Sustainability is on the tertiary sector’s agenda

Sustainability is on the tertiary sector’s agenda

How can opportunities for post-disaster change and sustainable development be realised? The question has been on the minds of Cantabrians since the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 as we rebuild our city. But we are not the only ones thinking about rebuilding and recovery.

Arizona State University's School of Sustainability community-university liaison Katja Brundiers visited Christchurch recently to share her PhD research on this topic. While in town she also accepted an invitation to visit CPIT to share her experiences about sustainability in the tertiary sector.


Swiss-born Brundiers develops and administers student-led research on practical sustainability problems, drawing on her expertise in sustainability science, university-community collaborations, pre-disaster prevention and post-disaster reconstruction and reconciliation, vulnerability, planning and future thinking.

The sustainability school at Arizona State University, founded in 2006, was the first sustainability school in the USA and serves as a model for other tertiary institutes.

Brundiers interviewed a range of people in Christchurch for her research including CPIT's sustainability officer Rex Verity. Rex invited Brundiers to speak to CPIT staff about how Arizona State University's School of Sustainability works.

Brundiers' approach is solution-focused and CPIT tutors who attended her pre-Easter afternoon talk came away feeling inspired by her ideas about embedding sustainability throughout a tertiary institution – a journey that CPIT is taking right now. 

"I was inspired by what is possible when there is a real will and commitment to sustainability," Verity said. "In particular, Brundiers gave us insights into how they have attempted to integrate sustainability into teaching in a very practical way - the real world research that students undertake and the student engagement on work placements that tackle real sustainability problems in the community."

CPIT's sustainability committee, formed in 2014, is consulting with all areas of the institute, exploring ideas across the spectrum of sustainability to reduce environmental harm, promote social equality, respect financial viability and exceed compliance expectations.

Tertiary institutes have a particular responsibility to model best practice in sustainability and to prepare all graduates to be leaders in a world where sustainability has become more and more important across all sectors.