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2019: A vision for a Sustainable Lund University by 2030

On the 14th of October 2019, Sustainability Forum together with the Agenda 2030 Graduate School organised an event focusing on the University as a contributor to the transition to a sustainable society. The event was taking place during 'the Future Week', so participants were asked to travel to 2030 and look back at the decisions that landed Lund University the title of 'the World's most Sustainable University'.

Postcards, pens and a sign that says "A sustainable Lund University". Photo.

Take off

The event started in the present year of 2019, where the newly adopted Strategy for Sustainable Development was presented. The message was that the strategy will permeate all dimensions of Lund University: education, research, collaboration and business development. It sets clear demands on managers and co-workers to contribute to the realisation of the strategy's goals. By March 2020, the Sustainability Plan which details how the strategy is to be implemented will be finished. 

Then, the impact of Lund University research was in the spotlight. Six PhD-students from the Agenda2030 graduate school were invited to present their projects, how they relate to the SDGs and what they would like from the University to enable them to make a greater impact on society.

They highlighted the need for a broader conception of what counts as academic work, pointing to outreach, workshops and other non-writing contributions as activities that should be valued higher. They all agreed that research needs to be done in cooperation with stakeholders so as to ensure that the knowledge is implemented. 

Into the Future

For the second part of the event, we made an imaginary travel into the future: to 2030, and imagined Lund University as the award winner for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.

Four panelists presented their visions of how we got to that point.

  • Wilhelm Wanecek from Climate Students detailed how Lund University had become carbon-neutral ahead of the targets set by the Region of Skåne, had established a sustainability team with a dedicated fund for sustainability projects and finally put in place a comprehensive recycling scheme.
  • Sylvia Schwaag Serger, Deputy Vice Chancellor, spoke to her vision of Lund University as a global transformative force, that the University helped solve sustainability cirises all over the world and that we were bold in our reforms of the University itself, not just in our research.
  • Kristina Jönsson, Coordinator of the Agenda2030 Graduate School, imagined a dedicated week for big discussions and collaboration on the SDGs where all other work would be cancelled to allow for deep thinking on the big challenges facing society.
  • Emily Boyd, Director of LUCSUS, remembered how we interationalised our research while still decreasing our aviation emissions and how students' worsening mental health was addressed. 

The ensuing discussion touched upon the issue of time, where Sylvia noted that we need to act from a position of strength and deliberation rather than from a position of desperation. Per Mickwitz, director of IIIEE, brought up the issue of ethics. How universities needn't only worry about doing more good but reflect on how they can do less bad. Emily Boyd also made the point that a lot can be achieved without much resources, and that the lack of them shouldn't be an excuse for inaction. 

Student writing a postcard. Photo.

The event ended with a workshop/mingle where participants were invited to write postcards from 2030, detailing what had happened since 2019 to make the University more sustainable. They remembered how: the responsibility for sustainability was decentralised to all parts of the university, how a holistic sustainability course became mandatory in all educations and how alumni were recruited to make change in broader society.