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Setting sights on further reducing environmental impacts, WPI joins Second Nature and signs Principles for Responsible Investment

Commitments align with university’s sustainability initiatives, targeting progress towards diminishing its carbon footprint and the environmental, social, and governance considerations in investment practices and ownership policies.

April 13, 2022

In celebration of Earth Month, WPI is announcing new partnerships to support its ongoing commitments to combating climate change. The University has recently signed pledges with two leading organizations in the movement to accelerate climate action goals, emphasizing the critical role of WPI in turning knowledge into action to confront such global challenges as climate change.

Carbon Commitment with Second Nature. Second Nature is committed to accelerating climate action in and through higher education. This is accomplished by mobilizing a diverse array of higher education institutions to act on bold climate commitments, to scale campus climate initiatives, and to create innovative climate solutions. Second Nature aims to align, amplify, and bridge the sector’s efforts with other global leaders to advance urgent climate priorities.

Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) is the world’s leading proponent of responsible investment, helping institutions across sectors to understand ways to integrate environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations into their investment and ownership decisions.

This announcement comes as WPI students, faculty, and staff celebrate Spring into Action, a month of events, activities, and dialog around every aspect of global and local sustainability.

“The campus is humming with activity, in every corner and from so many different aspects of the university, which is testament to the commitment from the entire community to be the living and learning laboratory envisioned in WPI’s Sustainability Plan,” said Leshin. “WPI’s first sustainability plan launched just months before I landed here, and in the past eight years, this community has made tremendous gains—from infrastructure initiatives to new curriculum and courses, including a new Master’s program on community climate adaptation in The Global School. We have work to do, and these pledges will help to hold the university accountable and keep that work on track.”

Having signed PRI, WPI will incorporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations into its investment analysis, decision making, and ownership policies and practices. Reporting on activities and progress toward implementing the principles is also required. Ultimately, it's an important step in the right direction toward sustainable investing. 

In joining Second Nature, WPI must form a committee of faculty, staff, and students within the next two months to shape a plan with specific development and timeframe guidelines to reach carbon neutrality.  Within one year of signing Second Nature’s Carbon Commitment, the University must complete a greenhouse gas emissions inventory and identification of near-term opportunities for greenhouse gas reduction. The commitment will build upon the reductions in energy emissions already achieved in LEED rated energy efficient buildings that have been built over the past 7 years.

For both initiatives, Executive Vice President and CFO Michael Horan will review annually, and his team—primarily the Office of Sustainability—will be charged with seeing that the pledges build upon the holistic framework already in place.

“The University has made major strides in recent years to make smart, sustainable decisions including the construction of LEED certified buildings, limiting waste and unnecessary power usage, and finding alternatives to fossil fuels. These commitments support our planning for reducing our carbon footprint with the goal of becoming carbon neutral,” said Horan. “Going forward, WPI will aggressively pursue energy-efficient strategies in new and existing buildings, central utility improvements and renewable energy technologies where feasible. Working through strategic partnerships, with our faculty and students we will continue to reduce energy-related emissions with strategies such as expanding LED lighting upgrades, building HVAC optimization, chilled water system improvements, hot water conversion and on and off-campus solar. Plans are also in the works for the campus to be divided into micro-grids which will limit the chance of power outages.”

“These initiatives will complement and enhance our sustainability efforts and programs on campus”, said Paul Mathisen, Director of Sustainability. “We routinely assess our energy use and greenhouse gas production in our reporting efforts, so we can adjust these analyses to align with the requirements for Second Nature.  In addition, within two years, we will complete a climate action plan that will include a target date for achieving carbon neutrality.  Incorporating climate mitigation and adaptation into our academic curricula and research will also be important components in this plan. The initiative will help advance our Sustainability Plan and will also increase engagement in sustainability - both on and off-campus.”

WPI’s Sustainability Plan includes a set of goals, objectives and tasks for reducing our use of resources, including reductions in water use, waste generation, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and other targets First adopted in 2014, and updated in 2020, the Plan includes a sustainability ecosystem that is focused on advancing sustainability in four areas: academics, research, campus operations and facilities, and community engagement.  The goals and objectives align closely with many of the targets identified by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These new initiatives represent important steps to help address critical global challenges that affect us all. 

 

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