Sustainable and equal campus
We are systematically shaping an increasingly sustainable and responsible way of living at the University, which will better acknowledge the ecological limits of the planet, promote equality, non-discrimination and accessibility as well as ensure the continuity of our operations for future generations.

Sustainability and responsibility in academic day-to-day life includes the development of administration, efforts related to equality and diversity, the promotion of a carbon-neutral circular economy and biodiversity, as well as responsible investment.

Values

In connection with the new strategic plan, we updated the values of the University of Helsinki community. They are truth, Bildung, freedom and inclusivity – the basis for everything we are striving for and everything we see as good or bad.

Values should also be seen, in a concrete manner, in everyday activities.

Equality, diversity and accessibility

At the University of Helsinki, equality and diversity mean the equal and non-discriminating treatment of all members of the University community as well as the promotion of their study- and work-related wellbeing in such a manner that all members can proudly say that they belong to the world’s best academic community. Our goal is to be at the forefront of engendering an atmosphere respectful of diversity, as well as a healthy study and work environment.

The work is not yet done. Rather, we actively strive to further enhance the equality of our University community. We identify and remove practices and structures that create and sustain inequality. Our everyday activities and interaction are guided by the Strategic Plan of the University of Helsinki 2021–2030: With the power of knowledge – for the world and the University’s shared values: truth, Bildung, freedom and inclusivity.

Equality and, as a related factor, accessibility contribute to the quality of everyday life for the diverse and multilingual University community.

 

Equality and Diversity Committee

 

The Equality and Diversity Committee is a body under the vice-rector, representing the whole spectrum of the University community. 

The members of the Committee are appointed to include representatives of different genders, all staff groups of the University, students, and members of the University community of different ages as well as groups with particular insight or experience regarding equality issues.

Goals and background – Boosted by genuine and responsible interaction

Equality is an issue that affects all University staff: teachers, researchers, support staff and specialist staff. Our equality efforts are based on the equality and diversity plan, the first of which was drawn up in the 1990s. The latest version of the plan is valid from 2021 to 2024. Its focus areas are:

We perceive inclusion from the perspectives of cultural sensitivity and anti-racism, equality of religion and belief, accessibility, special arrangements and equal assessment practices, and the promotion of equality of gender and sexual minorities. Tangible development measures include inclusion training as well as multilingualism and linguistic diversity. 

The promotion of equal leadership work relates to recruitment, salaries and career development, the status of fixed-term staff and grant-funded researchers, support for studying and teaching at units, the reconciliation of work, studies and personal life as well as the promotion of age equality. Tangible development measures include influencing the Academic Affairs Council and the Research Council. 

Sustainability and responsibility are evidenced in teaching and research. We employ gender studies as a tool for the enhancement of equality and develop continuous learning as a perspective to the promotion of equality.

Tangible development measures include active participation in the international LERU and UNA Europa networks as well as in the University’s Sustainability and Responsibility Committee.

Measures taken to promote equality and diversity

At the University, equality efforts are carried out in a genuine, responsible and interactive manner.

In recent years, we have, among other things, conducted surveys and drawn up reports on the current status of equality and diversity and organised a range of events to raise awareness of related issues. These surveys and reports have also taken into consideration various staff groups and students.

The results have been announced to the entire University community through various communication channels. The reports show that the University’s various individuals and institutions consider work for equality and diversity to be very important.

The events organised have included anti-racism training concerning implicit bias and a discussion session on bold role models at the University. In addition, the Minna Canth equality training (link in Finnish only) and Helsinki Pride events are part of our equality efforts.

 

Actions and events in 2021–2024 

 

In the coming years, we will organise inclusion training, highlight and clarify our language policy as well as make our recruitment process increasingly open and equal.

We will continue to hold discussions on various themes and take part in Helsinki Pride, in addition to which we will provide staff with training concerning special study-related arrangements for students. 

Accessibility at the University

 

The University of Helsinki strives to enhance its services, facilities and operations so that they will be suitable for all. We comply with the principles of equality, non-discrimination and inclusion. Inclusion means accommodating everyone, as a matter of course, so that everyone can participate equally in any activity.

A good environment does not categorise people on the basis of their physical abilities or disabilities: it is accessible. The same applies to various functions, which may be related to studies, work or, say, applying to the university. When they have been made accessible, everyone is able to function equally irrespective of their personal characteristics related to sight, hearing, mobility, age or any other such factors. Sometimes this requires special arrangements or aids.

 

Promotion of accessibility

 

The various needs of people with disabilities must be considered in all planning as part of the diversity of humanity. This entails the removal of all barriers, whether physical obstacles, prejudiced attitudes or hindrances to communication.

The University offers advice for disabled students and employees in integrating into the academic community and in acquiring the necessary aids and learning materials. An employee may, together with the head of the unit, explore possibilities for special arrangements and for their implementation.

The University provides academic advice, including advice regarding special examination arrangements or substitution of studies. Guidance and advice is also available to teaching staff and non-academic staff.

The Act on the Provision of Digital Services defines how the Web Accessibility Directive of the EU is implemented in Finland. The act also places obligations on the University of Helsinki.

Sustainable campus operations

The sustainability of the campuses of the University of Helsinki and their operations is increased by providing the facilities and services needed for teaching and research with as low emissions and as high material efficiency as possible.

