An aero plane flying over the city of Gothenburg
Our goal is that by 2024, the University of Gothenburg has strengthened its position as a leading university in sustainable development. Reduced air travel is one of the key factors for success.
Photo: Miller Jacob, Unsplash

Sustainability results 2021

Sustainable development is an ever-present and current keyword for all the university's activities. It is a driving force in the role of being a societal actor and in independent research but is also an important starting point in the university's education. The University strives to make a clear contribution to the global goals of Agenda 2030.

Since 2004, the University of Gothenburg has been certified according to the international standard for environmental management systems, ISO 14001. This means that the University is constantly working to improve its operations to reduce the negative environmental impact and strengthen the positive impact on sustainable development through research, education and collaboration. The University's action plan for sustainable development is a central part of the environmental management system and several strategic improvements are being implemented with this as a starting point, such as sustainability labelling of education and efforts to stimulate research in line with Agenda 2030.

With the university's new vision and strategy, sustainable development has gained an even more prominent place. Sustainable development has been integrated into strategies and operational plans both university-wide and at the faculty level. The university's positive and negative environmental impact will continue to be monitored within the framework of the environmental management system. Active environmental work reduces the negative environmental impact generated by the University through, for example, resource consumption, business travel and chemical use. By systematically integrating sustainable development into research, education, collaboration, student participation, competence development and in daily operations, we contribute to sustainable societal development.

The results for the 2021 targets are presented on this page.

Agenda 2030 and the University

Our goal is that by 2024 the University of Gothenburg has strengthened its position as a leading university in sustainable development.

The University of Gothenburg has international recognition for its work on sustainability issues in education and research. The University will further develop and strengthen sustainability work and increase its relevance as a social actor and partner, thereby contributing to agenda 2030 and the global goals for sustainable development, including economic, social and ecological dimensions.

A large number of activities have been carried out during the year to contribute to agenda 2030 at faculties, departments and other activities. These include initiatives and projects that together cover all the global goals, ranging from studies of the effects of digitalisation on maternal care and calculation models for the spread of infection in society to contributing to policy development within the marine environment. Several departments have used the University's developed IT tool SDG Impact Assessment Tool to map research and other activities related to the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. The tool identifies both positive and negative contributions to Agenda 2030 and can form a basis for applications for research funding, sustainability elements in courses and programmes and collaborative projects in sustainable development.

Two people working in front of a laptop with the SDG Impact Assessment Tool in it.
The IT tool SDG Impact Assessment Tool is used in research, education and innovation systems.
Photo: GMV

Climate Framework

In 2019, the University of Gothenburg joined the climate framework, which is the basis of the University's systematic work on climate impact. The Climate Framework is a collaboration between Swedish universities and higher education institutions with the focus, in line with national and international commitments, on reaching the so-called 1.5 degree goal. Within the University there is a working group that drives the climate issue forward by setting guidelines for future efforts and collaborating with other higher education institutions.

One of the overall efforts carried out to reduce the university's climate impact is this year's decision to introduce a carbon budget for the university's operations. All faculties, the University Library and the joint administration have been commissioned to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions in two stages, by at least 25 percent by 2024 and by at least 50 percent by 2030 compared to the base year 2019.  Following the decision to implement the climate framework, activities that are relevant to each activity are developed. These will contribute to reduced CO2 emissions and energy consumption as well as increased energy efficiency.



The University will promote research aimed at identifying, increasing knowledge of and solving global societal challenges.


794 scientific articles dealing with issues in sustainable development were published in 2021, an increase of 11 percent compared to 2020.

Good examples

The University of Gothenburg strives to strengthen its role as a leading university in sustainable development. There is a need for increased competence and insight into how the transition to a sustainable society should take place, both nationally and globally. The University's research has a clear task to contribute with scientifically built knowledge in this transition.

The University of Gothenburg has a long tradition of research in marine natural sciences and technology, but also has strong social science research that, together with research in the humanities and the arts, contributes to a broad competence about the sea. Several projects link the value of sustainable management of marine resources with future use. Here you can mention the algae research group at the University of Gothenburg, which investigates how algae and seaweed interact with their environment, how the algae react to natural and human-induced environmental changes and how they can be used as a renewable resource for biomass. The focus is on issues of genetic diversity, ecology, ecophysiology, microbiome interactions and chemical ecology. This basic research overlaps with applied research that will optimize algae cultivation for food, feed and other products.

In another project, LIFE Lophelia eye coral is restored with the help of artificial reefs. In Koster-Väderöfjorden’s Natura area in northern Bohuslän there are reefs of the cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa, eye coral. On two premises there is still living coral, but on four other premises, where there was previously living coral, there are now only dead coral skeletons. The project develops methods for restoring eye coral using artificial reefs whose surface structure and shape make it easier for coral larvae to settle and begin colony construction. The artificial reefs should be mass-produced and the aim is to restore coral reefs in the area on a large scale so that it makes a difference. Successful trials can mean that there is an increase in fish and other fauna that thrives in the reef environments. The project is run in cooperation with the County Administrative Board of Västra Götaland and Kosterhavet National Park.

