UP 2022 Sustainable Development Report shows sustainability becoming embedded into UP culture

Posted on October 02, 2023

The University of Pretoria’s (UP) 2022 Sustainable Development Report – encompassing activities for the period 1 January 2022 to 31 December 2022 – shows UP is making progress in embedding a culture of sustainability into its institutional practices and core functions, with meaningful contribution toward achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The third annual Sustainable Development Report reaffirmed UP's ongoing dedication to reduce its reliance on municipal energy and water while investing in renewable energy sources. The University is committed to recycling resources, minimising waste, protecting the environment, promoting biodiversity, engaging with communities and forging local and global partnerships. Through its core functions and beyond the operating footprint, the University’s activities continued to drive positive societal impact, improve community engagement, and strengthen new and existing local and global partnerships.

"Our dedication to sustainable development is core to the impactful outcomes we aspire to achieve," noted Professor Sunil Maharaj, Vice Principal for Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Education. “In our previous report, we reflected on how we had hardwired sustainable development into our institutional strategy. Our rationale was two-fold: Integrating sustainability into our highest-level strategy gives full expression to our identity, to who we are and to what we believe in. Additionally, we believe that through this integration, we will create the necessary leverage for the change in societal impact expected of a leading university like UP.”

In 2022, the UP landscape influencing campus operations was dominated by two key features affecting its environmental performance. The relaxation and eventual suspension of COVID-19 restrictions led to heightened resource demand and utilisation as normal activities resumed. Simultaneously, there was a sharp decline in national energy security, marked by frequent and extended periods of scheduled power cuts, known as load-shedding. Notwithstanding the seriousness of the challenges, UP continued to demonstrate environmental stewardship through its integrated approach and suite of activities. Key initiatives included dedicated management of new and existing infrastructure to optimise resource utilisation; strengthening of energy security and shifting to greater renewable energy generation with ongoing expansion of photovoltaic (PV) capacity; progressive improvements in water efficiency; and a holistic and dedicated focus on waste management.

Community engagement

Through the University’s core functions of teaching, learning and research, UP continued its societal contribution through the development of capable graduates who are active citizens, and creating new and relevant knowledge for just and inclusive societal development. Through the lenses of sustainable economies; life, our planet and technology; and inclusive societies and capable institutions, contributions and impacts are evident across the raft of SDGs. Building on previous publications, this report includes a wide range of stories describing how this is done in practice.

Partnerships and collaborating for mutual benefit and co-creation are pervasive themes running through the entire report. These range from community engagement with the different campuses serving as anchor institutions within their respective host communities, to embedding curricular community engagement within the institution’s core functions, and continuing to strengthen partnerships at national, continental and global levels.

A key focus of UP’s anchor strategy was on the Hatfield/ Hillcrest area, through the Hatfield Campus Village project, encompassing the Hatfield, Hillcrest and South campuses. During the year, UP continued participation in the Hatfield City Improvement District (CID), a non-profit organisation funded by property owners within the district boundary. The Mamelodi Campus represents another important component of UP’s anchor strategy. Collaborative efforts aimed to bridge the gap between the campus and the surrounding community, fostering a stronger sense of unity and driving socio-economic development. Numerous projects and clinics, both on and off-campus, contributed to this integration, resulting in 202 active partnerships in 2022 – a net increase of eight partnerships compared to the previous year.

Partnership highlights

At national and international levels, in 2022 the University had 202 active partnerships, representing a net increase of eight partnerships compared to 196 in the previous year. In its outward focus, several highlights are reflected in the report:

  • In the latter part of 2022, the national Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation and the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development launched the National Biosecurity Hub in collaboration with the University of Pretoria.
  • In August 2022, members of the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute conducted a series of workshops over four days in the Eastern Cape towns of Stutterheim and Mthatha. The initiative was a collaborative effort with Social Coding SA, a non-profit organisation that provides digital education to rural communities across South Africa.
  • Future Africa One Health engaged actively in a wide range of initiatives and partnerships, demonstrating the University’s commitment to sustainable development and the improvement of health outcomes.
  • The National Research Foundation (NRF) selected Future Africa, alongside Rhodes University, to host the Future Earth Africa Hub Leadership Centre. The two core partners will be joined by three consortium partners: the University of Fort Hare, the University of the Witwatersrand, and the University of Limpopo.

Download the full University of Pretoria 2022 Sustainable Development Report here.

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