Practices and procedures observed on campuses are socially, ecologically, culturally and financially responsible. A sustainability and responsibility committee established by the rector carries the responsibility for the development, monitoring and reporting of campus sustainability and responsibility.

Contributing to practical implementation are Helsinki University Properties Ltd and University of Helsinki Property Services Ltd HY247.

Examples of our sustainability efforts

 

    Commitments under 'Society's commitment to sustainable development'

    Through three commitments signed in 2015 under Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development, the University has committed to

    • reducing energy and water consumption in its buildings by 10%
    • producing at least 5% of the energy consumed in a renewable way on site by 2025.

    In addition, we are committed to promoting low-emission and healthy commuting. Examples of our measures include

    • increased use of solar power at the University
    • the construction of bicycle parking areas
    • the introduction of software that facilitates telecommuting.
    We are a Fairtrade University

    As a Fairtrade university, we are committed to promoting the use and availability of Fairtrade-certified products in our procurement, as well as increasing the University community’s awareness of Fairtrade and its significance to global production and consumption networks.

    The coffee and tea served at the official University events are always Fairtrade certified.

    Think Corner - sustainable and open for all

    New solutions that promote sustainability were introduced in the renovation of Think Corner, which opened its doors in the autumn of 2017.

    From the start, the goal has been to assemble all dimensions of sustainability into a functional whole. The University’s former administration building was redesigned as a multipurpose space where presentations and workshops relating to scholarly themes are organised.

    The facilities support collaborative learning, creative discourse and co-working. The events and facilities are open to all.

    In the solutions implemented in the Think Corner building, sustainability is manifested, for example, in the following aspects:

    • A total of 95 solar panels with a maximum production of 25 kWp were installed on the roof.
    • The service water is partly heated with the heat lost by the building’s transforming station, while district cooling is employed to keep it cool.
    • Apart from the UniSport facilities that belong to class C, the building’s energy efficiency class is B.
    • The entrance recesses are covered with PEFC certified wooden slats, while the floors in the first and second floor are made of wooden blocks.
    • All facilities are equipped with waste recycling bins and the restrooms have cloth hand towels.

    In the Hope for Globe series of events held each year at Think Corner, knowledge begets hope. The events are focused on climate change, the environment and sustainable development, with solutions provided by the latest research and toplevel researchers to global problems, as well as tools in support of sustainable choices.

    Improving the preconditions for cycling

    The University of Helsinki supports cycling by providing bike racks and shower facilities for staff and students.

    Bike racks are located close to all University buildings, while frame-locking stands have been added wherever possible on the campuses.

    Shower facilities and lockers for storing cycling gear are available on all campuses.

    We also promote the installation of city bike stations in connection with the campuses, with a total of five stations already available on our campuses.

    We have participated in the Kilometrikisa bike-a-thon since 2016.

    Car parking on University premises has been subject to a fee since 2017.

    The use of renewable energy at the campuses

    Viikki Campus has a solar power plant that is significant in size on the scale of Finland, in addition to which a smaller power plant was built at Info Centre Korona in 2016.

    The solar panels are located on the roofs of University buildings. There are roughly 4,000 panels in total.

    The solar power generated by the power plant is fed into a grid owned by the University of Helsinki on Viikki Campus. According to estimates, the output of the expanded power plant covers roughly 4% of the annual energy consumption of the properties on Viikki Campus.

    In 2020, the construction of a solar power plant on the roof of the Chemicum building on Kumpula Campus was initiated.

    In 2020, the student building at the Tvärminne Zoological Station as well as the Lammi Biological Station were heated almost entirely with solar and geothermal heat as well as wood chips.

    Campus gardening on all of our campuses

    The University provides all students and staff with the opportunity to participate in campus gardening. The inspiration for gardening originates in students, and the first grow bags were placed in the courtyards of the Snellmania and Topelia buildings at the City Centre Campus in 2013.

     

    Responsible procurement

    Our goal is to set an example in responsible procurement.

    We take the environmental, social and economic aspects related to responsibility into consideration as broadly as possible in competitive tendering and framework agreements. All of our contract suppliers must undertake to comply with the relevant minimum responsibility criteria.

    In order to develop the responsibility of our procurement processes, we utilise an emissions report to examine the carbon footprint of University purchases.

    Economic sustainability

    A stable and balanced budget enables the University to fulfil its mission.

    We invest responsibly and aim to have a carbon-neutral investment portfolio. We have divested investment in fossil fuel production.

    Our objective is to be Europe's leading and most responsible university investor

    The investment activities of the University of Helsinki are guided by the Principles for Responsible Investment Activities approved by the University Board in 2019.

    They are founded on the principles of responsible investment supported by the United Nations and pertain to matters related to the environment, social responsibility and corporate governance in terms of investments.

    Our objective is to be Europe’s leading and most responsible university investor.

    On the way towards a carbon-neutral portfolio, divesting investment in fossil fuel production constitutes an important interim goal. Companies that produce fossil fuels and those that hold fossil fuel reserves have been removed from all of the global equity index funds in which we have invested.

    Neither do the funds include companies that manufacture or provide tobacco products, controversial weapons, adult entertainment and gambling services, or companies that operate in violation of the Global Compact principles of the UN.

    Cultural sustainability: National Library

    Cultural sustainability is a part of sustainable development. A treasure of Finnish empire architecture houses our country's written cultural heritage.