The workshop gathered 24 conference attendees to discuss the level of sustainability integration in their universities, the steering of sustainability-related issues, and to brainstorm how we could overcome the obstacles that hinder universities to implement sustainable development more efficiently.
We had three introductory presentations before forming smaller groups for discussions:
1. The background for improving the steering mechanisms – Rio+20 and other international commitments.
By Jorulf B. Silde, Project manager of Green UiO – University of Oslo.
2. How university legislation has changed the environmental work of Swedish universities.
By Göran Finnveden, Vice-president for sustainable development, KTH Royal Institute of Technology Sweden.
3. Establishing an environmental management system ISO 40001- the overall effect of the process.
By Essi Römpötti, Environmental coordinator, and Marko Kasurinen, Developmental manager, Lappeenranta University of Technology, LUT, Finland.
After concentrating on the three presentations, the attendees focused on assessing the level of sustainability integration in their organizations (in a 5-level scale) in smaller groups. The groups were also asked to discuss on the top 3 steering mechanisms affecting sustainability implementation the most in their organizations, and to analyze which other drivers would be most efficient in enhancing the implementation, and which obsacles hinder the work most. Finally, the groups discussed on the ways to overcome the obstacles and enhance the drivers.
The attendees represented 14 universities from 8 different countries:
- Ghent University, Belgium
- Aalborg University, Denmark
- Technical University of Denmark, DTU
- University of Copenhagen, Denmark
- Aalto University, Finland
- Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland
- HFT Stuttgart, Germany
- Oslo College University, Norway
- University of Oslo, Norway
- National University of Singapore
- KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden
- Lund University, Sweden
- University of Gothenburg, Sweden
- Cornell University, USA
The majority of the attendees assessed their university to be either in an operational stage or in between planning and operational stage.
Level of sustainability integration: 1=Not at all planned or integrated, 2=In a start-up stage, 3=Planning stage, 4=Operational stage, 5=Have reached the targets set
When assessing the three most important steering mechanisms affecting sustainability implementation, the results showed very scattered views. Strategies seem to be the most important steering mechanisms added with financial steering and environmental management system, while quality assurance and teaching evaluation did not reach top 3 among the attendees’ assesments. The other options include drivers such as student & staff activity, student democracy, , rating systems, bottom-up processes, president’s commitment and public expectations.
External steering mechanisms
Internal steering mechanisms
Enhancing drivers, overcoming obstacles
Several drivers enhancing the implementation of sustainable development were recognized in the small groups. Most frequently the attendees named benchmarking and rankings, as well as bottom-up processies to enhance sustainability. Better leadership, internal networks and recognizing how individuals can contribute were found as ways to enhance the drivers.
The number of hindering factors among the groups was also very high, but the main trend in every group was the lack of resources: financial, staff, leadership, commitment, time, regulations. Suggestions to overcome the obstacles included top-down processes, incentives, political cleverness and communications.