Eye coral
The eye coral is a reef-forming stone coral. The only known occurrence in Sweden is Koster-Väderöfjorden in northern Bohuslän.
Photo: Susanna Strömberg

The strategic initiative UGOT Challenges, which has funded six challenge-driven interdisciplinary centres since 2016, is coming to an end. For UGOT Challenges as a whole, an international panel of experts has assessed the extent to which the initiative has contributed to realizing the goals that were set when it was launched and what the legacy of the initiative may be. The panel notes that the overall outcome is broadly in line with expectations and goals and makes a series of recommendations on how the results can be managed. Both the report and the recommendations have been received and discussed for decisions on future strategic initiatives.



The University shall increase and ensure the quality of the integration of sustainable development into education.


Almost 18 % of the courses (835 out of 4669 courses) and just over 21 % of the programmes (44 out of 205 programmes) are sustainability-labelled. The share of sustainability-labelled courses and programmes has increased compared to 2020.

Good examples

The University has the mission to educate for a sustainable future and today's students expect the sustainability perspective to be adequately addressed in education. The sustainability labeling of courses and programmes provides guidance on how the educational content responds to the global goals.

Since sustainable development was introduced into the Higher Education Act in 2006, the University of Gothenburg has strived to integrate sustainability and sustainable development into education. During the year, a study was conducted and a report was published, Baseline study on the Integration of Sustainable Development into education at the University of Gothenburg. The report presents the University's past achievements, current challenges and opportunities in terms of integrating sustainability into education. The study will form the basis for discussing and developing an action plan to strengthen the work to integrate sustainable development into education together with faculties and departments.

The University of Gothenburg has for several years a system for sustainability labelling of courses and programmes. The label, which is based on criteria that reflect the multidimensional concept of sustainable development, is followed up annually within the University. Work has been ongoing to review and revise the sustainability labelling system. The assignment included taking advantage of experience, knowledge and strengths from current systems and investigating whether and how the revised system can include or relate to the global goals in Agenda 2030. In 2022, rules and guidelines for labelling will be drawn up, as well as a web-based guidance on how the University can work with sustainability labelling.

Student Participation


The University will increase student participation in sustainable development at the university and in society.


The number of activities and collaborative projects in sustainable development for, by, or with students, has increased by 16% since 2020. The number of completed activities and collaborative projects was 201.

Good examples

Act Sustainable was held for the 16th time in 2021. The week will stimulate and inspire both students and employees to gain more knowledge and contribute to increased engagement. On stage in The Students' House, there were students and researchers who attended the CONFERENCE COP 26 in Glasgow, and dance teachers who performed a choreography that portrayed this year's theme: Factivism – Get your facts!  The week also offered a workshop with the National Coordinator for Agenda 2030, lectures, a tasting of algae and research discussions on science and disinformation.

Five people on stage at Act Sustainable
The theme for the 2021 version of the Sustainability Week Act Sustainable was Factivism.

The University's Sustainability Thesis Award (GUSTA) recognises outstanding student theses in sustainable development. The prize, which was awarded for the third year of the sustainability week, will motivate students to critically engage in sustainability issues and search for more knowledge for a sustainable world. This year's four laureates dealt with topics such as the presence of women as a prerequisite for sustainable development, municipalities' work with climate adaptation, how education for sustainable development can be strengthened through mother tongue education and provide greater equality and climate adaptation from a Pacific perspective.

Procurement and Purchasing


  • The University shall set sustainability requirements for all framework agreements and increase the requirements for object procurements. Sustainability requirements refer to economic requirements, environmental requirements, social and ethical requirements and requirements for life cycle perspectives.
  • The University will increase the proportion of purchases where sustainability requirements are set, within priority product areas (computers and displays, beverages, fruit, office paper, tissue paper, cleaning chemicals, cars, textile profile products and furniture.) 


  • In all framework agreements where sustainability requirements are relevant, such requirements have been set. In 41 % of the object procurements (11 out of 27), sustainability requirements have been set.
  • In eleven out of twelve priority product areas, the proportion of products with sustainability requirements has increased, or is at the same level, compared to 2020. In ten out of twelve of the product areas, virtually all purchased products are those that meet the sustainability requirements of the University (at least 80%).

Good examples

Stricter sustainability requirements have been set, among other things, in the university's procurement of coffee. As a result, the selected supplier has certified management systems for quality and environmental management (ISO 9001 and ISO 14001) as well as fossil-free transport with biogas.

Another example from 2021 is the procurement of the printing service. The supplier has quality and environmental management systems (ISO 9001 and ISO 14001) and eco-labelled printers are Blue Angel. Evaluation of total energy consumption resulted in a decrease of about 16% compared to the previous solution.



The University will reduce carbon dioxide emissions from business travel by 25 % in 2021 compared to 2019.


Total CO2 emissions from business travel in 2021 were 711 tonnes, a decrease of 91 % since 2019.

Good examples

Emissions from our business trips continued to decrease in 2021. This is primarily linked to the pandemic and the limitations that this has entailed. Flights decreased by about 70% from already unusually low levels from the first year of the pandemic.

