SUNY's Leadership Role in Global Higher Education Sustainability Movement Highlighted

June 20, 2012

Nine Campuses, System Administration Sign Sustainability Commitment


Rio de Janeiro – The State University of New York’s leadership in the higher education sustainability movement was highlighted this week at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development – Rio+20 – in Rio de Janeiro. SUNY was a central participant in drafting a Rio+20 sustainability declaration, which was presented at the conference and signed by university presidents worldwide.

Sustainable development is a pattern of economic growth that preserves the environment for future generations by using resources in a smart or environmentally-conscious manner. The Rio+20 conference involved more than 40,000 participants from governments, the private sector, higher education, NGOs and other groups, focused on poverty reduction, social equity, and environmental protection.

“SUNY is proud to be a leader in the global movement to adopt sustainability principles across our business operations and curriculum, and we are committed to remaining at the forefront of this movement,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher.

Presidents to sign the declaration, which is still open to signatories, have committed to the teaching of sustainable development concepts, encouragement of research on sustainable development issues, greening of campuses, support of community sustainability efforts, and engagement with and sharing of results through international frameworks, such as the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and other multi-lateral and national organizations.

Signing the declaration from SUNY are System Administration, SUNY Cortland, SUNY Delhi, Empire State College, Fashion Institute of Technology, SUNY Fredonia, SUNY Geneseo, SUNY Oneonta, Onondaga Community College, and the University at Buffalo.

Also at Rio+20, SUNY Vice Chancellor for Global Affairs Mitch Leventhal announced the publication of the Practical Guide to the United Nations Global Compact for Higher Education Institutions, guidelines for academic institutions to adopt UNGC principles across all aspects of university operations. The guidelines are a result of a two-year effort led by Leventhal in his role as senior advisor on academic affairs to UNGC.

Eight universities from seven countries are piloting the use of the Guide and the recommended reporting process, including SUNY Geneseo, Bentley University (USA), Educatis University (Switzerland), Euromed Management (France), Istanbul Bilgi University (Turkey), La Trobe University (Australia), Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (Spain) and Université Laval (Canada).

“It is our hope that many SUNY campuses will look closely at the UNGC as a framework that can substantially enhance their global operations while serving as a mechanism for engaging the entire administration in adopting principles of corporate social responsibility and sustainability across all operations, both domestic and international,” said Dr. Leventhal.

Further underlining SUNY’s commitment to sustainability is the recent appointment of its first system-level Director of Sustainability, Deborah Howard.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, with 64 college and university campuses located within 30 miles of every home, school, and business in the state. As of Fall 2018, more than 424,000 students were enrolled in a degree program at a SUNY campus. In total, SUNY served 1.4 million students in credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs in the 2017-18 academic year. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Its students and faculty make significant contributions to research and discovery, contributing to a $1.6 billion research portfolio. There are 3 million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit

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