KSA Refocuses on Environmentalism through Updated Sustainability Policy

The newly hired Sustainability Coordinator and Policy and Political Affairs Coordinator worked together to ensure that the policies also consider social justice issues

KSA sustainability coordinator Erin Pedersen. (Kristen Frier)

With the intention of ramping up its commitment to environmental sustainability and social justice, the Kwantlen Student Association has updated its sustainability policy for the first time since the document was passed in June 2014.

The sustainability policy is designed to inform the association’s decisions and operations in a way that prioritizes environmental sustainability through research, educational outreach, sustainable purchases and investments, and a focus on using renewable energy. The new policy, which was adopted at a council meeting on March 15, has added and modified a number of areas in the old policy, and will last until March 2021 when it can be reviewed or renewed.

One of the most notable changes is an overhaul of the “triple bottom line paradigm” of the old policy, through which “the environmental, social, and economic impacts of each decision are considered and weighed before a balanced conclusion is developed.”

The current policy is guided by a “nested-dependencies model,” within which the economic impact of a decision is dependent on the societal impact of that decision, which further depends on its environmental impact. According to the policy, the new model “is designed to prevent decisions with potentially harmful environmental or social consequences from being made on the basis of strong economic merit alone.”

“We wanted to take that a bit further, just with the sort of urgency that’s come up around climate change and other issues in recent months and years,” says Erin Pedersen, the KSA sustainability coordinator who worked to develop the new policy. “We really wanted to focus on the idea that these three aspects are nested within each other. You can’t have a functioning economy or society without an environment.”

There are a number of added elements to the new policy, which include encouraging KSA members to use transportation in a way that reduces air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, to promote sustainable food options “such as student-grown, local, organic, fair trade, plant-based and/or other environmentally-certified products,” and to use natural alternatives to chemicals and synthetic products.

Pedersen is a recent graduate of KPU’s Environmental Protection Technology Program, and was hired by the KSA right before work began on the new policy. She was hired alongside Policy and Political Affairs Coordinator Jewelles Smith, who partnered with Pedersen to help with the policy’s development.

“A lot of the same factors that have caused environmental degradation and climate change are the same kind of root causes of many systems of oppression that have happened throughout history,” says Pedersen. “We really wanted to make sure that any policies we put forward took those systems of oppression into account in a more holistic way, and that also includes decolonization and reconciliation with Indigenous people.”

The new policy also mandates that the KSA “work with local, national and international community and non-governmental organizations, including Indigenous, Inuit, First Nations, Métis, and Aboriginal organizations, to assist in finding solutions to environmental and social problems.”

“The attitude that the Earth is something to be dominated, that humans are outside of the ecosystems on this planet—I think that attitude is also present in other forms of oppression, for example, marginalized communities who are seen as lesser, [and whose] rights can be taken away because of certain groups’ dominance over them,” says Pedersen.

Students can view the old policy on the Sustainable KSA section of the student association’s website, along with a list of the KSA’s commitments and tips for how KPU students can live a more sustainable lifestyle. The new policies have yet to be made available online.

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