Green for real – How environmental management system has affected the handling of environmental affairs at Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT)

Text: Essi Römpötti, Environmental Coordinator / Lappeenranta University of Technology

LUT has a certified environmental management system

In the middle of September, we here at the Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) received some good news: Our university received ISO 14001 certification for the environmental management system. With this bit of good news we have become Finland’s first university to have an ISO 14001 certified environmental management system covering all areas of university operations: teaching, research, social interaction and support functions.

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The ISO 14001 certificate for LUT’s environmental management system was handed to Chief Financial Officer Minna Sutela by Tomi Kasurinen, CEO of Inspecta Oy. The external audit at LUT was carried out by the auditors of Inspecta Oy.

At the beginning of November, we officially celebrated this achievement. The celebration event we held allowed us to reflect on all the things we have achieved, not to mention in a relatively short period of time. After just over 18 months of development, we reached our goal: a certified environmental management system. Now, with the environmental management system certified, we can examine the ways in which the environmental management system has improved our handling of environmental affairs at LUT.

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Representatives from LUT and City of Lappeenranta participated in the event where the certificate in frames was handed to the university.

Where did it all start?

A few years ago, LUT did not give a great deal of attention to the fact that there should be some kinds of tools for dealing with environmental affairs. Environmental affairs at the university were primarily addressed through research, as LUT has conducted research on ways to improve the environment for many years. LUT also did not have any employees working solely on environmental affairs.

In 2009, the strategy in place at that time was reformed. Green energy and technology, sustainable value creation and building an international hub of Russian relations were added to the new strategy as areas of focus. The new strategy sheds light on not only LUT’s technological expertise, but also that every effort is made to find green energy solutions in research conducted by the university.

In addition to this, LUT hosted the Open Your Drawer innovation competition in autumn 2010, which was won by five LUT professors for their ‘Green Campus’ idea. The idea was to create a Green Campus which would function as a unique research and teaching environment. This would serve as a showcase for LUT’s high degree of energy expertise and research in renewable sources of energy. The goal set for the Green Campus was the concrete presentation of green values and energy efficiency on the LUT campus area.

From single project to environmental management system

The university made a decision to immediately implement the winning idea from the competition. The project was launched in May 2011. A manager was appointed and one full-time employee was hired for the project. A great deal was accomplished during the years 2011-2013, as a charging station for electric bikes and the university’s own wind and solar power plants, among other things, were built on the campus.

Green Campus was initially a project that primarily concerned the university’s infrastructure. The project received criticism for the fact that, although LUT billed itself as a green university, this was not readily apparent in the university’s own operations. LUT responded to this criticism by implementing the WWF Green Office environmental programme in 2012. This is an environmental programme aimed specifically at offices that aims to reduce the ecological footprint of workplaces. As the environmental programme is loosely based on the ISO 14001 standard, this was a step toward the more organised management of environmental affairs.

It was noted that Green Office was, in some respects, unsuitable for use in a university setting, because it only took offices into consideration. LUT has, for example, a lot of laboratory facilities, which were not taken into consideration by this environmental programme. This created a need to adopt a more comprehensive system, which could be used to give attention to environmental affairs at the university-wide level and in all its operations.

At the end of 2012, a decision was made to begin building an environmental management system for LUT alongside the Green Office programme. An Environmental Manager was hired by LUT for this purpose. In just over a year and a half, the university drafted an environmental policy, specified the key environmental aspects and, based on these, the environmental targets, objectives and programmes for LUT. In September 2014, things had reached a point where it was possible to seek ISO 14001 certification for the environmental management system.

What has changed?

Creation of the environmental management system has been a good thing for LUT in many ways. With implementation of the environmental management system, the management of environmental affairs has become more systematic, and the measures taken to protect and give attention to the environment more ambitious. The environmental targets, objectives and programmes set by the university have been documented in written form, thus making their progress easier to follow. Environmental responsibility is taken into consideration in all university operations and its various functions. In accordance with the principle of continuous development, LUT also assesses its own operations with regard to environmental affairs, for example, by means of internal audits on the environmental management system.

This autumn, for example, LUT will be adopting a course classification scheme, which will be used to determine to what extent sustainable development is addressed in university courses. The university library will also examine to what extent LUT’s scientific publications deal with topics concerning sustainable development. The environment is taken into account in procurement as well, as environmental considerations have been made one of the criteria for university procurement. The Green Campus has gone from being a single project to a way of thinking and doing at the university.

The environmental management system has brought about increased co-operation with various stakeholders. In promoting environmental affairs, LUT works in co-operation with, for example, University Properties of Finland Ltd., the Lappeenranta Student Housing Foundation (LOAS) and City of Lappeenranta. University staff and students are more involved in the university’s environmental efforts as well. At the beginning of their studies, new LUT students are indoctrinated in the Green Campus way of thinking and doing, thus producing environmentally-conscious graduates. This is one of the best resources we could possibly give our students.

Further information: www.greencampus.fi/en, essi.rompotti@lut.fi

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