The University publishes its first sustainability and responsibility programme: “We need collaborative effort more than words”

According to Vice-Rector Tom Böhling, the University has a great responsibility and opportunity to build an increasingly sustainable future. The University can make a difference through research, teaching and public engagement, not forgetting everyday action.

In its strategic plan, the University states that it strives to be a leader in sustainability and responsibility. A long-term goal is to integrate sustainability and responsibility into all University operations. This ambitious goal is being pursued through several measures, including the first sustainability and responsibility programme in the University’s history, published today.

Published in conjunction with the programme was a report on sustainability, which presents key actions related to sustainability and responsibility taken in recent years. The report is also the first of its kind at the University.

Urgency of current global challenges highlights the importance of cooperation

The University contributes to the development of an increasingly sustainable future through research, teaching and public engagement. In addition, everyday responsible action is important. After all, the University of Helsinki is a community of 40,000 people and a large property owner. In fact, the new programme includes several measures related to research, teaching, administration and public engagement.

“Research and science are invaluable to the planet’s future. Without research, we may not even perceive problems, let alone be able to solve them. Both basic research and interdisciplinary collaboration are needed to solve problems,” Vice-Rector Tom Böhling emphasises.

The urgency and scope of current global challenges highlight the importance of cooperation. Thanks to their extensive international alumni and partner networks, universities have a lot of global clout. Knowledge produced at the University must be made available and part of collaborative action.

“Our experts are active participants in public discussion, sharing the latest research-based knowledge for the benefit of decision-makers, citizens and the wider world. We hope that all of our friends, alumni and partners will contribute to building an increasingly sustainable and responsible world,” Böhling says.

A sustainability course provides students with basic knowledge

The University is offering all students a sustainability course that provides them with tools for updating their academic competence with knowledge and skills related to sustainability. A more long-term goal of the University is to make matters related to sustainability and responsibility an integral part of teaching.

“We are educating change-makers of the future, and it is important for them to have a solid understanding of sustainability-related challenges and their solutions. This way, they will be able to make responsible decisions in their jobs and lives.”

In addition to the sustainability course, the University coordinates the Climate University network, which offers free online courses, and is developing a sustainable development programme based on micro-qualification as part of the Una Europa alliance.

The University also wishes to have an impact through its everyday activities

The list of the goals for daily University activities is long and encompasses matters relating to the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, equality, justice and wellbeing.

One of the primary goals is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. A number of concrete measures are being taken to reach that goal, including measures that reduce the energy consumption of properties. Carbon-neutral commuting is supported by improving cycling opportunities and increasing charging stations for electric cars.

Achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 is a goal in the University’s investment activities as well. An interim target was reached already at the end of 2020, at which point the last investments in fossil fuels were divested of in the University’s securities portfolio.

Procurement and tendering policies are being redrawn, putting an emphasis on the principles of moderation, sustainability and responsibility. In terms of equality and diversity, the University is developing recruitment to be more, among other things, accessible and non-discriminatory.

A shared vision only comes about through collaborative effort

The sustainability and responsibility programme offers an overview of the most important goals for the 2022–2024 period.

“The programme is not set in stone, but evolves with the times. Global upheavals can change its focus areas. However, the most important thing is that the programme becomes more than empty phrases. More than words, what we need now is collaborative effort,” Vice-Rector Böhling points out.

The University’s shared view on the key focus areas of the programme stems from a number of workshops and discussions among various parties. The entire University community has had the opportunity to propose goals, measures and focus areas through a virtual workshop and a survey tool. In addition, the entire community has had the chance to comment on the draft programme. This work has been steered by the University’s sustainability and responsibility committee.

“You cannot make things happen without a shared vision, which is why it is important that we have agreed on our goals together. We are also developing our organisation and operating culture to provide better preconditions for achieving our goals.”

A discussion at Think Corner about the role of universities in the sustainability transition

The sustainability and responsibility programme will be published on Wednesday, 23 March 2022 at 13.00 in an event to be held at Think Corner, which will include a broader discussion on the role of universities in the sustainability transition. The event can also be followed via a live stream. The event will be recorded and captioned in Finnish, Swedish and English for later publication on the University’s YouTube channel.

Read more

The University bases its sustainability efforts on the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN and is committed to the theses of sustainable development and responsibility introduced by Universities Finland (UNIFI).

Sustainability and Responsibility Programme 2022–2024

Report on Sustainability

Sustainability and responsibility at the University