In 2021, business travel by car and train also decreased. Emissions from car journeys decreased by 6% and train journey emissions by 42%. The share of rail travel in emissions is very marginal, it is important to remember, while the emissions from business trips with private cars are more tangible.

Below is a graph of the issues from business trips at GU during the years 2008-2021. The big "spike" for 2019 is due to a change in the measurement method for air travel and means that we now take into account the high altitude effect. They also become clear what effect the pandemic has had on us over the past two years, around a 70% reduction in both 2020 and 2021.

A challenge going forward will be to manage the reduction forced by the pandemic to become a permanent behaviour change.

Energy and Buildings


The University will reduce energy use by 10 % per square meter in 2021 compared to 2015.


  • The use of electricity and heat amounted to 179 kWh/m2 in 2021, a decrease of 4 % compared to 2020.
  • The use of electricity and heat has decreased by 14 % compared to 2015.

Good examples

During the year, the overall collaboration project between the University and Akademiska Hus aims to set common goals for sustainable development and to create a collaborative model for how this is translated into concrete activities. The university's and Akademiska Hus's goals are often the same and an expanded and coordinated collaboration can hopefully have a good effect on the goal achievement.

Solar panels at the roof of School of Business Economics and Law
The self-produced energy from the solar cells on the university's properties has almost doubled in 2021. The solar cells installed in 2021 have been put into use and in total seven of the university's properties now produce their own energy.
Photo: Johan Wingborg

In 2021, the business has reported the energy efficiency implemented during the year. This is to meet the climate framework whose implementation decisions were made in 2021. Most faculties have invested in modernizing and expanding facilities for the continued development of digital meetings. The increased energy for holding digital meetings is vanishingly small when compared to the reduced need for business travel. Activities for the replacement of lamps to LED and efficiency improvements in ventilation and heating have also been mentioned.

Chemicals and Environmental Risks


The University shall minimise the number of incidents that have negative consequences on the environment and work to minimise the consequences of incidents.


Two incidents were reported in 2021.

One reported incident concerns an experiment that was conducted even though the ventilation was turned off. This was due to a lack of communication. The second incident involved a mercury thermometer in a laboratory that broke and the mercury spread on the floor.

A further 11 deviations have been reported, mainly related to mis-sorted waste and links to environmental documents that have not worked. 5 improvement proposals are also reported; proposals for a sustainability profile award, requests for bicycle garages, proposals to revise meeting and travel policies, and two proposals for improved cleaning methods.

Good examples

42 out of 63 reporting institutions/entities have implemented one or more preventive measures to prevent adverse environmental impacts. This year's preventive work has of course been characterized by risk analyses due to the pandemic, but in addition to this and systematic fire protection work, many institutions have reported ongoing preventive work.

Several management teams have conducted exercises in crisis preparedness. Risk analyses are carried out systematically during laboratory work and fieldwork.

Experimental biomedicine has had a theme week around the environment and hazardous waste.

The Swedish NMR centre has replaced old oxygen sensors.

Biology and environmental science strengthen routines for introduction and safety at the lab.

The Department of Medicine has started an exchange of knowledge between departments to strengthen the work with risk declarations.

At Steneby, work has continued to secure the wood workshop to reduce the presence of hardwood dust and the risk of fire.

Reuse and Waste


  • The University will reduce the total amount of waste by 10 % by 2021 compared to 2015.
  • The University will increase the proportion of waste reused, recycled or composted by three percentage points by 2021 compared to 2015.


  • The total amount of waste amounted to 672 tonnes, which represents a decrease of 8 % compared to 2020. Since 2015, the total amount of waste has decreased by 39 %.
  • The proportion of waste that is reused, recycled or composted is 40 %, an increase of four percentage points since 2020. Since 2015, the proportion of waste reused, recycled or composted has decreased by two percentage points.

Good examples

About 5 % of unsorted waste is recycled, while 70 % goes to energy recovery and the other 25 % to landfills.

The property and service unit has made an inventory of all furniture/items on Rosenlundsgatan 4 level 2. This has been done in the Palace app, which provides an excellent tool for continued management of products in the continued work on reuse. In addition to information about the product (dimensions, make, etc.), you also get a CO2 benefit in relation to new purchases of the corresponding product when reused. A proposal to introduce "Reuse at GU" has been presented in the working group for the Climate Framework. It is hoped that a decision will be made in 2022.

Other Reports

The University of Gothenburg's Annual Report 2021 provides the sustainability report as an integral part. The sustainability report meets the requirements for an EMAS-approved environmental report. The University of Gothenburg reports the results of environmental management work to the Ministry of Education and the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency in accordance with the Ordinance (2009:907) on environmental management in government agencies and the Regulation (2014:480) on the purchase of energy-efficient goods, services and buildings by public authorities. The sustainability report is annually recurring and the results are presented as far as possible so that they are comparable from year to year. Measurement data originates from own statistics as well as statistics from suppliers and contractors that the university hires. The most recent report was published in February 2022. All results from the sustainability report are available at the Staff Portal.