Image
A student cycling in central of Gothenburg.
Our goal is that by 2024, the University of Gothenburg has strengthened its position as a leading university in sustainable development.
Photo: Alana Da Silva
Breadcrumb

Sustainability results 2023

The sustainability report is an integral part of the 2023 University of Gothenburg Annual Report. The latest report was published in February 2024. Here, you can find a selection of the results.

A climate-neutral organisation in 2045

The University of Gothenburg as an organisation has a major environmental impact, so we have a great responsibility to develop internal methods for achieving sustainable development. We aim to reduce our carbon emissions in two steps:

  • By 2023 we will have reduced our emissions of CO2 by 25 per cent, compared with 2019.
  • By 2029 emissions will have declined by one-half.

Our long-term goal is to be climate neutral by 2045, which is in line with Sweden’s overall objective adopted by the Swedish Parliament.

In 2023, the university emitted 47.4 kilotons of carbon dioxide, representing a 1 percent increase compared to 2019. The rise is primarily attributed to the Goods category, where emissions have increased with 26 percent since the base year. Additionally, emissions from the categories of Buildings and Facilities, as well as Energy, have seen an increase.

During the pandemic years, carbon dioxide emissions associated with travel decreased dramatically. However, this pandemic-induced effect is fading away, and air travel for business purposes is approaching pre-pandemic levels. Carbon dioxide emissions from long-haul flights increased by over 50 percent between 2022 and 2023. Nevertheless, compared to the base year 2019, there is still an overall reduction in emissions, with a 13 percent decrease in total flight emissions, with short-haul flights contributing the most to this decrease. Opting for train travel over air travel is one way to reduce the climate impact of business trips.

The number of business trips by train increased by 18 percent between 2022 and 2023. Particularly, the number of international train trips has significantly risen in recent years, with the university recording over 400 international train trips in 2023.

What we did in 2023

Information and Training Efforts

Throughout 2023, several information and training initiatives were carried out, including digital training sessions and meetings with individual institutions and units.

Enhancements to the CIS Tool

The CIS tool has been adjusted to better meet the organization's needs. Some transfers, grants, and scholarships have been excluded from the tool's scope as they do not formally cause emissions for which the university is responsible. Investments that are beneficial in the long term from a climate perspective may show negative results in the snapshot provided by the tool, and qualitative analyses are therefore essential for understanding and drawing accurate conclusions from the outcomes of the CIS tool. Results are monitored within the framework of regular planning and monitoring processes.

Conclusion of the Coordination Group's Mandate

During the year, the coordination group for the climate framework concluded its mandate. Since 2021, the group has been tasked with implementing the CIS tool to monitor the organization's carbon dioxide emissions and coordinate overall goal-setting efforts. Upon the group's dissolution, several recommendations were provided for continued work, including the possibility of additional university-wide measures as a complement to ongoing efforts at faculties and similar entities. The Central University Administration has been assigned the responsibility of taking over the coordination group's operational duties and continuing the work.

New Travel Regulations

New travel regulations were developed during the year, with sustainable travel being a central priority. Several institutions have also developed their own travel policies as supplements to those of the university.

CIS tool

To measure our carbon emissions, we have developed a digital tool, the Carbon Intelligence System, which displays carbon emissions per organisational unit. T

he tool allows university managers to follow and analyse the carbon emissions of their activities and operations.

Education

The University of Gothenburg has had a system for sustainable labelling of courses and programmes for many years. The labelling is based on criteria reflecting the multidimensional concept of sustainable development. Twenty per cent of courses and nearly twenty-five per cent of programmes at the University of Gothenburg are sustainably labelled.

What we did in 2023

Development of Sustainability Labeling

The University is tasked with educating for a sustainable future, and today's students expect sustainability perspectives to be adequately incorporated into their education. The sustainability labeling of courses and programs provides guidance on how the educational content aligns with the global goals. Throughout the year, we have been working on developing sustainability labeling for our courses and programs. Now, the global sustainability goals are also visible in course and educational plans.

