The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations include time-bound and quantified targets. Twelve of the seventeen SDGs are applicable to South African higher education institutions, namely: SDG 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing); SDG 4 (Quality Education); SDG 5 (Gender Equality); SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation); SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy); SDG 8 (Decent Work); SDG 10 (Reduced Inequality); SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities); SDG 12 (Sustainable Consumption and Production); SDG 13 (Climate Action); SDG 16 (Peace, justice and Strong Institutions); SDG 17 (Partnerships on the SDGs).
Closer to home, two principles of the King IV report (Principle 1.3 and Principle 2.1) speak to environmental sustainability. The statement of purpose of Universities South African (USAf) indicates that universities play an important part in the intellectual life of the country and have a major impact on the social, economic and cultural development and well-being of our nation. The statement of purpose further indicates that USAf aims to ensure that the public university sector has the optimum conditions in which to flourish and continue to produce and disseminate knowledge to advance national development and human civilisation through lobbying and advocacy work.
Within this context USAf indicates that transformation within the university sector should bear evidence of the four main pillars of transformation, namely equity, democracy, efficiency and responsiveness, and should – in line with the central goal of the policy framework for the transformation of the higher education system, as outlined in the 1997 Education White Paper 3: A Programme for the Transformation of Higher Education – produce “…graduates who are not just capable professionals, but also conscious and sensitive intellectuals and critical citizens”.
The HESCoP therefore has the potential to strengthen and influence the ability of South Africa to achieve specific SDGs and to contribute to the successful realisation of the mandate of USAf and the South African higher education sector.
Mission and Objectives
The HESCoP endeavours to be a key advisory, advocacy and capacity building Community of Practice in support of the transformation agenda of the Higher Education (HE) sector, specifically with regard to the sector achieving its environmental sustainability objectives.
It will develop, and contribute to, policy positions on environmental sustainability matters in higher education to strengthen teaching and learning, research, community engagement and operational activities relating to sustainability nationally and internationally.
It will organise regular sector-wide engagement platforms to tackle environmental sustainability issues and share promising practices across the sector with a view to promoting inter-institutional collaboration.
The HESCoP endeavours to:
- Actively participate in the development of a sectoral Environmental Sustainability Framework that speaks to all three pillars of the sector, namely
- teaching and learning (by infusing the principles of environmental sustainability into the curriculum);
- research (by promoting research on environmental sustainability); and
- community engagement (by raising awareness through advocacy).
- Actively participate in the embedding of environmental sustainability principles in the facilities of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)
- Actively participate in the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of a National Environmental Sustainability Plan for the Higher Education sector.
- Actively participate in the development of a sectoral Environmental Sustainability Barometer.
- Benchmark, develop, advocate and share best practice guidelines and relevant sectoral statistics for advancing environmental sustainability in HEIs.
- Identify and recommend to the FSG, research and policy studies as well as challenges relating to environmental sustainability in HEIs.
- Provide advice and support to member institutions on how to deal with environmental sustainability challenges.
- Respond to calls by the national government on the localisation of the SDGs in HEIs.
- Facilitate, in collaboration with USAf, capacity building opportunities in the HESCoP and broader national HE community regarding environmental sustainability in the sector.
- Explore and make recommendations.