Harvard University is confronting the challenges of climate change and sustainability through research and teaching, and by turning research into action on our campus in order to model an institutional pathway to a more sustainable future. 

From an institutional standpoint, we aim to transform the University into a sustainable community that contributes positive social, economic, and environmental benefits. We are dedicated to institutionalizing best practices in sustainable operations and translating research and teaching into practice by using our campus to pilot innovative solutions that can be widely replicated. We also have a deeper mandate that goes to the heart of Harvard’s research and teaching mission: to educate and empower our students with a deeper understanding of the complexity of sustainability challenges so they are prepapred to address them no matter where their lives may lead.


What is at stake is nothing less than a change in the culture of how we work and live.


In 2004, Harvard adopted a set of Sustainability Principles that define the University’s vision for a healthier, more resilient future. The Principles have provided a broad framework to guide the implementation of projects throughout campus that support the University’s research and teaching mission by enhancing health and wellness, conserving resources and improving the efficiency of campus operations.


Harvard University contributes to the global environment and human well-being in several important ways. Through its primary mission of research, education, and outreach, Harvard’s faculty have made significant advances in many areas, including science, economics, public policy, design, medicine, and public health. The University’s academic contributions provide a considerable opportunity and responsibility to consider the example set by the economic, human health, and environmental performance of its campus. Harvard also influences generations of students whose future behaviors and decisions are shaped by what they learn from their campus experience and the actions of the University’s leaders.

The University has an affirmative record of responsible compliance with environmental and safety regulations and a proven effective system of environmental management accountability. As Harvard plans its future growth, these considerations should support planning decisions that reflect a balance of economic, environmental, and socially responsible values.

The following principles are intended to guide Harvard’s practices toward sustainability through the management of building design, construction, renovation, procurement, landscape, energy, water, waste, emissions, transportation, human health, and productivity.

Sustainability Principles

Harvard University is committed to developing and maintaining an environment that enhances human health and fosters a transition toward sustainability. Sustainability should be advanced through research, analysis, and experience gained over time. To that end, Harvard University is committed to continuous improvement in:

  • Demonstrating institutional practices that promote sustainability, including measures to increase efficiency and use of renewable resources, and to decrease production of waste and hazardous materials, both in Harvard’s own operations and in those of its suppliers.
  • Promoting health, productivity, and safety of the University community through design and maintenance of the built environment.
  • Enhancing the health of campus ecosystems and increasing the diversity of native species.
  • Developing planning tools to enable comparative analysis of sustainability implications and to support long-term economic, environmental, and socially responsible decision-making
  • Encouraging environmental inquiry and institutional learning throughout the University community.
  • Establishing indicators for sustainability that will enable monitoring reporting and continuous improvement.

Read the Harvard Gazette article announcing the adoption of Harvard's Sustainability Principles