Are Sustainability Policies Good Indicators of Universities Commitment to Sustainable Development?

I have been invited to present as keynote on that question, at the opening of the “3rd World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities” (WSSD-U-201) at MIT, in Boston, this month. I will also be presenting a paper.

Organised by the Office of Sustainability at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Manchester Metropolitan University, the Research and Transfer Centre ‘Applications of Life Sciences’ at Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, and in cooperation with the United National University initiative ‘Regional Centres of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development’ (RCE), the 3rd World Symposium takes the theme ‘Designing Tomorrow‘s Campus: Resiliency, Vulnerability, and Adaptation’, with a view to contributing to further development in this fast-growing field.

More information about the event can be found at

The conference builds on work that I have contributed to for over a decade; getting to present at MIT, after a fairly unusual career, is something that I had never imagined.

It was exciting four years ago, to be involved in the “1st World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities” (WSSD-U-2012) in Rio (2012), as a member of the Scientific Committee and a presenter. That first conference was a parallel event to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), also known as “Rio+20”. “The Future We Want” (an outcome of Rio+20), outlined many of the measures that countries across the world should pursue and implement to address unsustainable development. Universities have a critical role to play in bringing about change but are not always doing enough of the right things – something I have been banging the drum about, since 2005.

I also contributed to the “2nd World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities” (WSSD-U-2014), which was held in Manchester, UK in September 2014. Various publications have resulted from these conferences. The Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme (which BU has signed up to) has also been established.

The third conference in Boston will result in a set of books published by Springer, as part of their award-winning “World Sustainability Series”. My role in blind-review papers, finding reviewers, editing and responding to authors etc. has been challenging. I am not a great fan of editorial work but I really have enjoyed communicating with academics across the world, about their research and sustainability projects. I am looking forward to meeting them in person when I get to Boston.

And the answer to the topic…. well, it depends!

But, at BU we are doing better than most – there is much further to go!!