The Secretariat of University Presidents for a Sustainable Future was founded in 1992 as a direct result of the
Talloires Declaration. This historic document was composed in 1990 at an international conference on "The Role
of Universities in Environmental Management and Sustainable Development," held in Talloires, France at the
Tufts University European Center. It is the first official statement made by university administrators of a
commitment to sustainability in higher education. It includes a concise introduction identifying the urgent
need for leadership from higher education and a ten-point action plan for incorporating environmental literacy
and sustainability into university teaching and practice. The twenty-two university presidents and chancellors
participating in the conference signed the Talloires Declaration at the conclusion of the event and pledged to
encourage their colleagues at other institutions to do the same.
The tenth point of action in the Declaration calls for the creation of a Secretariat to continue the momentum,
and to "inform and support each other's efforts in carrying out this declaration." Tufts University, as
initiator of the Talloires conference, offered to host such an office at its Medford, Massachusetts campus in
the United States. Thus the Secretariat of University Presidents for a Sustainable Future was inaugurated in
1992 with funding from the MacArthur Foundation.
Dr. Tony Cortese, then Dean of Environmental Programs at Tufts, and an organizer of the October 1990 event,
had been actively encouraging college and university presidents to endorse the Declaration. Within a year of
the creation of the Declaration, about 125 institutions had signed on.
Cortese hired Dr. Tom Kelly to direct the new Secretariat. Over the next few years, Kelly continued to
cultivate and support a growing Talloires Declaration signatory network and to run the Tufts Environmental
Literacy Institute (TELI), an annual faculty development workshop founded by Cortese in 1989. In 1995, Kelly
changed the name of the Secretariat to the Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future (ULSF),
reflecting both a new focus on all levels of leadership within higher education, including senior
administrators, faculty, staff and students, and the introduction of a formal membership structure.
Through mid-1997, ULSF maintained an institutional affiliation
with Tufts University through the Fletcher School of Law and
Diplomacy. In July 1997, ULSF moved to Washington, DC to become
the higher education program of the Center
for Respect of Life and Environment (CRLE). While continuing
to serve as Secretariat for signatories of the Talloires Declaration,
ULSF expanded its programs and services after 1997 to include
sustainability assessment, research on theoretical models and
case studies of sustainability initiatives in higher education,
formative evaluation of sustainability initiatives, and forming
new international partnerships to advance sustainability in
higher education globally.
ULSF became independent of CRLE in 2007, functioning as a virtual
organization and maintaining its position as Secretariat for
signatories of the Talloires Declaration.