Tools for Monitoring Sustainable Development in Education

Within the Department of Health and Care Sciences at the Sahlgrenska Academy, an internal tool has been developed to monitor over time how sustainable development is integrated into the department's various courses, including learning objectives, content, examinations, and literature. To disseminate internal knowledge about the tool and how it is used, an instructional video has been created.

Summer School for Sustainability

The University's international summer school, the Summer School for Sustainability, which is based on Agenda 2030 and the global sustainability goals, was held for the third time in July.

The international summer school is in demand among partner universities and has a high application rate, nationally and internationally. Over 150 students from 71 partner universities participated.

The summer school offers five different undergraduate courses where students develop the skills needed to contribute to achieving the goals of Agenda 2030. The courses focus on challenges related to the sustainability goals, including migration, biodiversity, and education for sustainable development. This year, there was a greater focus on collaboration with the business sector and the region through study visits to companies and organizations in Western Sweden with prominent sustainability initiatives.

New Programme with Focus on Sustainable Development and Transition Studies

During the year, the Department of Global Studies launched a program focusing on sustainable development, climate transition, and societal development. The aim is to provide students with concrete tools for change through close collaboration with various societal actors in teaching, internships, and field studies. The program is a social science education with an interdisciplinary profile and a focus on applied perspectives. In addition to theoretical studies in sustainable development and transition studies, students will also participate in practical change work with authorities, municipalities, businesses, and civil society through courses in collaboration with societal actors.

Research and collaboration

The University of Gothenburg seeks to strengthen its role as a leading university in sustainable development. There is a need for increased competence and insight into how to transition to a sustainable society, both nationally and globally. The University’s research has a clear mission to promote this transition through science-based knowledge.

In 2023, 712 scholarly publications were published addressing issues involving sustainable development.

What we did in 2023

Mapping of Research and Education

The Department of Journalism, Media, and Communication has conducted a mapping of its research and education based on the global goals to highlight and discuss the societal relevance of the activities conducted at the department. Even from a scientific standpoint, it is important to understand how the various sustainability goals relate to one's own research area, as an increasing number of research funders require that projects' connection to, or relevance for, the sustainability goals be described.

New Collaboration Arena for Sustainable Development

In 2023, the University of Gothenburg, Chalmers University of Technology, and the University of West initiated an expansion of their collaboration by forming Wexsus, the West Sweden Nexus for Sustainable Development, a West Swedish collaboration arena for sustainability in close collaboration with the Västra Götaland Region.

Wexsus aims to create new collaboration between academia and the business sector, public entities, and civil society. Existing collaborations are also leveraged by utilizing the expertise, strengths, and experiences of the universities in sustainable development. Wexsus activities target researchers, teachers, students, and all societal actors interested in deepening their collaboration with academia in sustainable development and contributing to a sustainable societal transformation.

Wexsus, which will be organizationally based at the University of Gothenburg, commenced its operations in January 2024. The joint organization of the University of Gothenburg and Chalmers University of Technology, the Gothenburg Centre for Sustainable Development, will be integrated into the new West Swedish arena.

Funding Granted for Graduate School

The graduate school "Just Transitions," focusing on leadership and organization for a fair climate transition, was granted SEK 39 million over five years by Formas at the beginning of the year. The University of Gothenburg, along with the collaboration arena Urban Futures, Chalmers University of Technology, the City of Gothenburg, the Västra Götaland Region, Linköping University, Linköping Municipality, and the County Administrative Board of Östergötland, participates in this research school. The graduate school is led by Linköping University.

The starting point for the graduate school is that there is a lack of knowledge and competence regarding what a fair climate transition entails and how it can be practically achieved. The challenges are complex, involving various societal actors, decision-making levels, disciplines, and sectors. The graduate school aims to build knowledge and competence through doctoral projects integrated into the activities of public partners and by establishing a Swedish platform for knowledge exchange on just climate transitions.

Procurement and purchasing

The University’s procurement and purchasing imposes sustainability requirements on products and services. It also requires suppliers to have knowledge about sustainability. To ensure that suppliers can conform with our requirements, university procurement and purchasing coordinators are trained in sustainable development.

In 2023, the university imposed sustainability requirements in 90% of its procurement contracts.

