Chile joins Ibero-American sustainability in HE network

Chile has joined the environmental, social and corporate governance network MetaRed ESG, a new Ibero-American network focused on promoting sustainability as a strategic feature of higher education institutions.

MetaRed ESG, made up of eight Ibero-American countries, is a network of networks that supports social responsibility and sustainability in universities and coordinates sustainability learning among different institutions. It also promotes sustainability challenges among top authorities.

At present, the initiative is being implemented in eight countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Spain, Mexico, Peru, Portugal – and now Chile.

55 Chilean institutions taking part

In Chile, 55 higher institutions will take part in the collaborative project. Universidad de Chile will lead this network and its rector, Rosa Devés, will be the network’s president.

“This alliance is an expression of the collaborative will needed to face the challenges of making our higher education institutions sustainable spaces for building a responsible social and environmental future,” Devés said.

The initiative originated in the fourth international meeting of rectors of Universia in Salamanca, Spain, in 2018. Universia is a network of 827 universities in 23 Ibero-American countries.

Some 700 university rectors from all over the world attended the 2018 meeting and issued a joint statement that highlighted technology’s potential to transform the educational and operational model of higher education institutions and the importance of strengthening alliances and collaboration among them.

Anahí Urquiza Gómez, who heads Universidad de Chile’s sustainability committee and is innovation director in the same university, said: “Sustainability forces us to look and work together in a more integrated and diverse manner. This is why MetaRed network’s working groups include leaders of private, state and regional institutions.

“MetaRed ESG also provides the opportunity to link up with other countries in Latin America behind the common agenda of the UN Objectives of Sustainable Development.”

“Today higher education institutions have to be more transparent, more efficient and sustainable, use less resources and make sure that teaching and research in our organisations promotes a culture of sustainability,” she said.

Substantive organisational change needed

She said that to achieve this, they need to carry out substantive organisational changes and be managed in a transparent and efficient fashion, taking into consideration both the benefits to their members and the impact on the direct environment in which they operate.

“There are no easy answers to this, which is why [learning] from the experience of other higher education institutions and having access to first-rate academic tools is a great learning opportunity,” she added.

She said that in Chile they will focus initially in five working groups: training and building members’ capabilities, developing appropriate indicators, carrying out curricular reforms, higher education institutions’ contributions to the United Nations 2030 agenda and good environmental and governance practices.

In order to do this, they will work hand in hand with the mirror groups of the International Sustainable Campus Network, carrying out workshops, evaluations and discussing results. In parallel, they will coordinate with other countries in the region that have given priority to the same working groups.

MetaRed ESG Chile will attempt to create synergies among higher education institutions. It will have the support of the International Sustainable Campus Network, an association of 41 higher education and professional institutions intent on promoting sustainability.

The MetaRed ESG initiative is already being implemented in Argentina, Colombia, Spain, Mexico, Peru and Portugal.