Our Sustainability Commitments
The University of Richmond has made three substantial commitments to the integration of sustainability into institutional operations and academics. In December of 2015, the University reaffirmed its commitment to sustainability with a pledge in support of an international climate agreement.
You can read summaries of the commitments, or explore the full content of each below.
In 2007, then-President Ayers signed the ACUPCC, committing the university to climate neutrality by 2050, ensuring all students are exposed to climate neutrality and sustainability as part of their educational experience, and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020.
We, the undersigned presidents and chancellors of colleges and universities, are deeply concerned about the unprecedented scale and speed of global warming and its potential for large-scale, adverse health, social, economic and ecological effects. We recognize the scientific consensus that global warming is real and is largely being caused by humans. We further recognize the need to reduce the global emission of greenhouse gases by 80% by mid-century at the latest, in order to avert the worst impacts of global warming and to reestablish the more stable climatic conditions that have made human progress over the last 10,000 years possible.
While we understand that there might be short-term challenges associated with this effort, we believe that there will be great short-, medium-, and long-term economic, health, social and environmental benefits, including achieving energy independence for the U.S. as quickly as possible.
We believe colleges and universities must exercise leadership in their communities and throughout society by modeling ways to minimize global warming emissions, and by providing the knowledge and the educated graduates to achieve climate neutrality. Campuses that address the climate challenge by reducing global warming emissions and by integrating sustainability into their curriculum will better serve their students and meet their social mandate to help create a thriving, ethical and civil society. These colleges and universities will be providing students with the knowledge and skills needed to address the critical, systemic challenges faced by the world in this new century and enable them to benefit from the economic opportunities that will arise as a result of solutions they develop.
We further believe that colleges and universities that exert leadership in addressing climate change will stabilize and reduce their long-term energy costs, attract excellent students and faculty, attract new sources of funding, and increase the support of alumni and local communities. Accordingly, we commit our institutions to taking the following steps in pursuit of climate neutrality.
Initiate the development of a comprehensive plan to achieve climate neutrality as soon as possible.
Within two months of signing this document, create institutional structures to guide the development and implementation of the plan.
Within one year of signing this document, complete a comprehensive inventory of all greenhouse gas emissions (including emissions from electricity, heating, commuting, and air travel) and update the inventory every other year thereafter.
Within two years of signing this document, develop an institutional action plan for becoming climate neutral, which will include:
- A target date for achieving climate neutrality as soon as possible.
- Interim targets for goals and actions that will lead to climate neutrality.
- Actions to make climate neutrality and sustainability a part of the curriculum and other educational experience for all students.
- Actions to expand research or other efforts necessary to achieve climate neutrality.
- Mechanisms for tracking progress on goals and actions.
Initiate two or more of the following tangible actions to reduce greenhouse gases while the more comprehensive plan is being developed.
- Establish a policy that all new campus construction will be built to at least the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Silver standard or equivalent.
- Adopt an energy-efficient appliance purchasing policy requiring purchase of ENERGY STAR certified products in all areas for which such ratings exist.
- Establish a policy of offsetting all greenhouse gas emissions generated by air travel paid for by our institution.
- Encourage use of and provide access to public transportation for all faculty, staff, students and visitors at our institution.
- Within one year of signing this document, begin purchasing or producing at least 15% of our institution’s electricity consumption from renewable sources.
- Establish a policy or a committee that supports climate and sustainability shareholder proposals at companies where our institution’s endowment is invested.
- Participate in the Waste Minimization component of the national RecycleMania competition, and adopt 3 or more associated measures to reduce waste.
Make the action plan, inventory, and periodic progress reports publicly available by submitting them to the ACUPCC Reporting System for posting and dissemination.
In recognition of the need to build support for this effort among college and university administrations across America, we will encourage other presidents to join this effort and become signatories to this commitment.
