A CONTENT ANALYSIS OF SUSTAINABILITY POLICIES AND PLANS FROM STARS-RATED CANADIAN HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS
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Higher education institutions (HEIs) have a role to play in the transition to a more sustainable society through academics and managing their operations using sustainable practices. This study aims to deepen our understanding of Canadian HEIs engaging in sustainability by investigating the content of sustainability policies and plans from a sample of 21 Canadian HEIs that have completed the Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment and Reporting System (STARS). A content analysis of sustainability policy and plan documents was conducted to understand: 1) how the policies conceptualize sustainability and a sustainable campus; 2) the sustainability goals outlined in the policies and plans; and 3) if the plans employ best practices of plan creation and design. The study found that most HEIs conceptualized sustainability as having environmental, economic, and societal aspects, and campus sustainability as including research, education, operations, and community outreach domains. Most policy and plan goals emphasized the environmental aspects of the facilities domain, while on-campus social and economic goals were less prevalent. While most sustainability plans were described as being created through a broad collaborative process, far fewer plans had assigned timelines and parties responsible for attaining the sustainability goals as was recommended in the literature. These findings are of importance to campus sustainability practitioners who are seeking to create or update their sustainability policies and plans, and for scholars interested in the role of these documents in promoting campus sustainability.
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