Change the world – all while bearing in mind social justice, environmental responsibility, and economic efficiency: every member of the Polytechnique community is committed to the same goal. This mobilization and unity is what helped Polytechnique Montréal reach STARS’ Gold–level rating in institutional sustainability standards.
Polytechnique’s dossier was assessed by a program with some 900 member-universities across the globe, the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS). The latter ranking is both exhaustive and straightforward, and is known as the most prestigious reference in sustainability for higher education institutions. In Canada, only 15 colleges and/or universities can celebrate having reached a Gold-level ranking through the program.
This third-party assessment is proof of Polytechnique’s genuine commitment to sustainable development. “The issues we’re facing today rely increasingly on engineers and engineering for solutions. Polytechnique is a leader when it comes to the environment, and we’re mobilizing our talent pool to contribute to this paradigm shift,” notes Louise Millette, Director of the Department of Civil, Geological and Mining Engineering, and Coordinator of Polytechnique Montréal’s Bureau du développement durable.
Sustainable development – the heart of it all
In autumn 2016, Polytechnique earned STARS’ Silver ranking, which coincided with the launch of the 2016-2020 Sustainable Development Action Plan at Polytechnique. The latter plan featured nearly a hundred concrete steps that would eventually lead to Gold-level certification.
In addition to supporting the Sustainable Development Action Plan, the Bureau du développement durable kept close tabs on growth associated with seven major areas of change (training, research, operations, food services, community involvement, knowledge sharing, and governance). Each year, the office publishes a report and web page that clearly demonstrates Polytechnique’s progress towards established sustainability goals.
Sustainable Development Advisor Shirley Fagnen led the STARS program certification initiative, and is mindful of the progress that’s been made. “Reaching the Gold certification was one of the most ambitious parts of our Action Plan, and we were able to do it because we improved several criterions simultaneously,” she explains.
Where Polytechnique Leads
Since 2016, numerous measures taken have contributed to Polytechnique’s high score:
- Strengthening the network of sustainable development studentambassadors
- Increasing the percentage of waste materials diverted from landfill (from 29.2% to 67.5%)
- Boosting sustainable development content in courses (from 17.5% to 21.2%)
- Earning Fairtrade Canada’s Fair Trade Campus certification
- Implementing PolyCarbone's carbon trading system
- Organization of the “Semaine de la diversité”
- Creation of campus repair workshops – “Repair cafés”
- Including sustainable development as part of the Polytechnique’s 2018-2023 Strategic Plan
“We’re not going to rest on our laurels, we’re going to transform all our projects in a similarly future-focused way,” notes Shirley Fagnen.
Submitting a sustainability dossier to STARS also helps higher education institutions determine what their future priorities and goals could be. Not least among these goals are increasing employee awareness and open-access sharing of scientific publications.
Transforming the campus into an innovative “living lab” and improving the environmental report card for food services are two other goals that will be integrated into the Bureau de développement durable’s next Action Plan – set to launch this autumn, after in-depth consultations.
The STARS Program
Participating institutions are assessed according to 63 criteria that create a realistic, holistic portrait of sustainability, including elements such as: campus environment, areas of research, diversity, materials management, greenhouse gases, human resources, and more. Additional points may also be awarded for innovative measures.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), is the parent organization of the STARS program.
Polytechnique’s detailed dossier is available here.
To learn more