Report conclusions

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SDG opportunities

The University of Waterloo is engaging in impactful ways on the SDGs, and there are many opportunities to grow that impact. 

Research published in 20212, demonstrated that there is a large potential for University of Waterloo students to advance the SDGs through their co-op and internship positions. Greater student and employer awareness of the SDGs is needed if this impact potential is to be realized, as is a mechanism for measuring that impact. That work has the potential to produce graduates with the knowledge and skills to tackle our global challenges and to support our workplaces in operationalizing the SDGs.  

Productive and interdisciplinary partnerships for research can amplify the impact of work performed in the various SDGs. Indeed, these partnerships are necessary because progress or innovation in one SDG has the potential to have unintended consequences for progress on other SDGs. The University of Waterloo can actively seek opportunities to build, support, and track these partnerships.  

The societal challenges addressed by the SDGs are increasingly relevant for nearly all jobs. The examples are endless: businesses are being asked about their social and environmental impacts, health care is increasingly recognizing the many social and environmental determinants of health, teachers are being asked to include climate change in many courses, professional communications are ensuring more equitable language, and more. Currently, 14% of the University of Waterloo’s graduates come from undergraduate degree programs that include required sustainability content. Ultimately, all graduates of the University of Waterloo would benefit from awareness of the challenges underlying sustainability and the SDGs, as well as their solutions.  

The University of Waterloo is active in the wider community, offering public lectures, providing educational opportunities for elementary and secondary students, and organizing public events. There is an opportunity to explicitly make the link to SDGs in this work to raise the profile of SDGs and showcase how we can all play a role in building a better world.  

The intention of the SDGs is to advance prosperity and ecological sustainability in all countries but with a particular focus on those countries that are the furthest behind in the goals. The majority of the SDG-related work at the University of Waterloo is focused on challenges of the developed world. The University of Waterloo can look for opportunities to build partnerships with institutions in developing countries and facilitate knowledge transfer into the hands of those people most able to make a difference. 


The goal of this report was to provide a snapshot of the work the University of Waterloo is doing to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The case studies demonstrate how the University is contributing to each of the SDGs.  This work was classified into four broad mechanisms: research, teaching, practice, and community. The number of researchers, publications, citations and courses connected with each SDG provides a measure of the impact of this work. These graphs will be reviewed and updated on a regular basis to keep the outcomes current and to showcase progress over time.  

This work is the cumulative effort of many individuals and groups. Led by the Sustainability Office, major contributions were made by the Equity, Diversity, Inclusivity and Anti-Racism team, Indigenous Initiatives, Institutional Analysis and Planning, University of Waterloo Library, Campus Wellness, and Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association. Many eyes from groups across campus also reviewed the case studies profiled here and provided recommendations.  

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Key accomplishments for 2021 were identified through event listings and Sustainability Office blog posts. 

Representative case studies were identified by reviewing lists of University of Waterloo institutes, programs and student groups. Web searches using key terms were also used to identify programs not included on those lists. The case study text was sent to the representatives of the organization or group for review.  

Key statistics and accomplishments were gathered from University reports and institutional assessment reports. Additional statistics and accomplishments were collected during case study research, and through direct inquiries to the Office of Research, Institutional Analysis and Planning, and Human Resources.  

Publication data sets for each SDG were created using preloaded Research Area entities in SciVal and were filtered to include only publications by University of Waterloo affiliated authors from 2016-2020. Search query methodologies for each SDGs are publicly available from SciVal. All publication types were included in the data sets. The Overview and Trends modules in SciVal were used to extract the publication, author, and institution lists related to each SDG. Full details of this methodology are available by contacting the Waterloo Office of Sustainability. 

Faculty researchers associated with each of the SDGs were identified through the SciVal bibliometric analysis that identified University of Waterloo publications and the associated Scopus author IDs. The resulting Scopus ID list was then cross-referenced with a list of University of Waterloo faculty members supplied by Human Resources to exclude non-faculty authors.  

Undergraduate and graduate courses related to the SDGs were identified using keyword searches of course descriptions, followed by a manual review of the course descriptions with keyword matches to ensure accurate alignment with the SDGs. Yellow bars indicate courses that more likely to have SDG connections, and had at least one keyword hit. Grey bars indicate courses with potential SDG connections. These courses either had a keyword hit but the SDG connection needed more review, or they appeared to have a connection to the SDG topics but had no keyword hit. This process is under development and is likely to be refined in future iterations.