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Universities’ own functions and administration create a responsible and sustainable world

Theses 6-8

Universities’ management, administration and campus activities are in line with the sustainable development goals

Sustainable development and responsibility are integrated into all activities of the universities. In addition to the strategic outlines, clear implementation plans, responsible parties, indicators and monitoring are also needed. The management, staff, students and student unions are engaged in universities’ sustainability and responsibility work by involving the different actors in the drawing up of sustainability assessments, plans, objectives and criteria.

The following concrete measures must be taken:

  • Universities submit an annual report on their situation and how they have achieved their sustainable development and responsibility objectives.
  • Universities integrate sustainable thinking into all of their activities: management and remuneration systems, work plans, recruitment criteria, agreements and the development of staff competence are based on the principles of sustainable development and responsibility.
  • Universities commit themselves to inspiring and encouraging their students and staff to promote sustainable development and responsibility and to familiarising them with the principles of these. This work will already start during orientation to studies or work. A national “tool kit” is created to help universities improve the competence of their teaching staff.
  • Universities act responsibly in their investment activities, respecting international norms and human rights. Universities and their partners commit themselves to the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investment (UN PRI), in which the points of view related to the environment, society and good governance are taken into account. Universities set clear and measurable objectives for the carbon intensity of their investments and with a reasonable transition period emphasise in their investment portfolio companies that are implementing the transition to carbon neutrality.  Universities give up any conflicting ownerships by applying negative criteria. When choosing new investment targets, they avoid conflicting targets entirely and emphasise positive criteria in their investment activities. 
  • Universities include the objectives of sustainable development and responsibility in their procurement strategies and also develop their procurement competence in cooperation with each other. The assessment of the responsibility of procurements is improved and the human rights risks and environmental risks caused by the procurements are taken into account in each procurement decision.
  • Sustainable development is included in the project models of universities. Project managers are trained to pay attention to the different areas of sustainability and responsibility.

Universities follow the principles of a carbon neutral circular economy in their activities and take concrete measures to foster biodiversity

Universities see finding solutions to climate change, the loss of biodiversity and the combined effect of these environmental changes as decisive for the fate of humanity. 

The Ministry of Education and Culture requires higher education institutions to become carbon neutral by 2030 and according to the  objective set in the Government Programme, Finland will be carbon neutral in 2035 and carbon negative soon after that. Universities will respond to this challenge. They are in a key position determining scientifically reliable calculation and compensation methods and emissions reduction targets, among other things.

Universities work actively to prevent the decline in biodiversity and bring the importance of biodiversity to the societal debate, decision-making and activities.

The following concrete measures must be taken:

  • Universities will be carbon neutral by 2030 (net emissions) and develop shared principles for calculating the carbon footprint to enable comparison and learning from each other. Many of the universities have already set 2025 as their target.   
  • Universities draw up concrete, absolute emissions reduction targets, definitions and objectives for the circular economy, and recommendations for the compensations for climate emissions. Compensating is the last resort in striving for carbon neutrality.
  • Universities highlight safeguarding biodiversity as a target alongside carbon neutrality. Universities survey the impacts of their activities on biodiversity and develop indicators and calculation and monitoring models for monitoring the state and development of their activities. Universities take measures to safeguard campus nature, biodiversity and viable green networks and to minimise harmful effects on nature. 
  • The objective of transitioning to a carbon neutral circular economy is paid attention to and made visible in new procurements and investments and in the planning of campus activities. Universities encourage sharing and shared use. Universities also encourage reasonable consumption.
  • Universities develop innovative solutions for carbon sequestration on campuses, increase the utilisation rate of the infrastructures they manage, engage their staff, invest in sustainable travel for example by updating their travel instructions, and intensify their contacts with the campus restaurants and other actors to secure a more sustainable future.

Universities work actively to promote equality, equity and well-being

Systematic work must be done continuously to promote equality, equity, diversity and accessibility. Universities commit themselves to a debate, education, practices and activities aimed at preventing subconscious prejudices and discrimination.

Sustainable operating models require sustainable conditions. By reducing temporary employment relationships, universities create better preconditions for performing its work and basic tasks.

The following concrete measures must be taken:

  • Universities identify and remove practices and structures that produce and maintain inequality. Universities develop clear methods and objectives for eradicating racism, discrimination, bullying and harassment from the university community and pay special attention to the verbalisation and documentation of all discrimination.
  • Universities promote their staff’s and the entire community’s awareness of and knowledge about equity, inclusion and work against racism so that every member of the community can and has the courage to intervene if problems occur. Each member of the university community is encouraged to build a safer space and an inclusive community for everyone through their own actions.
  • Universities ensure opportunities to participate and equal daily working and studying conditions for all their members. Universities pay more attention to different life situations by enabling flexible ways to study and participate, for example, to people with chronic diseases, learning difficulties and families and for students with a single-parent background.  
  • Universities participate in the societal debate actively. Together and separately, they present comments that support equality and equity.
  • Universities promote research on equality and equity.