sharing solutions, and what is inspiring us to scale up our efforts in the future.

      The University’s waste diversion goal of 70 percent is exceeded, with total waste diverted reaching 75 percent.

      SFU is the proud recipient of the 2015 Recycling Council of British Columbia Environmental Award in the Educators category.

      SFU’s Zero Waste Initiative receives the City of Burnaby’s Environmental Award in the Communications category for its creative and engaging communications strategies to reduce waste.

    • 2010
    • 2011
    • 2012
    • 2013
    • 2014
    • 2015
    • SFU2021: Envisioning our Sustinable Future

      Between Fall 2015 and Fall 2016, we will undertake a university-wide engagement process to build the next Sustainability Strategic Plan. From teaching and learning, to research and engagement, to facilities and operations, we are inviting the university community to join together and envision how SFU can continue to be a leader in sustainability. Learn more

    • 2021
  • 1960's
  • 1970's
  • 1980's
  • 1990's
  • 2000's
  • 2010's
  • Future


The Sustainability Office supports the work of SFU faculty, students, staff and others to scale and accelerate emerging and existing sustainability initiatives through best practice services, tools and campus-wide signature sustainability projects.  To access our services to advance your work, integrate sustainability into existing departmental operations, research, courses or projects, or get involved in a sustainability initiative on campus, please visit the Sustainability Office website:  www.sfu.ca/sustainability.


Want to integrate sustainability into your business or institution?  Complete the contact form with details of your request and let us know how we may be able to assist you.

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