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Jessica Davis, Chief Sustainability Officer, Indiana University

Indiana University Names First Chief Sustainability Officer: 6 Things to Know

October 5, 2023 by Joe Panettieri

Indiana University (IU) has named Jessica Davis as associate vice president and the university's first chief sustainability officer (CSO).

Here are six things to know about Davis's experience and Indiana University's sustainability strategy.

1. University Scope and Scale: Indiana University, founded in 1820, has roughly 110,000 students and 8,733 academic staff. The university has nine campuses that extend across 3,640 acres.

2. Sustainability Plan: Indiana University unveiled a new Climate Action Plan in September 2023. The plan seeks to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040 by "reducing direct emissions from university-owned or -controlled sources, and indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, heating and cooling."

The Climate Action Plan covers these six areas, according to the University:

  1. Utility grid: Collaborating with local utilities and the state of Indiana to support grid decarbonization.
  2. Infrastructure: Enhancing energy efficiency and resilience in building design; heating, cooling and energy distribution systems; fleets; and equipment.
  3. Renewables: Implementing renewable energy to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
  4. Behavior: Encouraging changes to reduce energy consumption and optimize space and scheduling.
  5. Financing: Establishing funding mechanisms to support energy-efficiency projects, renewable energy implementation and resilience initiatives.
  6. Implementation: Developing structures to effectively execute and monitor the plan.

3. Projects and Goals: The university's core Climate Action Plan priorities includes these projects and priorities:

  1. Converting campus heating systems to hot-water loops;
  2. investigating renewable energy options for the Bloomington campus central heating plant;
  3. using heat pumps at the building level;
  4. continuing to invest in energy conservation measures, such as LED lighting and enhancing building-system efficiency;
  5. installing heat recovery systems;
  6. fostering behavior changes such as turning off lights when a room is not in use; and
  7. installing solar where financially and logistically feasible.

4. Dollars and Cents: Funding for the plan will come from five areas:

  1. Energy savings;
  2. continuing to use repair and rehabilitation funds;
  3. partnering with the state of Indiana for major capital improvements;
  4. fostering grant applications; and
  5. identifying philanthropic, corporate, foundation, federal and other funding opportunities.

5. Jessica Davis's Expertise and Experience: Davis will guide the Climate Action Plan implementation efforts on all campuses, including overseeing sustainability directors for the Bloomington, Indianapolis and regional campuses, the University said.

Davis previously was interim university director of sustainability, and leads the IUPUI Office of Sustainability. She is an associate faculty member in the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI. She has also served as the assistant director of the IUPUI Center for Earth and Environmental Science and a program manager for the Marian University Institute for Green and Sustainable Science, according to her bio.

Thomas Morrison Indiana University
Thomas Morrison, VP for capital planning and facilities and chair of the Climate Action Planning Committee, Indiana University

6. Leadership Perspectives: In a prepared statement about Davis's new role, Thomas A. Morrison, VP for capital planning and facilities and chair of the Climate Action Planning Committee, said: “Jessica has been a champion of on-campus sustainability efforts while also recognizing the need to build relationships with our community partners that will expand the impact of those efforts. Her energetic yet measured approach to exploring new opportunities, particularly as technologies continue to emerge, will allow IU to work toward carbon neutrality in a resilient, responsible and innovative manner.”

Added Davis: “Thanks to the dedication of many across Indiana University, our campuses have a long and impressive history of sustainability. The Climate Action Plan builds on that history and represents IU’s most significant sustainability commitment to date. I look forward to working with students, faculty, staff and community partners as we accelerate our collective pursuit of a thriving and resilient Indiana University.”

University Chief Sustainability Officers: Recent Moves

Multiple universities have hired or promoted chief sustainability officers (CSOs) in 2023. Examples include:

Meanwhile, numerous colleges and universities now hold various sustainability, carbon reduction and green IT conferences. Check our Sustainability Conference Calendar for all events worldwide.

University Chief Sustainability Officers: Why Technology Partners Should Care

By 2027, 25% of Global 2000 companies will have assigned a chief sustainability officer (CSO) responsible for meeting their organization’s ESG goals and making ESG-related IT purchasing decisions, according to IDC.

The bottom line: Technology partners need to extend their sales, marketing, engagement and support strategies to successfully fulfill those CSO needs, Sustainable Tech Partner believes.

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