Sustainable Development Goals 2030

Western : A World Leader


The University’s commitment to sustainable development, assessed through its contribution to the United Nations 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), was recognised by the new Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Ranking ranked 1st overall in the world in
2022 and 2023.

Unlocking Impact

The world gradually opened its borders in 2022 after two years of lockdown to a new global landscape. Worldwide there was geopolitical instability, war, food and energy insecurity, increasing climate disasters, high inflation and the threat of economic recession. Extreme poverty increased for the first time in a generation wiping out 25 years of progress. In Australia our Federal Government changed, commitments to net zero transitions and carbon management increased, and New South Wales experienced its second year of devastating flooding as costs of living rose.

As an institution deeply committed to the region of Western Sydney we remain determined to make positive change for the greater good. We have continued to bring together our best researchers and educators, as well as our students, to work collaboratively towards ensuring the generations to come have a healthy sustainable future. Together we can unlock possibilities and create impact for a healthy, resilient future for western Sydney and beyond.

Our eighth annual sustainability report "Unlocking Impact" details not just our world rankings success in the THE Impact Rankings but our enduring work across our CORE (Curriculum, Operations, Research and Engagement) framework.

THE Impact Rankings

For the second consecutive year Western Sydney University has been recognised as 1st in the world overall for its social, ecological and economic impact under the 2023 Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings. These prestigious rankings recognise our commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and are based on universities’ teaching, research, outreach and stewardship. This is the fifth year of the THE University Impact Rankings, with Western Sydney University topping the list out of more than 1,700 institutions.

The University has also been ranked in the top ten Universities in the world against the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognising our sector leading social and ecological sustainability focus: 

  • 1st in the world for SDG 5 Gender Equality, SDG 12 Responsible Consumption and Production, and SDG 17 Partnership for the Goals
  • 2nd in the world for SDG 6 Clean Water and Sanitation and SDG 15 Life on Land
  • 3rd in the world for SDG 10 Reduced Inequalities
  • 4th in the world for SDG 3 Good Health and Wellbeing
  • 5th in the world for SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 7th in the world for SDG 13 Climate Action

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all 194 United Nations Member States in 2015, identifies 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries in a global partnership. The framework is valuable for tertiary education institutions because it empowers universities to frame strategies and action plans that address complex challenges related to poverty, inequality, health, production and consumption of resources and climate change. Western’s Curriculum, Operations, Research and Engagement (CORE) focus have alignment with the SDGs.

Western Sydney University's Commitment to the SDGs

In 2017 Western signed the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Higher Education Commitment joining an innovative group of Australian and New Zealand universities. Our University has acknowledged the responsibility ‘through their teaching to equip the next generation of leaders, innovators and thinkers to understand the global challenges facing the world and the role they can play in rising to meet these challenges’.

In becoming an educational signatory to the SDSN Initiative the University has committed to support and promote the principles of the SDGs:

  • Undertake research that provides solutions to sustainable development challenges;
  • Provide the educational opportunity for our students to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development;
  • Contribute to the achievement of the SDGs by ensuring our campuses and major programs are environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive, and
  • Report on our activities in support of the SDGs.

Sustainability and Resilience 2030 Decadal Strategy

Sustainability and Resilience 2030 is a call to come together as a community around key aspirations that frame a vision for just transitions to sustainable ways of living that leave no one behind. It asks us all to proactively recognise and reimagine the interdependence of life, starting within our region Greater Western Sydney, and also to recognise the contribution that we have in a wider global context. It asks us to reimagine the transitions that are urgently needed to tackle the challenges of the 21st century that are so profoundly redefining human social life. Our Nine Interconnected Priority Statements have been developed to focus our actions for the decade to 2030, as both a challenge and an opportunity for the University.

A 21st century curriculum for a changing world

The 21C Project reflects our commitment as an anchor institution for the communities of Western Sydney and our recognised national and international leadership in relation to championing just and responsible social change through the United Nations SDGs.

Research with Impact

The University is committed to collaboration with our local, regional, national and international communities to contribute to their economic, social and environmental wellbeing. Our research at Western spans four interdisciplinary themes aligned with internationally recognised strengths, National Research Priorities and the future of Western Sydney:

  • Education and work: SDG 4 
  • Environment and sustainability: SDG 13, 14, 15 
  • Health and wellbeing: SDG 3 
  • Urban living futures and society: SDG 11, 12 

Environmental Sustainability

Western Sydney University has a clear obligation to plan and implement actions for a more sustainable future. The Environmental Sustainability team, situated in the Office of Estate and Commercial at Western, seeks to develop practical and collaborative actions to emerging issues such as climate change and social responsibility. Progress in relation to organisational commitments and expectations, mitigation of environmental risks, and ensuring environmental compliance are all part of the business of environmental sustainability.

Local and Global Networks

Hosted by Western Sydney University, RCE Greater Western Sydney (RCE-GWS), formally acknowledged by the United Nations University, is focused on Education for Sustainable Development and the SDGs within our local and
global regions. Our partners, who include the region’s educational institutions, organisations, businesses, community groups and local government, work together on tackling our region’s biggest sustainability challenges. Western is one 1 of 170 recognised RCEs globally and has strong links with the Asia-Pacific.

The global RCE network is coordinated and delivered through the United Nations University and aspires to achieve the goals of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD, 2005 - 2014). The Global Action Programme (GAP) on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is the follow-up to the DESD which seeks to generate and scale up concrete actions in ESD. The focus is now to contribute to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the SDGs.