By Vida Moradinasab
American University of Sharjah (AUS) is aiming to get an international environmental certification, ISO14001, to endorse the environmental management system and the sustainability progress the university has achieved so far.
The ISO14000 certificate represents a series of environmental management standards developed and published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) for organizations. The ISO14000 standards provide a guideline or framework for organizations that wish to systematize and improve their environmental management efforts. The aim is to protect the surrounding environment against adverse environmental impacts and respond to changing environmental conditions without asking the future generations to compromise.
American University of Sharjah, in addition to its academic excellence, is committed to shaping a sustainable future for the community and the world. Sustainability planning is one of the main priorities in the university’s Institutional Effectiveness Strategic Direction.
To ensure steady progress in shaping a sustainable future, the university established a Sustainability division in 2008. AUS believes that sustainability is an essential part of its philosophy, policy and purpose, as well as of the campus community.
To help the university reduce its carbon footprint and as part of AUS Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), an Environmental Management System (EMS) manual was developed in 2015 and is being implemented across the university. The university, therefore, is aiming to become a leader in areas of recycling, energy conservation, water and waste management, transportation and purchasing processes. In addition, AUS is now incorporating green building standards into all its new construction and building renovation projects.
AUS works closely with many environmental organizations, such as Bee’ah, Environment and Protected Areas Authority of Sharjah (EPAA), Estidama, Green Emirates, Emirates Environmental Group (EEG) as well as Emirates Wildlife Society (EWS-WWF), all of whom support our sustainability initiatives and awareness campaigns.
On February 14, 2013, in recognition of the university’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint, AUS was recognized by the Heroes of the UAE program—which was organized by the Emirates Wildlife Society in association with WWF—as the first university in the Middle East to be a verified Corporate Hero. As a result, AUS pledged to develop a measurable strategy to reduce carbon emissions by 10 percent in a year, to document the results as a case study and to implement a long-term strategy to reduce its carbon footprint.
Last May, AUS won the Green School category at the Emirates Green Building Council (EGBC) 2015 Awards. The university received this award for its Campus Service Center, which reflects its efforts and commitment to providing a sustainable and efficient campus environment.
“As a university, we aim to enhance our organizational and operational structures to ensure the efficient utilization of physical, human and financial resources in achieving our academic goals,” said Stephen Fenn, Executive Director of Operation at American University of Sharjah.
The university put energy and water conservation initiatives in place in 2010. It also targeted a 30 percent saving in energy over a three-year period, of which a 24 percent energy saving was achieved within the academic footprint by the end of 2013. Due to the broad success of this first initiative, the sustainability project plan was extended for a further six years to 2019.
This is all possible because AUS strives to deliver excellent education and research in a sustainable manner. The university recognizes its responsibility to the environment and is committed to reducing its environmental impact and improve its environmental performance. By implementing proper practices, we aim to ascertain sustainable use of natural resources and to prevent any wasteful or polluting exercises. AUS strives to be a living model for sustainability, exemplifying values and actions that demonstrate our commitment to stewardship of resources and respect for the environment, now and in the future. Awareness and hard engineering are the two key components that comprise our sustainability initiatives at the university.
The hard engineering facet of AUS sustainability projects involves collaboration with the university’s Facilities team of engineers and technicians who work closely with internal, external and third parties to ensure the effective delivery of projects. In synch with AUS sustainability plans, the Operations department is performing a comprehensive review of the implementation and utilization of solar energy throughout the entire campus.
“Therefore, we are now pursuing ISO14001 to strengthen and complement the progress we have achieved thus far in our commitment to forge a more sustainable future,” said Fenn.
The certification will support the university in a number of ways, including:
- complying with environmental objectives and requirements
- reducing significantly the university’s carbon footprint
- raising awareness and engagement of the AUS community with the surrounding environment
- improving reputation and raising confidence among AUS community members
- facilitating continual system improvement
- providing competitive and financial advantages in sustainability
The certification will also motivate various AUS departments to work together and to continuously coordinate with students, faculty and staff in environmental projects and to make AUS an example of the best “Green Campus” in the UAE and beyond.
Vida Moradinasab is the Sustainability Administrative Coordinator at American University of Sharjah.
Visit www.aus.edu for more information about American University of Sharjah