The last time the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union underwent a sustainability audit was in 2006. Although a new one will not happen for the time being, the union is still committed to keeping a good standing in sustainability.
In 2019, the USSU expressed interest in conducting another sustainability audit this year to inform their efforts going forward. Finding an auditor, however, presented a challenge.
Autumn LaRose-Smith, vice-president student affairs, says that the sustainability audit the USSU had in 2006 was conducted by auditors that did not cater specifically to organizations like the students’ union, which caused some issues.
Reportedly, at the time there were criticisms around some aspects of the audit that did not apply to the USSU. LaRose- Smith says they were hoping to find different methods or organizations to conduct the audit this time around.
“We’ve reached out on a national … basis to see if there are other student unions, or organizations like this student union, that have done something [like this] and no one has,” LaRose-Smith said.
The 2006 audit resulted in two recommendations for the USSU: strengthening the current sustainability management system and coming up with a framework within the USSU to audit social and environmental sustainability. The plan for the new audit was that it would be an updated version that would consider new buildings along with the scope of the university’s environmental and social impact both locally and globally.
Since a new audit is not likely to happen during LaRose-Smith’s tenure as the vice-president student affairs, she is focusing on following through with the recommendations of the 2006 audit.
“Sustainability is a huge priority for the USSU. We’ve advocated for this and … we believe in being environmentally and socially and economically responsible and sustainable,” LaRose-Smith said.
“There’s still a lot that can be done and a lot of recommendations that can be done with the 2006 audit that maybe necessarily haven’t been followed through. It’s been over 10 years, so [we are] re-evaluating and creating, not necessarily a sustainability audit, but something that looks closer to a sustainability to-do list for the future.”
This sustainability “to-do list” would be heavily influenced by students. The USSU Sustainability Committee has $15,000 in funding for student-led initiatives. This is partly funded by the U of S President’s Office and the Office of Sustainability.
“You don’t have to be a ratified student group; you can apply for $50 of funding or $10,000 of funding for sustainability projects that you think are worthy,” LaRose-Smith said.
She adds that the new U of S President’s Advisory Circle for Sustainability is another avenue through which students can voice their ideas and initiatives in the realm of sustainability.
“We don’t necessarily have much say over what the university is going to let us do in other places but we have brought this forward to them and are very open to students bringing their ideas and plans to us,” LaRose- Smith said.
Student-led initiatives also play a role in the USSU’s commitment to environmental practices. The USSU is “open and excited to learn and do what we can in whatever capacity,” she said.
“I think it’s really important that we challenge the university and that we challenge the government and all of the people that we interact with — that our values align [with theirs] in regards to sustainability,” LaRose-Smith said. “But to do that, I think you have to be a good role model of it, so that people can see that it is doable — we’re trying.”
Graphic: Shawna Langer | Graphics Editor