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Solar panels on the roof of the School of Business Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg
Photo: Johan Wingborg

Sustainability results 2020

The University of Gothenburg’s environmental management system has been certified according to the ISO 14001 international environmental standard and the EU’s EMAS Regulation since 2004. Our environmental management system provides a purpose-oriented, systematic methodology for achieving the ambitions in the university’s steering document Vision 2021– 2030 – A University for the World.

Active environmental initiatives reduce the negative environmental impact resulting from, for example, the university’s resource consumption, official business travel and use of chemicals. By systematically integrating sustainable development into research, education, collaboration, student participation, continuing professional development and day-to-day operations, we contribute to sustainable societal development.

Objectives for the University of Gothenburg’s significant areas of environmental impact are set in the university’s sustainable development action plan. The results of initiatives to attain these objectives are presented on this page.

Research

Objective

The university is to promote research that aims to identify, increase knowledge of, and solve global societal challenges.

Results

684 scientific articles dealing with sustainable development were published in 2020. The number of scientific articles on sustainable development has increased over the past five years. All of the university’s science areas are represented, which shows the scope of sustainable development research. Articles in natural sciences and medicine dominate.

Good examples

Reduced biodiversity is one of four themes of Ocean Blues – from Anxiety to Action, an interdisciplinary project in which upper secondary school students and researchers at the University of Gothenburg meet to discuss the threats against the marine environment, and how we can create a more sustainable future together. The project includes researchers in ecotoxicology, biology, photography, teaching and learning, collective action, and law. The project is financed by research council Formas, and runs from 2020 to 2022.

Environment for Development (EfD) at the School of Business, Economics and Law is a global network of research centres founded in 2007 with the purpose of increasing the use of environmental economics to reduce poverty, and increase sustainability in the countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America that are now often labelled the ‘Global South’. Another important issue for EfD is the promotion of international collaboration, while EfD’s environmental risk analysis also points to air travel as the greatest source of negative environmental impact of EfD’s activities. EfD organises a big research conference every year, and in 2019, this conference was held virtually, which resulted in great savings as concerned carbon dioxide emissions, and an opportunity to involve others who wouldn’t normally have been able to participate in the conference. EfD is currently trying to develop a model to reduce travel in the future as well, without risking losing new ideas, international collaborations, and the opportunity for junior researchers to build their networks.

Education

Objective

The university is to increase and assure the quality of integration of sustainable development into education.

Results

The steady trend of an increasing share of courses being sustainabilitylabelled continues in 2020. The fact that the organisation continues to work for sustainable development in education even under the extraordinary circumstances brought by 2020 is a good sign.

Good examples

The University of Gothenburg has two levels of sustainability-labelling of courses and programmes, dependent on how central the sustainability theme is in the course or programme respectively. Courses and programmes can be sustainability-related or sustainability-focused. The work with revising the sustainability-labelling of courses and programmes has continued throughout the year. The primary purpose of the revision is to include the global goals for sustainable development in the university’s labelling system, but the revision will also bring some clarifications of the process, as well as a more cohesive system that is clearer both for course coordinators and students. The University of Gothenburg’s award for theses about sustainable development, GUSTA, was awarded for the second time. The award is intended to motivate students to critically analyse and get involved in sustainability issues, and to seek new knowledge for a sustainable world.

Student Participation

Objective

The university is to increase student participation in sustainable development at the university and in society.

Results

The number of activities and collaboration projects within sustainable development for, by or with students has decreased by 43 per cent since 2019, due to the pandemic. The number of performed activities and collaboration projects was 174.

Good examples

There are many active student associations and initiatives that organise events and projects throughout the year. In 2020, the associations have faced great challenges due to the pandemic, and we are therefore seeing a decrease in the number of activities. A large number of events, such as study trips and conferences have been cancelled or postponed, while other events have taken place digitally. In spite of great challenges, however, many successful events have taken place – in new ways. New associations have also participated in the association network coordinated by the Gothenburg Centre for Sustainable Development (GMV) in 2020. Some examples of new associations are the Vegan Student Association Gothenburg (VSA) and GU-Fem.

Handels Students for Sustainability (HaSS) has organised a number of lunch lectures throughout the year, with guests from Nudie Jeans and Oatly. The lectures have mainly been held via Zoom, and have been attended by some one hundred guests.

