Joining SDG Accord helps Saskatchewan Polytechnic build a sustainable future

By Dr. Larry Rosia, president and CEO

Saskatchewan Polytechnic is committed to building a more sustainable future.

Sustainability is a key value of the institution—along with respect, integrity, and excellence—and goes beyond the environmental aspect that many of us think about when we hear the word.

Sustainability in the context of Saskatchewan Polytech’s values means that we strive to work, live, and learn in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.  It also means we support the health, safety, and overall well-being of our learners, employees, and partners.  Moreover, we are conscientious stewards of our resources and continuously look for entrepreneurial and creative ways to strengthen and improve our institution.

Our commitment to building a more sustainable future is a primary reason the institution has signed onto the SDG Accord, the post-secondary education sector’s response to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Pertinent background:  In 2015, the United Nations brought together more than 150 world leaders, to collaborate on the development of goals designed to improve the quality of life for all people.  These goals are known as the 17 SDGs.  They include no poverty; zero hunger; good health; quality education; gender equality; clean water and sanitation; renewable energy; good jobs and economic growth; innovation and infrastructure; reduced inequalities; sustainable cities and communities; responsible consumption; climate action; life below water; life on land; peace and justice; and partnerships for the goals.

That Saskatchewan Polytech has joined other institutions globally to act on the urgent social, economic, and environmental challenges facing the planet makes sense.  As Saskatchewan’s only polytechnic, we play a key role in developing a competitive and economically strong workforce, which leads to socially stronger communities.  Matters like quality education, good jobs, partnerships and innovation—each an SDG or important SDG component—help define our institution.

An analysis conducted internally has determined that many of our programs, courses, initiatives, and the work we accomplish with partners are already in alignment with the UN goals.

One need only to look to our applied research activities for proof.  A few months ago I participated in a roundtable meeting with Colleges and Institutes Canada, Synchronex and Tech-Access Canada to engage with the Honourable Ali Ehsassi, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, on the role colleges can play in implementing the federal government’s biomanufacturing strategy.

During this session, I shared how one of our research chairs was able to help Innovative Stonecraft, a Saskatoon manufacturer of decorative stone products, to use locally sourced, non-recyclable ag plastic waste and crop residues in its concrete mix to produce a composite stone veneer. What was particularly exciting about this project is that results show that introducing non-recycled plastics into the composite not only reduce weight, but also decrease the cost to produce the veneers, remove plastics from the landfill and decrease the use of cement, which is a significant contributor to CO2 emissions.

Other examples include the way we support Indigenous learners through our Indigenous Student Success Strategy and customized projects like New Start Project: Access to Education and Employment, to assist people with disabilities and newcomers to Canada with overcoming barriers to employment by helping them develop the skills they need to make meaningful labour force connections.  Another example is our decision to become a founding member of the Canadian Colleges for a Resilient Recovery, a joint initiative of 15 polytechnics, colleges, cégeps and institutes that works to help lead the transition to a clean economy.

I could go on.

Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s decision to sign onto the SDG Accord gives us the ability to share and receive best practices and expertise with other post-secondary institutions around the world.  While such expertise will only aid our mission of inspiring success in every learning journey, there is an even more important reason for joining.

It is the right thing to do.

Published Oct 2021