Overview

Acknowledgement

UNSW acknowledges the Bedegal (Kensington campus) and Gadigal (City campus) peoples, and all other  traditional custodians of the lands where UNSW campuses are located. We acknowledge all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, past and present, and their communities who have shared and practiced their teachings over thousands of years. We recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's ongoing leadership and contributions, including to business, education, research and industry.

Approach

Sustainability defined

Sustainability means a lot of different things to different people, but the oft-quoted definition of sustainability – living successfully in the present without compromising our ability to do so in the future – still holds true. To that end, sustainability encompasses not just environmental, but social, cultural and economic dimensions.

As one of Australia's leading research and teaching universities, UNSW recognises the vital role the university sector has in driving the sustainability agenda as well as the urgency with which this change must take place.

Reporting period

UNSW's 2016 Sustainability Report documents the sustainability performance of the University since 2013, but with a focus on the 1 January to 31 December 2016 reporting period. This report includes our environmental and social performance, as well as an overview of how the University is tracking in sustainability research and education. Information about our economic impact can be viewed in UNSW's 2016 Annual Report.

Sustainability loop

Sustainability at UNSW operates as a continuous improvement cycle as can be seen from the diagram below:

Improvement Cycle

The aim of this report

  • To identify the sustainability issues that impact on the environment and society as a result of UNSW business activities.
  • To describe UNSW's journey towards sustainability, including past achievements, current initiatives and future aspirations.
  • To provide a snapshot to allow comparison with our past sustainability performance and a benchmark for the future from 2013-2016.

This report is a celebration of our sustainability achievements but it is not about 'greenwashing'. It is a genuine attempt to record where we have been and where we are now so we can transparently and clearly demonstrate our improvements over time.

Identifying our reporting needs

UNSW Sustainability is championing UNSW's charge towards sustainability, but we understand the vital importance of bringing the whole UNSW community along with us. When initiating the annual Sustainability Report in 2013, our first step was to explore what sustainability issues were important, so we:

  • interviewed key members of senior management and a sample of students
  • conducted interviews and focus groups with internal managers and data owners
  • undertook staff engagement activities.

Best practice reporting

In terms of the structure and reporting style, we have been guided by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) reporting principles for defining report content.

Our approach is built on the AA1000 Principles and informed by Account Ability's 5-part materiality test.