In 2020, Sahlgrenska Students for Sustainability (SaSS) and the Urban Gardening at Global Studies group have worked together in the urban garden at Campus Linné. Together, they have, for instance, organised a plant exchange and weekly meet-ups in the garden for interested students and staff.

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Studio view frpn the Act Sustainable Studio
Act Sustainable 2020 was a completely digital event and was broadcasted from Media Technology at the University of Gothenburg. More than 1500 people participated in lectures and workshops on topics such as biodiversity, transport and filter bubbles.

The University of Gothenburg's annual Act Sustainable week took place in November 2020. Starting from this year, the week is organised together with Chalmers University of Technology, and due to the pandemic, the whole week took place digitally. The week covered topics such as biodiversity, transport, and waste issues and more than 1500 persons participated during the week. The keynote speaker was researcher and science journalist Emma Frans.

The university also has students employed as Student Sustainability Coordinators. Over the course of the year, they have, for instance, worked with making GUSTA – an award for the best thesis related to sustainable development – a reality. They have also worked with revising the sustainability labelling for courses and programmes.

Procurement and Purchasing

Objective

  • The university is to set sustainability requirements for all framework agreements, and increase its requirements in item procurements (Sustainability requirements refers to financial, environmental, social and ethical requirements, as well as requirements for lifecycle perspectives).
  • The university is to increase the amount of acquisitions where sustainability requirements are set, within prioritised product areas. (Computers and image screens, drinks, fruit, office paper, tissue paper, cleaning chemicals, cars, textile promotional products, and furniture).

Results

  • Sustainability requirements have been set in all relevant framework agreements. Sustainability requirements have been set in 33 per cent of object procurement procedures (14 of 42).
  • The share of products with set sustainability requirements has increased or remained the same in 9 out of 12 prioritised product areas, compared to 2019. In half of the product areas, basically all purchased products meet the university’s sustainability requirements.

Good examples

When procuring cleaning products, evaluations are made based on requirements for fossil-free transports, which now take place using lorries that run on HVO100. The basic requirement level was raised to a standardised ISO 14001 in many of the new framework agreements. This means that our suppliers must take on a greater environmental responsibility, and that they will be subject to external audits. In the procurement process for Laundry and rental of work clothes, textiles and doormats, a requirement for the ‘Svanen’ stamp was set for textile services, which reduces environmental impact. The number of printed sheets of paper was reduced by 44 per cent in 2020. That’s equivalent to 27 tonnes of CO2, or as many as 200 trees.

Travel

Objective

The university is to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide from business travel by six per cent compared to 2019.

Results

In 2020, the University of Gothenburg’s business travel generated a total of 2,107 tonnes of carbon dioxide. That’s a decrease by 73 per cent.

Good examples

The reason why the emissions were so much lower in 2020 was, of course, the pandemic, which has affected travel to a great extent. There has been a reduction in all kinds of travel in 2020.

Long-haul air travel is by far the greatest source of emissions when it comes to business travel. Around 90 per cent of business travel emissions come from long-haul air travel. Seen over time, however, the number of kilometres by plane has decreased for four consecutive years. The reduction in 2020 is largely due to the pandemic.

The pandemic has also given rise to new ways of working for both staff and students, and the number of digital meetings has increased by over 500 per cent. Work with developing support and technology for digital meetings has been ongoing for several years, but the university made a big leap in 2020 when it came to utilising the available technology. Several institutions are working to make the most of the experience gained from the pandemic’s reduced travel, and some have set travel policies that are to provide a better overview of the institution’s travel, and opportunities to propose alternative modes of travel.

Energy and Buildings

Objective

  • The university is to reduce energy usage by 10 per cent per square metre by 2020 compared to 2015.
  • The university is to set environmental requirements equivalent to Environmentally Classified Building, level Gold, especially as concerns energy usage, for new builds and big rebuilds.

Results

  • The usage of energy and heating has decreased by 11 per cent per square metre since 2015.
  • No new builds or rebuilds were completed in 2020.

Good examples

The Academy of Music and Drama (HSM) has a joint project with Akademiska Hus, the university’s biggest property owner, with the goal of reducing total energy usage in the building, for instance by turning lights off earlier than before in some parts of the building, and through an overview of ventilation. This resulted in a total energy usage reduction of over eleven per cent over a twelve-month period. HSM is continuously swapping existing lighting for LED fittings. The social sciences faculty office has also looked at its energy usage by performing more extensive energy mapping, which resulted in fittings being swapped, for example.

