University of Cape Town (UCT)

ISCN-GULF Sustainable Campus Charter Report 2011


Campus Sustainability

The University of Cape Town (UCT) has gradually established a commitment to a sustainable campus over the last few decades, since the signing of the Talloires Declaration in 1990. In 2001 the Environmental Management Working Group (EMWG) was formed to coordinate the implementation of the Talloires commitments and remains the centre of environmental management of campus operations. A draft environmental policy was developed by the EMWG in 2003, which includes sustainability in operations as well as in research, education and outreach and is aligned with the ISCN-GULF Charter. While this policy has guided campus sustainability, this has yet to be formally adopted. A further initiative to develop a policy framework began following discussions at the Global University Leaders Forum (GULF) at the World Economic Forum in 2007. This resulted in the development of the Green Campus Policy Framework in May 2008, which was formally adopted by the University Senate and Council in that year. This lead to the development of the Green Campus Action Plan 2008, which has gradually been implemented through the UCT Properties and Services department, the EMWG and the student initiative, the Green Campus Initiative (GCI), a student-led movement.

It is hoped that reporting in terms of the ISCN-GULF Sustainable Campus Charter will add to the momentum of progress towards a sustainable campus, in terms of policy and practices and education and research.

About UCT

The University of Cape Town is South Africa’s oldest university, founded in 1829 as the South African College, and developed into a fully fledged university during the period 1880 to 1900. The main campus comprises an iconic set of buildings of heritage value, located on the slopes of Table Mountain, which is a World Heritage Site, a national park and is considered a global biodiversity ‘hotspot’.

The university has eight faculties, over 50 departments, more than 60 specialist research units and is home to more than a quarter of South Africa's A-rated researchers. It has approximately 25 000 students, and employs over 5 000 staff members, with 937 academics. The student body comprises 22% international students contributing to the richness of academic, social and cultural diversity. The estate comprises more than 75 buildings on its Main Campus, and has a number of satellite campuses across the city, including the Health Sciences Campus, Hiddingh Fine Arts campus, and the Graduate School of Business.

Community and Culture/Mission

UCT is committed to producing graduates who are not only well-educated, but also mindful of the responsibilities of democratic citizenship. During the 1980s, UCT was known for its opposition to Apartheid, and today the institution remains committed to social transformation. UCT seeks to contribute to addressing problems of global significance, as well as local societal challenges, through a wide range of socially responsive activities.

Governance and Institutional Context

UCT is governed by a Council comprising the Vice-Chancellor, 4-5 Deputy Vice-Chancellors, academics, and external members. The Properties and Services department is responsible for the provision of all services, the procurement of new buildings and maintenance of existing facilities. The Environmental Risk Officer is based in this department and it employs the services of the Sustainability Coordinator.

The management of operational environmental issues is overseen by the Environmental Management Working Group, which reports to the University Building and Development Committee (UB&DC), a formal committee of the university. Their work is guided by the Green Campus Policy Framework, with key aims and objectives including energy savings, reduction of carbon emissions, waste recycling and water conservation. Further to these objectives, the Framework policy recognises the need for a holistic approach to integrating sustainability thinking and practice across all aspects of university life. The EMWG oversees the implementation of the Green Campus Action Plan. Implementation is presently funded from maintenance and operational budgets since a ‘green fund’ or financing model has not yet been developed. As is the case in developed countries with government carbon reduction commitments, UCT does not receive funding for campus greening from government.

About this Report

This Charter Report is the first of its kind for the University of Cape Town and is for the period January 2011 to December 2011. Its aim is to provide a baseline for key data as a starting point for more detailed reporting in the future. This report draws on information in the Green Campus Action Plan and related Audit Report of 2009/2010 and the UCT Carbon Footprint developed by the Energy Research Centre. Supporting documents can be found at

Principle 1 – Sustainability Performance of Buildings on Campus