Quality and Productivity Database

Descriptive Title of Proposal: Catalyzing a culture of sustainability at McGill with the Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF)
Year Submitted 2016
Person(s) Responsible for the Idea
Name Title
Francois Miller
Name of Institution McGill University
Office Address 1010 Sherbrooke W./O. #1200
Montreal, Quebec H3A 2R7
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Telephone: 514-398-4675
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.
Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Michael Di Grappa
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Vice-Principal, Administration and Finance
Office Address James Administration Building
845 Sherbrooke Street West, Room 531
Montreal, Quebec H3A 0G4
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Telephone: 514-398-6037
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.

The Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF) is a crown jewel of McGill's sustainability efforts and a best-practice model for universities. The SPF's main goal is to build a culture of sustainability on McGill's campuses through the development and seed-funding of interdisciplinary projects. The SPF is one of the largest dedicated campus sustainability funds of its kind in North America, and is uniquely committed to collaboration between students and staff in its financing, decision-making, and project leadership.

Since its creation in 2010, the SPF has awarded funds to 150 projects worth $4.8 million, which have yielded dramatic and lasting improvements to McGill's social, economic, and environmental sustainability performance. Every significant sustainability achievement at McGill over the past several years-from local and sustainable food sourcing to emissions reduction to Aboriginal engagement-has been facilitated to some degree by SPF money. The financing of the SPF is based on a model of equal partnership between students and staff, and funded by student fees matched dollar-for-dollar by the McGill administration (approximately $850,000 per year).

The SPF allocates seed funding to interdisciplinary projects led by a current McGill University student, faculty, or staff member, to help build a culture of sustainability on McGill campuses. To date, approximately 50% of projects have been led by students and 50% by staff, with the vast majority of project teams including both staff and students. Funding is allocated via a competitive process, and decisions are made by a multi-stakeholder Working Group. In the spirit of staff-student parity that drives the SPF, the Working Group consists of eight voting members: four students, two academic staff, and two non-academic staff. The SPF projects that are selected must respect nine criteria to ensure that they align with the goals of the Fund and will have maximum impact. (See attached SPF Evaluation Criteria.)

In the years since it was created, the Sustainability Projects Fund has helped position McGill as a sustainability leader, fostered collaboration and goodwill on campus, and, by leveraging funding from multiple sources, ensured continued investment in sustainability even in times of fiscal constraint. .

Criteria Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.

This model can be applied at any university or college that is interested in kick-starting sustainability initiatives. Though McGill's fund is quite large, it could be implemented at many scales. At McGill, the collaborative financing structure (50% student funding, 50% administrative funding) has been key in building and sustaining support for the Fund. The collaborative decision-making process has also been important, and is easily replicable. The process of creating and administering the SPF is well-documented on the website of the McGill Office of Sustainability, and McGill-created resources for green fund staff and project applicants are available in opensource format, including detailed guides for budgeting and project management. (See attached SPF Guide to Budgeting & SPF Project Management Guide.) Information about the SPF is also available on the database of campus green funds maintained by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). McGill Office of Sustainability staff gave a presentation titled "Building a catalyzing collaborative funding process: McGill's transferable lessons" at the 20 I 0 AAS HE national conference, and co-authored a 30-page How-To Guide for Campus Green Fund Implementation in 2014, available for download on the AASHE website.

Quality Impact

The SPF has provided an efficient way for McGill to achieve major progress toward sustainability during tight budget times. The matched funding model has motivated both students and the administration to continue to invest in sustainability initiatives because they know that their dollars will go twice as far. The SPF publishes an annual report each year, highlighting both financial data and project impacts. (See attached 2015 Annual Report) The true impact of the SPF can be seen through the myriad projects it finances, a full list of which can be found on the McGill Office of Sustainability website. Examples include:

Edible Campus ($57,000), an innovative partnership-based project in which fresh vegetables are grown on McGill's downtown campus and supplied, via a community organization, to hundreds of households in need in the Montreal area. The Edible Campus has provided learning opportunities for numerous undergraduate and graduate students, resulted in highcalibre publications, and been replicated in Argentina, China, India and elsewhere.

McGill Feeding McGill ($24,720), a project that enables locally grown fruits and vegetables from McGill's campus farm to be provided to McGill's downtown residences. Students, professors, and staff have worked together to use this experience as in-class case study for students in agriculture and environment.

Vision 2020 ($140,000), a project that brought together the McGill community to build an overarching sustainability vision and strategy for the University.

Sustainable Procurement Officer ($184,000), a project that helped the University create a new position to influence development and uptake of sustainable procurement practices at McGill through training and capacity-building.

Anti-Oppression Program ($74,250), a project that established a new dialogue and standards for acceptable practices of social and institutional sustainability related to issues that new students face in McGill residences such as race, religion, culture, and mental health.

Productivity Impact

Overall impact of the SPF since its creation in 2010:

• $4.8 million awarded in support of 150 projects (half from student fees);

• 250 student jobs created;

• 25 peer-reviewed papers published or in review;

• 310 students received course credit for contributing to SPF projects;

• 1,750 students took courses in which SPF projects have been integrated;

• 1,800+ volunteers mobilized for SPF projects;

• 14 acres of McGill land now growing food arumally to feed McGill community members.

• Annual purchase ofover 30,000 kilos of produce, 3,000 kilos of beef, and 135,000 eggs annually from McGill's Macdonald Campus Farm to serve in dining halls, contrasted with almost no intercampus purchasing prior to SPF.

• Real-time online map powered by 400 energy meters tracks energy use in 70 campus buildings.


The SPF's main goal is to build a culture of sustainability on McGill campuses through the development and seed-funding of interdisciplinary projects. As one of the first and largest campus green funds in North America, the SPF is unique in many respects. Three of the main innovative features of the SPF that enable the SPF to achieve its mandate are that it is:

Large - At $850,000 per year, the SPF is large enough to finance complex projects, including purchase of major equipment, hiring of unionized staff, and support ofresearch-related endeavors. The varied sources of financing for the Fund (student fees, University operating budget, University capital budget, grants) also add complexity. Through trial and error, SPF staff have learned to navigate-and help project teams navigate-each of these situations with efficiency and transparency.

Mature and professional - The SPF has been in operation longer than many other green funds and has weathered many growth-related transitions that other funds will face-staff turnover, negotiations over fund renewal, helping flagship projects achieve financial independence, aligning funding criteria with institutional priorities, and the need to streamline and document processes that were, in the early stages of the Fund, somewhat informal. This process of professionalization has been a particular priority for SPF staff in the past year. (See attached 2015 Annual Report for more on this process.)

Collaborative - The ethos of staff-student partnership permeates all aspects of the SPF and has been critical to its success. Maintaining and supporting this culture of shared responsibility and joint ownership takes constant work, but also enables the lasting institutional change that has been the goal of the SPF from the start.