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SU firmly on its journey to net zero with the launch of its Environmental Sustainability Plan
Author: Petro Mostert
Published: 03/10/2022

​​​​​Stellenbosch University (SU)  has embarked on an ambitious journey to net zero in 2050 with the launch of the institution's first Environmental Sustainability Plan (SUESP). 

Prof Wim de Villiers, SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor, said SU's Environmental Sustainability Plan is the University's ambitious aim to meet the sustainability challenge in light of the climate crisis. The plan reduces the environmental impact of our campuses and demonstrates our commitment to sustainability from the perspectives of the environment, resources, and society. "SU can and should act as a catalyst for a sustainable society, offering new knowledge and insights and leading by example.

"As one of Africa's foremost and leading research-intensive universities, SU should play a significant role in forging the path to a sustainable future. Sustainability is a core component of SU's strategy in which we aim to create a community of sustainable changemakers. Our responsibility is to use our resources in such a way as to leave a thriving environment for future generations," said Prof de Villiers.

The University is guided by its Vision 2040 and Strategic Framework 2019-2024, in which a crucial priority is the promotion of systemic sustainability in a social, economic, and environmental sense to realise the institutional goal of bringing about profound and sustainable change and regeneration in all facets and functions at SU.

Nicolette van den Eijkel, Chief Director: Facilities Management (SUFM), says the SUESP details the guiding principles, targets, and priorities for 2020-2025 and supports SU's Vision 2040. "The goal is to ensure that SU achieves carbon neutrality by 2030. These are bold steps towards becoming a benchmark for peer institutions locally and internationally."

According to van den Eijkel SU must include environmental sustainability as a focus area across all aspects of SU's operational management, teaching, and research, as articulated in Vision 2040.

She says the University supports the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a pathway to responsible development. "As a member of national and international organisations and institutes, SU actively engages in the broader national and international aspects of sustainability. Apart from the SDGs, the University's Vision 2040 also considers South Africa's own National Development Plan and the African Union's Agenda 2063. As such, SU is uniquely positioned to drive the pursuit of the SDGs and environmental sustainability locally and on the African continent through promoting environmental sustainability at SU."

Nadeem Gafieldien, Director Property Services, says SU has already commenced with various projects included in the plan, such as implementing grey water systems on all campuses. Gafieldien reminded us about the drought crisis in 2017/18, which necessitated the installation of a water-saving plant and facilities such as these large greywater plants. "These changes aim to build resilience in our systems to weather future environmental shocks. While reducing consumption, cost, and carbon, we  achieved a 50 percent reduction in potable water consumption on campus."

Facilities Management will implement projects related to the ESP over the next five years to the value of more than R 100 million. These projects will help drive the eight main themes: energy and emissions, water, waste, biodiversity and land use, travel and mobility, sustainability buildings, goods and services, and engagements. These cumulatively represent SUFM's commitment to the implementation of this plan successfully with the help of all SU's stakeholders," said Gafieldien.

Gafieldien said SUFM's Environmental Sustainability team, under the guidance of John de Wet, Manager: Environmental Sustainability, has already started to raise awareness on our campuses and through SU's website and social media platforms with a themed campaign depicting SU's commitment to reaching its sustainability goals. Under the slogan "Together on our journey to net zero carbon," the team encourages staff and students to engage in various planned projects and events.

In the words of Prof De Villiers: "Stellenbosch University is educating the world's future leaders. We must empower them to become global citizens for sustainable development. In showing my full support for SU's environmental sustainability vision, I call upon the entire SU community to become our partners in achieving the ambitions set out in the SU Environmental Sustainability Plan."

To download a copy of SU's Environmental Sustainability Plan, click here​

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Petro Mostert


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