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Sustainable SCU: Leading Through Laudato Si'

Santa Clara University's Sustainability Strategic Action Plan through 2030


"Leading through Laudato Si’ isn’t just for programs across Santa Clara University to implement. It invites each of us to consider how individually and collectively we can make a difference."

– Julie Sullivan, President

Read Pres. Sullivan's letter on our sustainability commitment

Our Story

Santa Clara University’s vision statement demonstrates we are a university deeply committed to sustainability:

“Santa Clara University will educate citizens and leaders of competence, conscience, and compassion and cultivate knowledge and faith to build a more humane, just, and sustainable world.” [emphasis ours]

This new sustainability strategic action plan through 2030 Sustainable SCU: Leading Through Laudato Si’ challenges our campus community to more deeply integrate our commitment to caring for the common good and our common home into every aspect of life at SCU.

There are five key areas in this plan – academics, campus engagement, community engagement, energy, and resource use. It is our hope that by integrating efforts that focus on both justice and sustainability, our earth – and its people – will begin to heal and build a resilient future.

SCU has been at the forefront of sustainability leadership for many years, and this new plan offers a chance to deepen our commitments, programs, and engagement to model for the next generations of diverse students how they, too, can become leaders in environmental justice, thanks to their time at SCU.

Learn more about SCU's sustainability awards and history.

About the Plan


SCU, through the Center for Sustainability and Division of Mission and Ministry, has joined more than 130 universities and organizations around the world, committed to Pope Francis’ 7-Year Journey Towards Integral Ecology through the Laudato Si’ Action Platform.

Through this multi-year strategic action plan, each group will continue to define and implement unique paths inspired by the Pope’s goals outlined in his groundbreaking 2015 environmental encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home as well as key points in the 2023 exhortation Laudate Deum.

While the Pope has identified that humanity faces intertwined crises of environmental destruction and social injustice, the pontiff is not alone in suggesting ways to attend to growing threats of climate change, mass extinctions of species, pollution, natural resource depletion, and global inequities.

The five goal areas in our plan match the categories established by AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education), particularly through the performance criteria found in STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System). The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also deeply influenced the plan.

Read more about the strategic action plan.

SCU: Impact 2030

The objectives outlined in this plan have strong connections to the university's overall strategic plan, SCU: Impact 2030. Here are a few of the ways that the five Leading Through Laudato Si' goals contribute to school-wide priorities and commitments:

Leading Through Laudato Si' goal Relates to the following areas in SCU: Impact 2030
  • Priority 1: Reach on a Global Scale, Goal 2
  • Priority 2: Solutions for the Universal Good, Goals 1, 2, and 4
Campus Engagement
  • Priority 1: Reach on a Global Scale, Goal 2
  • Priority 4: Belonging for All Broncos
Community Engagement
  • Priority 1: Reach on a Global Scale, Goal 2
  • Priority 2: Solutions for the Universal Good, Goals 1, 2, and 4
  • Priority 3: Opportunities for All Talented Students
  • Priority 4: Belonging for All Broncos
  • Foundational Commitment Goal 4: Position Santa Clara toward becoming a climate-positive university
  • Foundational Commitment Goal 4: Position Santa Clara toward becoming a climate-positive university

Read SCU: Impact 2030.

Our Approach

This plan is a living document, created by and for our community and beyond, and there is a multitude of ways for members to continue to be involved in the plan through 2030. The plan differs from previous SCU sustainability initiatives in the specific focus on looking for new ways to integrate the principles of environmental and social justice into the efforts of the Center for Sustainability and other organizations on campus.

An integral ecology is inseparable from the notion of the common good, a central and unifying principle of social ethics. The common good is “the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfilment” (Gaudium et Spes qtd. in Laudato Si’ paragraph 156). Read more definitions of terms used in this plan.

Taking inspiration from Laudato Si’ and Laudate Deum, AASHE, and the SDGs, SCU’s Leading Through Laudato Si’ strategic action plan is organized around five key focus areas: Academics, Campus Engagement, Community Engagement, Operations: Energy, and Operations: Resources. These icons represent the focus areas and are found throughout the plan to give context to goals and strategies.

Academics icon, a pencil writing


Campus Engagement icon, a university

Campus Engagement

Community Engagement icon, three people with rays around them

Community Engagement


Energy icon, a gear with a lightning bold in the middle

Operations: Energy

Resources icon, a leaf

Operations: Resources

Plan Development: Broad Community Engagement

In Fall 2022, the Center for Sustainability staff conducted 36 roadshow presentations that included input from more than 450 unique participants (including 30% of participants with no prior engagement with the Center for Sustainability). These initial ideas for the strategic action plan were plentiful and grouped into themes for easier dissemination. Five Working Groups (composed of nearly 60 faculty, staff, students, alumni, administrators, and donors) in the 2022-2023 school year took those roadshow results and other research into consideration as they drafted the initial goals, strategies, and sub-strategies for the plan in the five focus areas.

Throughout the process, there were additional opportunities for input from both the general public through focus group meetings and an Advisory Team. The President and the Cabinet were also kept informed throughout the year.

The Center for Sustainability staff spent Summer 2023 working with key subject-matter experts in each of the plan areas refining the strategies, determining rough estimates of costs as well as a general timeframe for each strategy, and identifying stakeholders to consult during the implementation rollout.

During the October 2023 tUrn week, the first community-wide update officially announced the strategic action plan goals and launched SCU’s Sustainability Playbooks program.

Read more about participation in the planning process.

Opportunities and Priorities Identified

Incorporating our focus on integral ecology principles, the Working Groups were asked to consider how sustainability efforts at SCU were just. To that end, they identified some new key areas that needed to be included in this plan:

  • creating a more inclusive, diverse community
  • reconciling with the local tribal and other marginalized communities
  • building stronger connections with diverse local, regional, national, and global communities for research and partnerships
  • considering new campus investment strategies that reflect social and environmental justice
  • increasing and protecting biodiversity across campus

These areas necessitated practical considerations too – the strategies outlined in each area, for example, built in time for funding to be allocated. In short, this plan forges a new way forward for sustainability at SCU by including more scaffolding for programs and more inclusive practices.