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Huvudmeny

2015-05-25 08:25

How can a university become sustainable?


Sustainable development is now a government requirement that colleges and universities must live up to. But this is a complex term. How can all aspects of sustainable development be integrated into all parts of an organisation's activities? A new report from the University of Borås attempts to find out the answers.

"We have produced some models to show how sustainable development can be incorporated into a university but we also demonstrate the complexity of the term. For example, the environmental certification that the University of Borås has is just one of three aspects that are included in the term sustainable development," says Jan Nolin.

The University of Borås as a sustainable universityThe report "The University of Borås as a sustainable university" has been written by Jan Nolin, professor of library and information science and Björn Brorström, professor of business administration and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Borås.

Must grow organically

The term sustainable development comprises ecological, economic and social aspects. By linking the global goals of sustainable development with local goals and local expertise, e.g. the university's researchers, change can be brought about. One example of research that is promoting the development of a more sustainable society in Borås is Innovationsplattform Norrby. This addresses sustainable town planning and includes several aspects of sustainable development, such as social sustainability and inclusiveness.

When an organisation strives towards sustainable development, there must be a system of values in mind so that integration can grow in an organic way. There are three phases.

"The first phase is an awakening where you realise "Oh, this is something we need to address!" and then many parallel projects are started to make different parts of the organisation more sustainable. But that is not enough. Sustainable development work cannot be done in parallel drainpipes; it must be integrated into the entire organisation."

Becoming a sustainable university

The second phase is integration.

"This is the phase that the University of Borås is in at the moment - a reformative integration phase. With the help of this book, we hope to be able to reach the next phase - the third, transformative phase where things begin to fall into place and we can attain everything embraced by the term "sustainable university"."

The report
The report "The University of Borås as a sustainable university" is number 31 in the university's series of reports "Vetenskap för profession". It has been written by Jan Nolin, professor of library and information science and Björn Brorström, professor of business administration and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Borås.

An interesting paradox that Jan Nolin and Björn Brorström discuss in the book is precisely about the integration of sustainable development.

"The "integration paradox" means that as long as we keep sustainable development activities and projects separate, they are clearly visible and it is easy to demonstrate what we are doing in this field. But we don't want to have separate projects; we want to have everything integrated into our organisation in order for there to be maximum effect. But when our efforts become integrated, they also become invisible. We devote several chapters in the book to this issue. How can we make integrated measures visible?"

Economic incentives

The purpose of universities and colleges is to help society move forward. We are now in a situation where the earth's population must begin to live in a new, more sustainable way. Research plays a vital role in reaching this goal.

"We think that the universities that are good at sustainable development should be rewarded through economic incentives from the government," Jan Nolin concludes.