UNU-IAS established a new academic platform in 2020, UNU SDG–Universities Platform (SDG-UP), for Japanese universities to collaborate and exchange dialogue on opportunities and challenges in promoting the SDGs. SDG–UP is designed to contribute to the sustainable development of Japan and the world through collaboration between the United Nations University and Japanese universities. The project activities aim to take the lead in transforming individual behaviours of stakeholders involved in higher education sectors, aiming to realise a more resilient society, and support individuals to take actions to ensure a more sustainable future for all.
As the importance of SDGs and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) gain more recognition at the global level, there is an increasing need for universities to be more involved in promoting SDGs in the field of research and education as well as their management and operations of campuses. Although Japanese universities have made noteworthy efforts in different fields of expertise, the need has been identified to further strengthen their efforts to increase the presence of Japanese universities in international communities. SDG–UP aims to strengthen Japanese universities’ SDGs initiatives and partnerships with stakeholders, to increase its presence in international academic communities and to contribute towards achieving the SDGs both locally and internationally.
In 2021, 28 universities were selected to participate in this platform from all over Japan. In the membership selection process, the diversity of universities was carefully considered by regional balance, size and types of the universities, as well as specialization of the each participation universities. During the first year, the six workshops took place online and with hybrid format. SDG-related initiatives of 28 participating universities were shared and discussed together with special lecturers on the importance of external evaluations including Times Higher Education Impact Ranking, and Yale Sustainability Initiatives. The special features of the workshops are the direct dialogue with international renown professionals and discuss/debates among representatives of the universities in different subjects surrounding SDGs. In the last session of 2021, summary panel discussions (SDG curriculum, Management, Sustainable Finance, Evaluation and Accountability) were organized and a total of four recommendations were agreed by the participating universities. The year of 2021 will be focused more in the realisation of these recommendations.