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New sustainability audit difficult to obtain, USSU says

By in News

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.”

Fiza Baloch

Graphic: Shawna Langer | Graphics Editor

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