In 2009, American University issued a strategic plan, Leadership for a Changing World, articulating ten transformational goals for the next decade. Goal number seven declares the university's commitment to "Act on our values of social responsibility, service [and] an active pursuit of sustainability." In order to help achieve this and other strategic goals, this plan integrates and coordinates sustainability throughout the university.
The Office of Sustainability was created in 2009 to assist in reaching this goal. In 2010, AU adopted sustainability policies, produced a climate action plan, and assessed the university's sustainability using the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS). In January 2011, the university published its first comprehensive sustainability report, earning a STARS Gold rating.
In 2011, the university charged the Sustainability Project Team, comprising students, faculty, staff, and alumni, with weaving these programs into a single, comprehensive sustainability plan.