United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals
What are the UN SDGs?
The United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015. The SDGs are an urgent call for action by all countries to partner towards “ending poverty and other deprivations hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests” by 2030.
The 17 SDGs recognize that action in one area will affect outcomes in others and development must balance social, economic and environmental sustainability. They are goals created on a global scale for all societies to work towards fostering innovation through technology, creativity and financial resources to achieve the SDGs. At the University of Waterloo, and in Co-operative and Experiential Education (CEE), we have a responsibility to advance and prioritize the SDGs as the incubator for the next generation of professionals and leaders.
At CEE, we commit to advancing the University of Waterloo’s Sustainability Strategy. We do so by integrating the SDGs in all areas of the unit. We work to develop talent equipped to help address the global challenges outlined in the SDGs. We do so through our leading-edge research, work-integrated learning initiatives, co-operative education program, and partnerships with employers and industry experts.
Waterloo at 100, a long-term visioning exercise, integrates the SDGs in all five of the Futures Framework. The frameworks propose actions Waterloo can take to create a better world. For us at CEE, that means integrating the SDGs with the concept of purpose. We focus on preparing students to be global citizens who advocate for sustainable futures and help to operationalize those futures.
Educational institutions and students all play a vital role in taking on global challenges and ensuring a sustainable future. It is imperative that we leverage our co-operative and experiential education programs to understand how we can further engage our students to work towards advancing the SDGs.
Employer and student impact
Perceived impact on the SDGs
CEE offers a voluntary SDGs at Work activity to students and supervisors. The activity supports learning more about the SDGs and how to operationalize them. The offering includes an introductory webinar, activity package and an experience debrief to wrap up the activity. Students and supervisors who participate gain a deeper understanding of the SDGs while forming a strong working relationship.
Table 1. Employer SDG Responses from Student Performance Evaluations (Spring 2023)
|Total count of respondents who selected one or more SDG:
|Total count of organizations:
Table 2. Student SDG responses from Work Term Recap form (Spring 2023)
|Total count of respondents who selected one or more SDG:
Loopio received the 2022 Employer Impact Award for diversity, equity and inclusion. The remote-first company works to ensure its staff have safe workplaces. Employees from all backgrounds and identities feel respected and valued. Loopio offers resources and opportunities for staff to grow and develop.
Sofiya (Sonya) Romantso
Through the University's Powering Change program, Romantso worked in the Dominican Republic. The experience revealed her passion for international development. She worked as a teaching assistant for the Esperanza Project. In her role, she created STEM-based workshops for children of all ages.
GHD uses top engineering talent from Waterloo to help address environmental challenges. The company is committed to making water, energy and communities sustainable. Employees use technology and engineering to help tackle infrastructure challenges.
One of Ashley’s co-op work terms was dedicated to working with a team to find solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by finding alternatives for diesel use in remote locations. Based on her work, her employer CanmetEnergy-Ottawa received increased funding for renewable energy programs for remote communities.
Ways to get involved
Participate in CEE’s work term SDG activity: A student-led, employer participation, awareness-building activity that helps to drive motivation in engaging with the SDGs.
Apply for the Global Skills Opportunity’s Powering Change program.
Find out more about international internship opportunities through the Queen Elizabeth Scholars (QES) for Energy Access.
- Participate in CEE’s SDG activity with your co-op student to share knowledge about SDG actions in your business.
- Include job duties related to progressing the SDGs in your job posting on WaterlooWorks.
- Engage with the Global Skills Opportunity’s Powering Change program.
- Nominate your organization for an Employer Impact Award. Our annual awards honour co-op employers in categories such as Impact in Innovation, Impact in Sustainability and Impact in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.
- Subscribe to the SDSN Canada newsletter or apply to join SDSN Canada.
“This was a chance to exchange knowledge and skills both ways. I directed a weekly class where the children learned about musical instruments such as the piano and guitar. Community living gave me the opportunity to bond with many of the locals and full-time staff and gave me a unique insight into their culture, language, and way of living.”
Work-integrated learning (WIL) and economic recovery were key themes at the recent (World Association of Co-operative Education (WACE) Conference in Waterloo. A panel of employers shared insights about the potential impact that future-ready talent, like co-op students, can have on the economy. Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP), Manulife and Deloitte shared their experiences with WIL and how it can help contribute to economic recovery. The University of Waterloo’s Co-operative and Experiential Education (CEE) unit hosted the conference on June 28-30, 2023.
Waterloo’s Co-operative and Experiential Education (CEE) unit has once again displayed innovation in sustainability with another award-winning project. CEE’s focus on sustainability through international work terms has earned the unit the Sustainability Education Award - Silver at Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) Reimagine Education Conference and Awards.
Associate Provost, Co-operative and Experiential Education, Dr. Norah McRae (she/her) and Director of International Strategic Initiatives, Shabnam Ivković were awarded best paper at WACE’s 4th International Research Symposium on Cooperative and Work-Integrated Education in September, 2022.
New study finds that 13 per cent of students in the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Environment carried out work related to the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Waterloo created a pilot program to help increase both co-op student and employer awareness of SDGs.
There is growing focus on graduating global citizens who can advocate for and operationalize sustainable futures. In this paper, researchers conducted a pilot study to classify a sample of international internships in terms of their impact on one or more of the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.