Describe your past involvement with the Vision 2020 Process.
I participated in the open sessions, where we sat in workshops with people from other units and departments. It was great to meet people from all over campus who were interested in sustainability. There was a real sense community-building, and it was a good networking exercise.
How has Vision 2020 impacted the work that you do?
Our sustainable procurement action plan was a bit of an offshoot of Vision 2020 planning. We developed a separate core team on sustainable procurement, and the objectives that we identified for sustainable procurement were then funneled back into Vision 2020 as part of one of the key actions. I think that community mobilization, brainstorming, and the zeitgeist of Vision 2020 inspired sustainable procurement at that time, and it definitely increased the readiness and openness to all the new issues that had to be tackled.
What, in your opinion, are some of Vision 2020’s key successes?
I think that Vision 2020 was very positive in terms of generating interest in sustainability issues in the wider community, and breaking down some of the silos on campus. It was very useful in getting the perspectives and the input of different stakeholders across the board, and it allowed students to talk about operations in a meaningful way. The cross-pollination was great. Vision 2020 built some good momentum, and I like that in the end, the list of 14 actions was amenable to supporting the advancement of specific issues and concrete steps. The actions were clearly identified targets and objectives.
What are its failures or shortcomings?
I think that the simple turnover of students poses a challenge to the longevity of Vision 2020…it poses a challenge to the movement being perennial, and restricts it to waves of activity. Vision 2020 was a good first step in embedding and institutionalizing sustainability into the University’s operations and administration. However, there needs to be ongoing communication about where we’re at and how we’re doing in terms of reaching our targets. It would be nice to see more reporting on what we’re good at and why. I think that the community needs to take ownership and take the lessons they’ve learned on the way forward—just like they’ve done in the past.
What do you want to see happen in this next stage of the Vision 2020 Process?
First, we need to understand the failures or successes of the actions so far. Which teams, or units, were responsible for delivering on which actions? Who needs additional resources, more help, or nudging? How were they successful or unsuccessful? We need a mix of stakeholders – students, operations officers, and administrative representatives. I think that it’s excellent that we’re addressing climate mitigation and adaptation this time around. I’d be very happy to see the McGill community become more aware of, and take responsibility for its social and environmental impacts. When you understand and measure things, you have a better idea of how to control them and how to improve your net positive impact. Raising awareness, quantifying what is quantifiable, setting targets, and staying accountable to them will create a meaningful difference.
If money were not object, what would you love to see McGill accomplish?
Each undergrad would have to take a sustainability and systems-thinking course in each department!
Originally published on November 3, 2016