A new governance model was established to advance the new sustainability planning process, beginning with a focus on the Morningside campus.

In support of the Sustainability Principles’ call to “organize an inclusive sustainability governance model that centralizes sustainability reporting and decision making around sustainability,” University leadership from both the administrative and academic realms collaborated in January 2016 to establish a new governance model that centralized the sustainability conversation between academic and administrative leaders on campus.

  • Three focus teams were created to bring together key stakeholders on campus—including students, faculty, and administrators—to initiate a strategic planning process and set future goals for the University in areas including greenhouse gas emissions, building energy supply and demand, transportation, and waste. The focus team co-chairs helped lead group discussion and reported up on progress.
  • A new Senior Sustainability Advisory Committee (SSAC) was formed, co-chaired by David Greenberg, Executive Vice President of Facilities and Operations, and Michael Gerrard, Chair of the Earth Institute Faculty and Director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. The focus team co-chairs sit on the SSAC, along with any other focus team member that the chairs deem appropriate. This is the governing body for sustainability, where ideas are brought forth, reviewed, and discussed. It is also the body to which progress on the Sustainability Plan will be reported over time.
  • Members of executive leadership on the SSAC form the Executive SSAC. This is the ultimate decision-making body for the sustainability program.
  • Columbia’s Environmental Stewardship office participates and contributes at each level.

Focus teams:

Columbia created three focus teams around key impact areas that contribute most to Columbia’s greenhouse gas emissions profile, with representation from administration, faculty and students from the Morningside campus: Building Energy Supply and Demand, Transportation, and Waste. Representatives from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Columbia University Medical Center also participated on each focus team to keep the process transparent and inclusive should they decide to ultimately replicate a similar process on their campuses. While each campus at Columbia operates independently with different leadership and financial oversight, the Sustainability Principles unite Columbia around a common vision.

The focus teams met monthly over the course of a year, each meeting facilitated and coordinated by the Environmental Stewardship office. The focus teams:

  • evaluated current impact area strengths and opportunities;
  • generated proposed, high-level goals with measurable strategies and supporting steps to advance those strengths over the next three years;
  • engaged in dynamic discussion to incorporate consideration for city, state, and federal environmental policy;
  • highlighted where there is a need for deeper analysis to forecast current performance and measure future progress over time;
  • drafted succinct recommendations documents for review by the SSA; and generated detailed, tactical action steps to keep focus teams on track over the course of the next three years.