Policy 53 - Environmental Sustainability

The policies found on the website of the Secretariat are compulsory rules for the University community. The authoritative copies of the policies are held by the Secretariat and bear the seal of the University. The online version accessible through the website of the Secretariat is available for information purposes only. In case of discrepancy between the online version and the authoritative copy held by the Secretariat, the authoritative copy shall prevail. Please contact the Secretariat for assistance if necessary.


23 March 2017


28 February 2020. Amended, official titles only.





Responsible/Originating Department:


Executive Contact:

Dean, Faculty of Environment;
Vice-President, Administration and Finance

Related Policies, Guidelines & Procedures:

Policy 11 -  University Risk Management
Policy 17 - Quotations and Tenders
Policy 22 - Regulations Governing the Installation of Equipment in University Buildings
Policy 34 -   Health, Safety, and  Environment
Procedure 1 - Contracts and Agreements - Excluding Research
Risk Management Reporting Guideline

Work from Home Guidelines for Staff Initiated Requests

1. Introduction 

As an institute of higher learning and research, the University of Waterloo recognizes its unique responsibility to develop innovative and realistic solutions to pressing environmental issues. The University commits to creating a campus where environmental sustainability is a core part of its culture. The University embeds environmental sustainability in transformative research and teaching, campus operations, and in its engagement with employees and students as agents of change. Through transparent goals, measurable actions, and a collaborative approach, the University demonstrates its commitment to becoming an environmentally sustainable campus as an integral part of becoming one of the top innovation universities in the world.

2. Scope 

This policy covers all University of Waterloo campuses, facilities, and community members, with respect to the following:

2.1 Awareness -Assisting in the creation of solutions to address sustainability challenges, and sharing knowledge relevant to building a sustainable future;

2.2 Operations- Embedding sustainable practices related to energy, climate change and air emissions, waste, water, buildings, transportation, grounds, food systems, and procurement; and

2.3 Engagement - Involving and empowering staff, students, and faculty to participate in sustainable change on and off campus.

3. Legal Framework 

In addition to the above mentioned "Related Policies, Guidelines and Procedures", the policy will be construed in accordance with applicable law, in particular:

  • O.  Reg. 397/11-Energy and Conservation Demand Management
  • O.  Reg. 102/94- Waste Audits and Waste Reduction Plans
  • O. Reg. 103/94 - Industrial, Commercial and Institutional Source Separation Programs
  • O.  Reg. 386/16-Blue  Box Waste
  • O. Reg. 452/09 -  Greenhouse Gas Emission Reporting
  • O.  Reg. 243/07- Safe Water Drinking Act
  • O. Reg. 144/16 -  The Cap and Trade Program
  • O. Reg. 143/16 - Quantification, Reporting, and Verification of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • NPRI - Environmental Protection Act National Pollutant Release Inventory
  • GHGRP - Environmental Protection Act Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting Program

If any of these legal provisions are modified, abrogated, superseded, or added to, the policy will be interpreted in accordance with the new legal framework.

 4. Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to advance the following objectives:

4.1 Empower students, graduates, and employees with skills and knowledge that are relevant for the modern workforce and for living as responsible citizens;

4.2 Leverage strengths in entrepreneurship and innovation to enhance institutional relevance in critical local, national, and global challenges;

4.3 Make meaningful progress on mitigating environmental impacts and create positive benefits to society;

4.4 Decrease operation and maintenance costs in the short, medium, and long term;

4.5 Mitigate risk associated with legislative compliance;

4.6 Improve internal and external stakeholder relationships, including with employees, students, partners, and the broader community; and

4.7 Maximize the value that positive action can bring to the University's reputation.

5. Principles and Practices

The University of Waterloo will uphold the following core commitments as critical to building an environmentally sustainable campus:

5.1 Compliance: That the University will meet or exceed all applicable local, provincial, and national environmental standards and regulations;

5.2 Accountability: That the University will establish and maintain at all times an environmental sustainability strategy with measurable goals across all scope areas of this policy;

5.3 Transparency: That the University will report annually on its progress towards achieving its goals, including information about environmental impacts and initiatives taken;

5.4 Future-focused: That the University will continue to integrate lifecycle cost and impact analysis into its ongoing infrastructure, capital planning, and campus master planning decisions;

In addition, the University of Waterloo will uphold the following guiding principles to support an environmentally sustainable campus:

5.5 Institutional Ecology: That the University will enact practices and processes to reduce consumption of resources, minimize output of waste, and mitigate upstream and downstream environmental impacts from campus operations;

5.6 Performance: That the University will continue to provide infrastructure that supports quality research and teaching, and enables an appropriate working and living environment;

5.7 Education: That the University, recognizing its role as an institution of higher education, will ensure students and employees are informed to live sustainably and understand sustainability issues and concepts relevant for their careers;

5.8 Shared Responsibility: That all students, employees, and members of administration are responsible for the institution's sustainability. Success requires collective action from every member of the University community;

5.9 Collaboration: That the University will develop clear mechanisms to engage appropriate stakeholders in the design of sustainability initiatives and objectives;

5.10 Innovation: That the University will develop processes for the development, evaluation, and, where feasible, implementation of new on-campus technologies, strategies, policies, and procedures developed by members of the campus community that advance the sustainability strategy;

5.11 Community: That the University will create positive benefits to the natural environment for the local and global communities in which it operates; and

5.12 Leadership: That the University will demonstrate leadership by aiming towards ambitious standards and outcomes, such as carbon neutrality, zero waste, net positive, integration into campus decision-making, investing in sustainability, and institutional prioritization.

6. Accountability  

The President's Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability shall be responsible for the ongoing maintenance and review of this policy.

All related departments, faculties, and committees within the University of Waterloo will be responsible for the implementation of provisions within this policy according to existing mandates and processes. For example, changes to student learning would advance through current avenues and committees for curriculum review, and operational authorities will continue to monitor compliance and implementation within their relevant responsibilities.

Appendix A


In this policy, the following terms shall have the following meanings:

"Environmental Sustainability'' means pursing strategies and activities that minimize adverse environmental impacts, enhance and protect the natural environment, and meet the needs of students, employees, alumni, the communities in which Waterloo operates, and other relevant stakeholders.

"University Community'' means all current members of the University of Waterloo, including staff, students, faculty, administration, and visitors.