True sustainability reaches further than simply ensuring financial sustainability. It includes environmental sustainability and strives to build deeper relationships with the UCT stakeholder community to ensure involvement in and commitment to the future of the university. It asks us to engage with local communities and make a significant difference in the lives of the people who make up our society. It calls on us to influence the educational landscape, to rise to the challenges we face in our country and on our continent, and to influence global matters of education and social justice.
We work with the intention of making an impact on individuals that will last a lifetime. We strive to ensure that the impact we make in society will last for generations. At the heart of our mission is our desire to change lives over time for the better – sustainable, authentic change. This becomes possible when we unlock the full potential of excellence and transformation.
UCT was one of the original signatories of the Talloires Declaration in 1990 and recommitted to that declaration in 2001. In the same year, the Environmental Management Working Group (EMWG) was formed. The function of this group is to guide Properties and Services in its operations on campus with regards to energy saving, grounds and gardens management, etc.
In 2008 a document called the Green Campus Policy Framework was formally adopted by Council and Senate. This document is a framework for responsible resource use and environmental sustainability at the university. As a direct result of this document, a Green Campus Action Plan was created in 2009.
In 2012 the Council approved that all new buildings should receive a minimum 4-star Green Star certification by the Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) and in 2023 this was superseded by the Council’s approval of UCT’s policy for Minimum Green Building Construction Standard for the construction of new buildings and refurbishments.
In 2012 the university became a signatory to the ISCN-GULF Sustainable Campus Charter. (The International Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN) is a global forum dedicated to sustainability best practices.)
In 2019 UCT developed its environmental sustainability strategy and in 2020 the Environmental Management Working Group was converted into a formal university committee called the Environmental Management Committee (EMC) reporting into the University Building & Development Committee (UB&DC) that reports into Council. This provides a governance structure when it comes to green campus issues at the university.
In terms of responsible investment at UCT, the university established the University Panel for Responsible Investment (UPRI) in 2017 that sets policy and advises the university on responsible investment matters related to UCT’s endowment fund.