What is a Sustainable Campus?

“Sustainable Campus” means a “university that contributes to building of a sustainable society through education, research, collaborating with the society and campus development.”

Sustainable Campus is not something that merely means a “campus with low environmental impact.” It aims to practically and multilaterally support the well being of a society by “expanding education and research that are rooted in social challenges as policies of the entire university” and “implementing campus development that harmonizes with surrounding areas.

Picture of Sustainable Campus

“Sapporo Sustainability Declaration,” which was adopted at G8 University Summit held in 2008 at Sapporo, was the first in Japan to widely declare the concept of Sustainable Campus as a major university strategy. Preceding this, initiatives to take in the principles of “sustainable development” into university administration have started from 1990s, mainly in Northern American universities. These were mainly results of higher education institutions being influenced by policies of nations and various declarations being adopted internationally.

Today, Sustainable Campus initiatives have taken root as a natural responsibility in various higher education institutions across Europe, the United States and Canada. Hokkaido University has established its Office for a Sustainable Campus in 2010, and has been pulling the Sustainable Campus initiatives among Japanese higher education institutions to this day. From April 1, 2018, it became a new structure and was reorganized into “Sustainable Campus Management Office”.

Overseas trends

Trends in European/American universities

“World Commission on Environment and Development” of the United Nations proposed a concept called Sustainable Development in 1987. Today, the word “sustainability” is being used even more widely. From 1990s to 2000s, numerous declarations promoting sustainability were adopted one after another at educational institutions as well; initiatives to include sustainable development into university administrations had accelerated, especially in Europe and America.

Joint councils of higher education institutions have been formed in those countries; in particular, the EAUC (Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges) of the United Kingdom and Ireland was founded in 1996, while global network ISCN (International Sustainable Campus Network) and the AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) in the United States and Canada were both founded in 2006. One can say early member universities to those are pioneers of Sustainable Campus.

Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges
established in 1996
International Sustainable Campus Network
established in 2006
established in 2006

Pioneering overseas networks

ISCN2014 Annual Conference at Harvard University and MIT

Trends in Asia and Japan

Hokkaido University is one of pioneering universities pulling the initiatives on Sustainable Campus in Asia. As can be seen from below, prior to G8 Universities Summit in 2008, Hokkaido University has started initiatives on sustainability; this has been continuing to this day.


2005      Establishment of Hokkaido University Initiative on Sustainable Development (this is now Institute for International Collaboration)

2008      Initial meeting of association for ProSPER.Net (Promotion of Sustainability in Postgraduate Education and Research) was held

2008      Education/research based on CENSUS (Center for Sustainability Science) (up until 2015)

2010      Establishment of Office for a Sustainable Campus


With regards to campus development, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has been upholding promotion of Sustainable Campus and sustainability in their Third National University Corporations Facilities Development Five Year Plan (from 2011 to 2015) and Fourth of the same plan (from 2016 to 2020) that followed, but Sustainable Campus initiatives of our university has been deployed prior to those plans. And they are not limited to physical environmental development of campus; they are initiatives that also include education and research.

Joint councils that target reduction of environmental impact at universities have been established in Asia as well, even though their concept is narrower than that of Sustainable Campus. Councils in Korea and China were established earlier than Japan. In 2008, Korean Association for Green Campus Initiative was founded, while China Green University Network was established in 2011. In Japan, CAS-Net JAPAN (Campus Sustainability Network in Japan) was inaugurated in 2014 with a comprehensive target of building a Sustainable Campus, which is not limited to reduction of environmental impact. Hokkaido University is one of its originators. In 2017, Sustainable University Network of Thailand was established in Thailand as well.

New Networks in Asia

Trends within Japan

Sapporo Sustainability Declaration


Prior to G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit, “G8 University Summit” was held between 29 June and 1 July 2008, with our university acting as the host. In addition to 27 universities within 8 member countries of G8, presidents from 8 universities of 6 other countries as well as United Nations University participated in this Summit and debated over initiatives and responsibilities that universities should bear in order to realize sustainability. “Sapporo Sustainability Declaration” was adopted in this University Summit, and the concept of Sustainable Campus was widely upheld in a major university strategy for the first time in Japan.

