Yale releases report on Yale scholarship and the Sustainable Development Goals

November 16, 2018

According to a report by the Yale Office of Sustainability, 44% of the teaching and research at Yale relates to at least two Sustainable Development Goals.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a global agenda for sustainable development. They were adopted in 2015 by 193 member states and are to be achieved by 2030. Comprised of 17 goals and 169 targets, the SDGs tackle the most pressing challenges of today. While national governments are the primary implementing agency, academic institutions are an important actor to lend support.

In 2016, Yale University released its Yale Sustainability Plan 2025which calls for sustainability to be seamlessly integrated into the scholarship and operations of the university and contribute to the University’s social, environmental, and financial excellence. The project to catalogue the work of current faculty was developed in support of the Plan’s objectives to “enrich and enhance teaching, research, learning, and service that explore and contribute to sustainability solutions” and “act as a convening voice and leader for dialogues about local, national, and global sustainability challenges.”

Over the course of two years, a team of Office of Sustainability student research assistants reviewed the publicly available information (department websites, CVs, publications) of 4,415 faculty and researchers and identified how their work might relate to the SDGs. The aims of this project were to:

  • Identify what expertise Yale University might lend to helping achieve the SDGs
  • Identify pathways for transdisciplinary collaboration
  • Provide a rationale for thinking about sustainability in higher education beyond campus initiatives

The report Yale Scholarship and the Sustainable Development Goals demonstrates that Yale’s academic activities connect to all 17 of the SDGs and that each Yale School or Department connects to at least one of the Goals. Using the database, the Office of Sustainability can generate multidisciplinary lists of faculty and researchers by SDG or by interdisciplinary interests – such as human health and cities, or economic growth and gender equity. Similarly, the database can be sorted by department or by professional school to show its SDG distribution.

According to Melissa Goodall, Associate Director of Yale’s Office of Sustainability, “we created this database as a tool for the Yale community to identify interdisciplinary connections and see how current teaching and research may connect to the SDGs. It does not aim to change or redirect the academic culture at Yale, but to highlight pathways for collaboration and, if desirable, connections to a larger context.”

An important caveat to this work is that the database is based on publicly available information. While efforts were made to reduce human error, and standardize the process, identifying the connections to the SDGs was ultimately subjective. As a next step, the Sustainability team will solicit feedback from select departments.

With just 12 years to go until the 2030 SDGs deadline, there is an imperative to be proactive and dynamic about advancing the aims of the SDGs. The Yale Office of Sustainability welcomes collaboration and suggestions on this work; please feel free to email us.

Yale is committed to building a more sustainable world. By doing what we do best—integrating science, the humanities, and our community—Yale creates, tests, and adopts innovative solutions to the environmental and social challenges we all face.