Auburn University tackling United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

Published: September 27, 2021
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A new report from Auburn University illustrates how it is addressing the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.

The document, completed this summer, highlights the extent to which Auburn is engaged with each of the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals, or SDGs. The UN adopted the goals in 2015 as a path to address global challenges and achieve a better, more sustainable future for all by 2030.

Auburn demonstrated moderate or high engagement in the goals for: Zero Hunger; Good Health and Wellbeing; Clean Water and Sanitation; Decent Work and Economic Growth; Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; Reduced Inequalities; Sustainable Cities and Communities; Responsible Consumption and Production; Life Below Water; Life on Land; and Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

Mike Kensler, director of the Office of Sustainability, said it is imperative to know where Auburn stands in its engagement with the various SDGs because it allows the university to identify opportunities for continued and future engagement.

“We are excited to document all the ways Auburn University is engaged with the rest of the world to address these challenges and transform them for a better world,” he said.  “We are not surprised by this level of contribution, but we are gratified. There is still work to be done.”

Auburn’s Academic Sustainability Program, Hunger Solutions Institute in the College of Human Sciences and Office of Sustainability collaborated to measure the university’s engagement with the goals. They collected and analyzed data related to the goals in teaching, research and outreach from every college, school and department, including courses, majors, minors, graduate programs, faculty research, centers and institutes and student organizations at the university from 2016-18.

The group is currently gathering data for the 2019-21 engagement report, which could be completed by fall 2022. 

The Office of Sustainability will continue its work to push campus forward on all goals, with the Hunger Solutions Institute, or HSI, taking the lead on SGD 2, Zero Hunger.

“SDG 2 is central to the mission of HSI, which is to leverage collective efforts of postsecondary education institutions to promote the adoption and advancement of best practices to address food and nutrition security,” said Alicia Powers, HSI’s managing director. “We are poised to continue expansion of our work toward Zero Hunger on Auburn’s campus, in our surrounding community and throughout Alabama, the country and globally.”

Auburn took a major step in its commitment to addressing the goals in 2019, when it joined the U.S. chapter of the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network, or SDSN. Auburn’s involvement allows faculty to collaborate with network scholars and organizations around the world in efforts to fulfill the SDGs at local, national and global scales.

The Office of Sustainability created a new landing page to illustrate Auburn’s work in each of the 17 goals. The office plans to mark Campus Sustainability Month with a social media campaign, focused on Auburn’s activities in SDGs, throughout October.

Additionally, the Be Well Hut will feature the SDGs on the Haley Concourse on Wednesday, Sept. 29. 

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.