What we did in 2023

Improvements Related to Computers

Throughout the year, efforts were made to enhance sustainability aspects related to computers. For instance, the warranty period for computers has been extended, and computer screens are labelled with TCO Certified, which encompasses both energy and social requirements.

Higher Standards in Catering

In the catering procurement process, requirements were set for suppliers to obtain KRAV certification within nine months and to offer a range of products based on raw materials labelled with EU organic, KRAV, MSC, and Fairtrade certifications. The aim has been to increase the proportion of organic ingredients in line with Sweden's food strategy.

Energy and buildings

In 2023, the university's use of electricity and heat amounted to 176 kilowatt-hours per square meter, representing a three percent decrease compared to 2022. Since 2019, energy consumption has decreased by 12 percent.

We did this in 2023

In the autumn of 2022, the university, along with 200 other state agencies, was tasked by the government to implement energy-saving measures due to the strained energy situation in Sweden and Europe.

When the assignment concluded in the spring of 2023, the University of Gothenburg could report a reduced electricity consumption of 1.6 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) from October 2022 to March 2023 compared to the same period the previous year.

This corresponds to ten percent of the electricity consumption within the parts of the university included in the measurement basis. The measures implemented were both property-related, such as changing operating hours for ventilation, and behavior-related, such as turning off lights and closing draughts. Other energy-saving measures that have been implemented include the expansion of solar panels at locations such as the School of Business, Economics and Law and the Tjärnö Marine Laboratory, as well as the switch to LED lighting.

Waste and recycling

In 2023, the university's waste amounted to 1020 tons, representing a ten percent increase compared to 2022. The proportion of waste reused, recycled, or composted is 33 percent, which is a decrease since 2022.

What we did in 2023

An initiative to promote reuse is that the University of Gothenburg has signed a cooperation agreement with the City of Gothenburg regarding the reuse service called Tage.

The service means that furniture no longer needed by one operation can find a new owner either within the university or within the city.

The goal of reusing furniture and furnishings is to reduce the university's carbon footprint and promote economic sustainability.

Until the university's internal reuse service is implemented, work on reuse is ongoing within the university in other ways. During the relocation of the Faculty of Science to the newly built Natrium building, a large amount of furniture, laboratory equipment, and other furnishings were transferred to the marine field stations at Tjärnö and Kristineberg.

EMAS reporting

The University of Gothenburg has been EMAS registered since 2006. The sustainability reporting in the university's annual report, together with other documents, meets the requirements for an EMAS-approved environmental report.

The sustainability reporting, along with the core indicators and other relevant documents, was audited in April 2024 by the accredited environmental auditor RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, No. 1002, Box 857, 501 14 Borås.

Methodological work for sustainable development

The University of Gothenburg is certified according to ISO 14001, the International Standard for Environmental Management Systems, and has been registered according to EMAS, the European Union Eco-Management and Audit Scheme. This means that the University is constantly striving to improve operations so it can reduce negative environmental impact and to expand our positive impact on sustainable development through education, research and collaboration.

Sustainable development has a prominent place in the University’s vision. Sustainable development is one of six focus areas aimed at strengthening the University of Gothenburg as a leading university in sustainable development. This ambition takes concrete form in strategies and operational plans at both the university-wide and faculty levels. Sustainable development is followed up qualitatively in the faculties’ operational dialogues and annual follow-up reports and quantitatively through indicators within the framework of the environmental management system and the climate framework. University Management receives a comprehensive overview of work with the environmental management system twice a year.

Reporting of the University’s sustainability efforts

The sustainability report is an integral part of the 2023 University of Gothenburg Annual Report. The sustainability report meets the requirements for EMAS-approved environmental reporting. The sustainability report is issued annually, and the results are presented in a consistent way from year to year to the extent possible. Its own statistics and statistics from suppliers and contractors hired by the University generate the measurement data.

The University of Gothenburg reports the results of internal environmental management to the Ministry of Education and Research and the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency in accordance with the Ordinance (2009:907) on Environmental Management in Public Authorities and the Ordinance (2014:480) on the Purchasing of Energy-Efficient Goods, Services and Buildings by Public Authorities.