Within this Declaration, all universities have been deemed as ideally situated to enlighten politics and societies towards formation of sustainable societies, since universities are neutral and objective presence that bears an important role in resolving issues in order to leave behind sustainable Earth and society to the next generation.

Furthermore, it has been determined that another role that universities could play towards realization of sustainability is to utilize their own campuses as new models for sustainable society, interacting with various stakeholders in the society through university research/education processes. Contents of abstracts from the Declaration are presented below.

I Joint affirmations (outline)

  • The importance of sustainability. Sustainability at the human, social and global levels is one of the most important ideas of the 21st century.
  • Sustainability issues have become urgent political concerns. Sustainability problems including climate change, previously regarded as primarily a scientific issue, have become urgent political concerns.
  • The responsibility of universities. All universities have an important role in problem-solving to bequeath a sustainable world to future generations. Through their research, universities are expected to provide timely solutions to these problems and to closely coordinate with policy-makers if these solutions are to be promptly and appropriately implemented.
  • The need to restructure scientific knowledge. Sustainability is a broad area that embraces a complex diversity of interrelated factors ranging from the natural environment to socioeconomic systems.
  • The need for a network of networks. To restructure scientific knowledge in this manner, a unifying framework is necessary, facilitating this integrated problem-solving approach among research disciplines.。
  • The need for “knowledge innovation.” Achieving sustainability requires social change, which is predicated on changing public awareness. Universities and their researchers have a responsibility to articulate and disseminate new sustainability-related scientific knowledge and information, including its attendant uncertainty, to society at large.
  • The role of higher education for sustainability. Universities have a critical role to play in educating future generations, disseminating information about sustainability, and particularly by training leaders with the skills to solve regional and local problems from a global and interdisciplinary perspective.
  • The function of the university campus as an experimental model. Another potential role for universities in the effort to attain sustainability is the use of their campuses as models for a sustainable society, based on interactions with various stakeholders in society through the academic research and education processes.

II Engagements

  • In recognition of the need for scientific knowledge to inform policies and social change in the 21st century, we will strive to fulfil our developing responsibility to be a driving force for policy, society and academia to evolve together toward global sustainability.
  • We pledge to contribute to the implementation of an action program for construction of a network of networks (NNs) capable of addressing the broad and complex range of sustainability issues, through such activities as holding research network conferences and developing consensus on the objectives and content of the NNs.
  • We will work with our surrounding communities to develop social models for sustainability, with our campuses serving as experimental venues.


Establishment of CAS-Net JAPAN

Based on the global trend of inter-university cooperation and systematic initiatives towards sustainability that are accelerating in universities throughout the world, the first Sustainable Campus university network in Japan, “CAS-Net JAPAN (Campus Sustainability Network in Japan)” was established in 2014, with the aim of promoting inter-university cooperation within Japan. Faculty members from universities that had been paying attention to reduction of university environmental impact and Sustainable Campus, such as Hokkaido University, Kyoto University, Chiba University and Mie University acted as originators of this network. This is generating venues to exchange information and widen visions by sharing examples of various initiatives by higher educational institutions in Japan

The backgrounds of why this organization was founded include the fact that faculty members involved Sustainable Campus Management Office in our university and similar organization in Kyoto University have been attending annual conferences of international networks such as ICN or AASHE of America/Canada every year, have learnt the concept of Sustainable Campus which is becoming a global trend and absorbed details of individual cases and implementation techniques. Such venues of international conferences are not only good for learning advanced cases from universities around the world, but also offered opportunities to find out that the concept of Sustainable Campus is rapidly gaining prominence in higher education institutions of emerging countries in Africa as well as Asia and that initiatives are starting to get deployed, mainly through universities collaborating with the society. Faculty members who had attended such venues gained a real sense of Sustainable Campus initiatives taking root in higher education institutions of not only Japan but also Asia, and lead the way in establishing CAS-Net JAPAN, driven from the need to form a network within Japan that can act as the nucleus of activities.