Ara Sustainability Charter formalises vision for the future

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18 Jul 2016

Ara Sustainability Charter formalises vision for the future

Ara Institute of Canterbury has committed to be a sustainability leader with the release of a sustainability charter that sets a bold course for the future.

"We now have a shared vision and principles to weave our sustainability work together. There has been good progress in different areas of Ara, and now we are looking to widen our circle of influence toward environmental, social and economic sustainability.  It's challenging, it's exciting, and it's absolutely necessary," Shaun Bowler, Sustainability Manager at Ara, said.


The charter sets the course for integrating sustainability into every programme across the institute in a long term project that will review the entire curriculum. New Sustainability programmes will be developed in 2017.

"Our graduates will have the skills to lead in sustainability in their particular field, whether that is innovative midwifery practice, best practice in trades or exemplary building design. This is the major issue of our times and we are fully engaged with the widespread implications for our institute, our communities and our world, now and into the future."

Earlier this year Ara hosted a visit by John Thwaites, Chair of the Monash Sustainability Institute, Executive Committee member of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and former deputy premier of Victoria, Australia. While at Ara Thwaites work-shopped with students from areas as diverse as nursing, business and architectural studies. "Our students will be the ones shaping a more sustainable world so we need them involved in developing the programmes that will equip them to do just that," Bowler says.

Ara has been exploring sustainability for some time, however the appointment of a new sustainability manager and development of the charter signals a higher priority for sustainability. 

The Tipping Point 

David Irwin is manager for the Outdoor Education and Sustainability qualifications, which are unique in New Zealand, and he has held two day staff workshops for many years to upskill Ara staff on major issues and solutions for sustainability.

"Staff come away feeling more informed but also more empowered to act, in both a professional and a personal sense. We call this the tipping point – where a person has enough knowledge, motivation and tools to take action. We have some champions of sustainability across Ara, and we will keep growing the capability of our staff," Irwin said.

Defining Sustainability

As well as setting out the vision, the Charter defines what is actually meant by 'sustainability' at Ara - including the 'three pillars' of environmental, social and economic sustainability. However it goes further, including the needs to model and embed sustainability leadership in everyday activities, collaborate, listen to the institute's communities, openly share performance and enable graduates and staff to practice sustainably. The Charter also gives everyone at Ara clear responsibilities for sustainability, including the Council, staff, students, and external partners.

The vision includes aspects of sustainable leadership such as connectedness, influence and action. The vision states, "On this waka we are all connected with each other, those who have been and those yet to come. We travel with energy toward sustainability. Our actions inspire and influence our communities, our future and our world to be prosperous. When the paddle dips in the water, the ripples travel far beyond our view."

Current Projects 

Sustainability is already influencing projects across the institute. The new Kahukura (Engineering and Architectural Studies building) is an example of sustainable, affordable and attractive building design. Utilising timber technologies Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) in the structural frame and Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) as the structure of the façade it substantially reduces its carbon footprint plus the use of engineered wood is complemented by other sustainable features such as solar panels, high insulation, targeted passive and active ventilation, low chemical content and rainwater harvesting.

Ara is a member of the NZ Green Building Council and the Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability (ACTS), which provides support and resources for staff and students at Ara including the 'Learning in Future Environments'  (LiFE) index.

Read the Ara Sustainability Charter here