The Signatories of the American College & University
Presidents’ Climate Commitment
The Talloires Declaration was signed in 2003 by former University of Richmond President William Cooper, which committed the University to ten actions aimed at catalyzing sustainability leadership within higher education: 1) increase awareness of environmentally sustainable development, 2) create an institutional culture of sustainability, 3) educate for environmentally responsible citizenship, 4) foster environmental literacy for all, 5) practice institutional ecology, 6) involve all stakeholders, 7) collaborate for interdisciplinary approaches, 8) enhance the capacity of primary and secondary schools, 9) broaden service and outreach nationally and internationally, and 10) maintain the movement.
We, the presidents, rectors, and vice chancellors of universities from all regions of the world are deeply concerned about the unprecedented scale and speed of environmental pollution and degradation, and the depletion of natural resources.
Local, regional, and global air and water pollution; accumulation and distribution of toxic wastes; destruction and depletion of forests, soil, and water; depletion of the ozone layer and emission of "green house" gases threaten the survival of humans and thousands of other living species, the integrity of the earth and its biodiversity, the security of nations, and the heritage of future generations. These environmental changes are caused by inequitable and unsustainable production and consumption patterns that aggravate poverty in many regions of the world.
We believe that urgent actions are needed to address these fundamental problems and reverse the trends. Stabilization of human population, adoption of environmentally sound industrial and agricultural technologies, reforestation, and ecological restoration are crucial elements in creating an equitable and sustainable future for all humankind in harmony with nature.
Universities have a major role in the education, research, policy formation, and information exchange necessary to make these goals possible. Thus, university leaders must initiate and support mobilization of internal and external resources so that their institutions respond to this urgent challenge.
We, therefore, agree to take the following actions:
- Increase Awareness of Environmentally Sustainable Development: Use every opportunity to raise public, government, industry, foundation, and university awareness by openly addressing the urgent need to move toward an environmentally sustainable future.
- Create an Institutional Culture of Sustainability: Encourage all universities to engage in education, research, policy formation, and information exchange on population, environment, and development to move toward global sustainability.
- Educate for Environmentally Responsible Citizenship: Establish programs to produce expertise in environmental management, sustainable economic development, population, and related fields to ensure that all university graduates are environmentally literate and have the awareness and understanding to be ecologically responsible citizens.
- Foster Environmental Literacy For All : Create programs to develop the capability of university faculty to teach environmental literacy to all undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.
- Practice Institutional Ecology: Set an example of environmental responsibility by establishing institutional ecology policies and practices of resource conservation, recycling, waste reduction, and environmentally sound operations.
- Involve All Stakeholders : Encourage involvement of government, foundations, and industry in supporting interdisciplinary research, education, policy formation, and information exchange in environmentally sustainable development. Expand work with community and nongovernmental organizations to assist in finding solutions to environmental problems.
- Collaborate for Interdisciplinary Approaches: Convene university faculty and administrators with environmental practitioners to develop interdisciplinary approaches to curricula, research initiatives, operations, and outreach activities that support an environmentally sustainable future.
- Enhance Capacity of Primary and Secondary Schools: Establish partnerships with primary and secondary schools to help develop the capacity for interdisciplinary teaching about population, environment, and sustainable development.
- Broaden Service and Outreach Nationally and Internationally : Work with national and international organizations to promote a worldwide university effort toward a sustainable future.
- Maintain the Movement : Establish a Secretariat and a steering committee to continue this momentum, and to inform and support each other's efforts in carrying out this declaration.
The Talloires Declaration was signed in 2009 by University of Richmond President Edward L. Ayers, in which the University committed to use the processes of education and research to respond to, serve and strengthen its communities for local and global citizenship, participate actively in the democratic process and to empower those who are less privileged, and strive to build a culture of reflection and action by faculty, staff and students that infuses all learning and inquiry.
In this century of change, we note with optimism that access to university education is increasing, that one-half of the students enrolled in institutions of higher education live in developing nations, and that the number of university students worldwide is expected to double between 2000 and 2025. The potential for social participation by students young and old, now and in the years to come, is massive. The extent to which this potential can be realized will depend on universities worldwide mobilizing students, faculty, staff and citizens in programs of mutual benefit.
