Bieler, A. & McKenzie, M. (2016). Strategic Planning for Sustainability in Canadian Higher Education. Sustainability, 9, 161.
This paper reviews representations of sustainability in the strategic plans of Canadian higher education institutions (HEIs). A content analysis of the strategic plans of 50 HEIs was undertaken to determine the extent to which sustainability is included as a significant policy priority in the plans, including across the five domains of governance, education, campus operations, research, and community outreach. We found 41 strategic plans with some discussion of sustainability, and identified three characteristic types of response: (i) accommodative responses that include sustainability as one of many policy priorities and address only one or two sustainability domains; (ii) reformative responses that involve some alignment of policy priorities with sustainability values in at least a few domains; and (iii) progressive responses that make connections across four or five domains and offer a more detailed discussion of sustainability and sustainability-specific policies. Accommodative responses were dominant. More progressive responses were typically from institutions participating in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. The paper concludes with consideration of the political and economic contexts contributing to this relative prevalence of accommodative responses to sustainability.