The UNSDGs and Our Journey to the EDGE Certification

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The UNSDGs and Our Journey to the EDGE Certification

Written by Jaspal Sidhu
SIS Group of Schools, Founder and Chairman

Jaspal Sidhu

From school closures to hybrid teaching and learning and to wearing of masks, covid19 will have a long-lasting impact on our students . This pandemic would have seen multiple conversations in every classroom , across all geographies around the challenges within our environment and our health practices.

For the SIS Group of Schools, the pandemic shed an immediate light on the inequalities in our societies, and sensitized us further to the many issues in our immediate communities. We saw this crisis as an opportunity to formally embrace the United Nations Sustainable Developmental Goals (UNSDGs) with the hope that by implementing these principles within our schools’ governance, operations and culture, SIS would be able to directly influence its wider community as well.

Given that SIS has always been about making quality education affordable, the move to embrace 8 of the 17 Goals was not a very difficult process. I believe it’s because our Group culture is very much set around this idea of sustainability , and we understand that our actions really matter.

Our school programs have always been centered around projects , where students apply what they learn to examine real-world issues. earthday day, UN Day, noplastic day, plantatree day, savewater campaigns and publicprivatepartnerships to uplift neighboring schools have all been very much part of the SIS award-winning school systems. Being in a strategic partnership with the IFC – International Finance Corporation (World Bank Group ), our robust reporting around diversity , equity and inclusion (DEI) as well as environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters have been central to the requirements of the funds we access.

Nevertheless, we felt there was a need for a long-lasting guiding compass for our responsibility towards our environment . A strong and open commitment was needed for specifics where a whole school approach, and strategies, activities and projects emerging from it, will help us inspire students to understand that their journey with SIS and their actions will contribute to the progress of the communities where they live.

Last year the SIS Council of Head Teachers huddled with the Board and other stakeholders. Over a period of time,  we looked at our mission and vision, asked what we are about and what we can really achieve for a better world given the resources we have. This process culminated in SIS embracing the following 8 UNSDGs; Goal 3 – Good Health and Well-being. Goal 4 – Quality Education. Goal 5 – Gender Equality. Goal 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation. Goal 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy. Goal 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production. Goal 14– Life Below Water. Goal 15 – Life on Land.

What does this mean for us now?

It means our operational focus on the 3 Ps of our SIS schools (People, Program and Place) will have a further spotlight on our environment while keeping the desired student learning outcomes in mind.

It means we will have exciting and structured programs for every educator and non-teaching staff in SIS to be introduced to local environmental, social and economic issues. We will also now examine the individual’s attitude towards the environment before a hire takes place.

It means the SIS Programs and Projects will be nuanced to community issues where our educators can provide the context and purpose to their learnings. Learning after all is more powerful when it’s applied to the immediate environment outside the classroom.

It means there will be an even closer examination of our physical environment. Questions on annual capital expenditures must include answers to what a post-pandemic SIS school would be like.

It is our collective believe that all school buildings must reflect the culture and brand of a school, and therefore our position on the environment must become physically evident and not just reflected in words on brochures and websites.

The EDGE Certification

Embracing the UNSDGs drew a desire for an internationally recognized green certification for our campuses. One that will sit as a badge of honor, responsibility and provide a learning and teaching environment in harmony with nature. Given our long-standing partnership with IFC – International Finance Corporation (World Bank), we naturally looked at their EDGE certification @edgebuildings to give us a verification instrument. EDGE is an IFC innovation looking at a global green building certification system focused on making buildings more resource efficient.

When our ASIS campus in Chennai was in the process of construction, we selected this campus to be our first in our quest for EDGE certifications. My first act was to share with Arjun Kalasalingam, my counterpart on the ASIS Board, the benefits of the EDGE certification. Given the reputation of the Kalasalingam Group of the Kalasalingam University a forward-looking institution, this was easy.

The very useful EDGE App allowed a very quick insight for us to determine the best resource-efficient measures to incorporate. The cost calculator helped us decide the best green options and estimate the incremental costs of green building. Thanks to the guidance of Autif Sayyed (Project Lead for Green Buildings, IFC), and the short certification workflow, we were able to complete this without too many challenges.

This certification marks an important and proud day for us. It is a clear sense of achievement by a team of like-minded individuals who genuinely believe that sustainable communities and better use of resources will help us build a better future for our children.

The design choices made for this project predict energy savings of 49%, water savings of 25% and 42% less embodied energy in materials . By achieving more than 40 percent energy savings, our ASIS campus qualified as EDGE Advanced, a higher level of the EDGE certification.

This process continues to strengthen our resolve towards promises the SIS Group of Schools makes to its stakeholders.  This was a promise to embrace the UNSDGs and then to achieve a global green certification within our network, and we achieved it. The experience will now guide us to move all our campuses in that direction.

Finally, certifications and accolades aside, we must always be conscious that every classroom in any shape or form has young aspirational faces who want a betterworld and a betterfuture for themselves. We will let them down if we do not help them achieve that.

I encourage every school to join us in embracing the UNSDGs and make their campuses EDGE certified.