We are dedicated to strengthening the civic role and social responsibility of our institutions. We pledge to promote shared and universal human values, and the engagement by our institutions within our communities and with our global neighbors. We urge the one hundred million university students, and the many millions of faculty, staff, alumni and members of governing bodies throughout the world to join us in these initiatives.
We believe that higher education institutions exist to serve and strengthen the society of which they are part. Through the learning, values and commitment of faculty, staff and students, our institutions create social capital, preparing students to contribute positively to local, national and global communities. Universities have the responsibility to foster in faculty, staff and students a sense of social responsibility and a commitment to the social good, which, we believe, is central to the success of a democratic and just society.
Some of our universities and colleges are older than the nations in which they are located; others are young and emerging; but all bear a special obligation to contribute to the public good, through educating students, expanding access to education, and the creation and timely application of new knowledge. Our institutions recognize that we do not exist in isolation from society, nor from the communities in which we are located. Instead, we carry a unique obligation to listen, understand and contribute to social transformation and development. Higher education must extend itself for the good of society to embrace communities near and far. In doing so, we will promote our core missions of teaching, research and service.
The university should use the processes of education and research to respond to, serve and strengthen its communities for local and global citizenship. The university has a responsibility to participate actively in the democratic process and to empower those who are less privileged. Our institutions must strive to build a culture of reflection and action by faculty, staff and students that infuses all learning and inquiry.
Therefore, we agree to:
- Expand civic engagement and social responsibility programs in an ethical manner, through teaching, research and public service.
- Embed public responsibility through personal example and the policies and practices of our higher education institutions.
- Create institutional frameworks for the encouragement, reward and recognition of good practice in social service by students, faculty, staff and their community partners.
- Ensure that the standards of excellence, critical debate, scholarly research and peer judgment are applied as rigorously to community engagement as they are to other forms of university endeavor.
- Foster partnerships between universities and communities to enhance economic opportunity, empower individuals and groups, increase mutual understanding and strengthen the relevance, reach and responsiveness of university education and research.
- Raise awareness within government, business, media, charitable, not-for-profit and international organizations about contributions of higher education to social advancement and wellbeing. Specifically, establish partnerships with government to strengthen policies that support higher education’s civic and socially responsible efforts. Collaborate with other sectors in order to magnify impacts and sustain social and economic gains for our communities.
- Establish partnerships with primary and secondary schools, and other institutions of further and higher education, so that education for active citizenship becomes an integral part of learning at all levels of society and stages of life.
- Document and disseminate examples of university work that benefit communities and the lives of their members.
- Support and encourage international, regional and national academic associations in their efforts to strengthen university civic engagement efforts and create scholarly recognition of service and action in teaching and research.
- Speak out on issues of civic importance in our communities.
- Establish a steering committee and international networks of higher education institutions to inform and support all their efforts to carry out this Declaration.
We commit ourselves to the civic engagement of our institutions and to that end we establish the Talloires Network, with an open electronic space for the exchange of ideas and understandings and for fostering collective action.
We invite others to join in this Declaration and to collaborate in our civic work.
The American Campuses Act on Climate Pledge was signed in 2015 by University of Richmond President Ronald A. Crutcher in support of a strong international climate agreement. The pledge comes in the wake of the successful negotiations achieved at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris. This pledge amplifies the voice of a higher education community that has urged leadership and action on this critical issue. In total, 318 campuses representing over 4 million students have pledged support.
The University of Richmond recognizes environmental stewardship and sustainability as integral components of our mission to prepare students to lead in a global and pluralistic society. Today our institution reaffirms its commitment to accelerate the transition to a sustainable, low-carbon future. Building on our existing energy efficiency actions and progress, we pledge to:
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% from 2009 levels by 2020 with a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.
- Install a 204 kW solar array through an innovative multi-stakeholder partnership, which signals the beginning of a transition to renewable energy.
- Provide alternatives to single occupancy vehicles, including free swipe cards for local bus service, ride sharing, a bike share program, and free on-campus use of public transportation for all faculty, staff, students and visitors.
- Establish a green revolving loan fund to support capital improvements that reduce energy use on campus. Financial savings from each project will be contributed back to the fund for reinvestment in future energy-efficiency work.