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Solar panels at the roof of School of Business Economics and Law
The amount of self-produced power from the solar panels on the university’s property has almost quadrupled in 2020.
Photo: Johan Wingborg

The amount of self-produced power from the solar panels on the university’s property has almost quadrupled in 2020. Solar panels have been installed on a further three properties during the year, and now seven of the university’s properties produce their own power.

Over the course of the year, the university has also begun a comprehensive collaboration project with Akademiska Hus with the purpose of setting joint goals for sustainable development, and to create a collaboration model for how this can be translated into concrete activities. The goals of the university and of Akademiska Hus are often the same, and increased and coordinated collaboration can hopefully have a positive effect on goal achievement.

Chemicals and Environmental Risks

Objective

The university is to minimise the number of incidents that have negative environmental consequences, and to minimise the consequences of incidents.

Results

Five incidents were reported in 2020. 35 preventative measures were reported in 2020. During the year, most preventative work was focussed on the pandemic’s effects on the work environment for staff on-site as well as at home, as a majority of staff have been working from home. Where work has, in spite of everything, been performed within the university’s premises, preventative work has been performed as normal; systematic fire safety work, risk analyses, substitutions of dangerous chemical substances, and improved safety and environment measures in laboratories and workshops.

Good examples

The Academy for Art and Design is continuing to phase out materials where options that are environmentally better, such as biogas instead of traditional liquefied petroleum gas for use in ovens, are available.

At the Kristineberg Marine Research Station, formalin is being replaced by ethanol or Lugol’s solution as a preservative for zooplankton. The station’s vessels have also swapped diesel for HVO (hydrogenated vegetable oil), and smaller boats have swapped normal petrol for alkylate petrol. Fire safety has also been improved through the installation of flashing warning lights in special premises, in collaboration with the property owner.

A facility has been installed at the Swedish NMR Centre to trap decocted helium from the large amount of liquid helium that is used to cool magnets. For a few years, the gas has been compressed and sold, instead of disappearing into space as before. In the autumn of 2020, a helium liquidation machine was installed so that the compressed and liquefied helium can now be reused in its own cycle. The installation was partially paid for by the university’s climate fund.

Reuse and Waste

Objective

  • The university is to reduce the total amount of waste by ten per cent by 2020 compared to 2015.
  • The university is to increase the share of waste that is reused, recycled or composted by three percentage points by 2020 compared to 2015.

Results

  • The total amount of waste was 733 tonnes, which is a reduction of 34 per cent compared to 2019. Since 2015, the total amount of waste has decreased by 33 per cent.
  • The share of waste that is reused, recycled or composted is 36 per cent, a decrease of two percentage points since 2019. Since 2015, the share of waste that is reused, recycled or composted has decreased by six percentage points. Recycling corresponds to an emission saving of 166 tonnes of CO2e.

Good examples

Of all electronic waste, around 71 per cent is recycled, while 18 per cent goes to energy recovery, and the remaining 11 per cent to landfill. Recycled electronic waste is comprised of 40 per cent iron and 15 per cent plastic. Brass and aluminium take up about 5 per cent each. Other recycled materials are copper (4.3 per cent), stainless (3 per cent), zinc (0.8 per cent), lead (0.5 per cent), and nickel (0.3 per cent). Very small amounts of lithium, silver, gold and platinum are also recycled.

Other Reports

The University of Gothenburg’s 2020 annual report has a sustainability
report as one of its integral elements. Said sustainability report fulfils the
requirements for an EMAS approved environmental report. In accordance
with Sweden’s ordinances on environmental management in state authorities
(2009:907) and authorities’ purchasing of energy-efficient goods, services and
buildings (2014:480), the University of Gothenburg reports its environmental
management work to both the Ministry of Education and Research and the
Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.

The sustainability report is issued annually and results are, to the greatest
extent possible, presented so that they can be compared year on year.
Input data is provided by in-house statistics and statistics from suppliers and
contractors engaged by the university. The most recent report was published in
February 2020. All results from the sustainability report are available at the Staff Portal.