Student union HHGS expands its sustainability work
HHGS, the Student Union of the School of Business, Economics and Law, has high ambitions when it comes to sustainability. Now the student union has adopted a Sustainability Policy that will form the basis for deeper and broader sustainability work, but also for lobbying the School on the integration of sustainability into its education and other operations
There has long been an association for students with an interest in sustainability and the largest careers fair, GADDEN, obtained sustainability certification early on. With the Sustainability Policy, HHGS wants to do more.
“Linked to the UN’s 2030 Agenda, our policy takes into account economic, social and environmental sustainability, providing the foundation on which all our sustainability work is built,” says Olivia Lind, the Student Union’s Vice President and Head of Sustainability.
Through the policy, HHGS wishes to push its own organisation to become as sustainable as possible. The ultimate objective is to contribute to a sustainable society, and HHGS wants to play its part by influencing its operations, the students and the School in general.
We are keen that their time at the School will give them a commitment to sustainability that they can then take with them into the world of work.
“The students spend a relatively short time at the School. HHGS wants to send them off with sustainable habits and routines, and an awareness that there are many different ways to engage with the drive for a sustainable society. We are keen that their time at the School will give them a commitment to sustainability that they can then take with them into the world of work. There, they need tools to tackle the sustainability challenges, and it is therefore vital to lobby the School, which gives the students many of those tools,” continues Olivia Lind.
The art of creating sustainable events
HHGS is a large organisation with over 3,000 members, 25 associations, 4 major projects and 7 companies. To avoid the common pitfall of too much talk and too little action, HHGS has set up specific targets. For example, one objective is to follow up and measure more, but also to give all the associations and projects clear instructions on how they need to report their sustainability work each year. In addition, the policy states that all projects must appoint a Head of Sustainability, just as there always has to be a Head of Company Relations, for example.
Events of various kinds are a major part of the Union’s operation. There are external bodies that certify sustainable events, but this is a considerable expense that only the larger projects can afford. With help from the Gothenburg Centre for Sustainable Development (GMV), HHGS has therefore drawn up its own sustainability certificate for its internal activities. This is based primarily on ISO 20121, an international standard for sustainable event management. The certificate is available to associations, projects and companies within the organisation that want to hold sustainable events.
“To obtain the certificate, the event must meet certain targets within the three separate aspects of sustainability. For example, food served must be organic, locally produced and/or vegetarian, and waste must be sorted correctly for recycling. The certificate also requires a sustainable financial budget, diversity within the organisation, gender neutral communication, and so on. The certificate is brand-new and the first to apply is N&FA, the committee that organises the welcome events for all the School’s new students, which is fantastic. The success of the welcome weeks affects the way the new students feel about the union’s work as a whole,” says Olivia Lind.
The companies that take part tend to be extremely pleased, and sometimes surprised, that GADDEN has such a strong emphasis on sustainability.
The Student Union’s biggest project, the GADDEN careers fair, was an early adopter of sustainability practices and is setting the standard among careers fairs at Swedish higher education institutions. Over the years, GADDEN has done a great deal to make the fair as sustainable as possible, for example through carbon offsetting and certification as a Sustainable Event with the help of Greentime. The fair has long been vegetarian, with a focus on recycling and minimising waste. Social sustainability is supported in various ways, including via a long-term partnership with the youth charity Ung Cancer. In addition, GADDEN has been measuring its climate footprint for the past three years, and takes active measures to reduce it each year.
“The companies that take part tend to be extremely pleased, and sometimes surprised, that GADDEN has such a strong emphasis on sustainability. GADDEN also tries to encourage the companies to be more sustainable. For example, they are urged to carbon offset their place and not to hand out unsustainable products. GADDEN inspires many other projects and associations within the student union through its sustainability work,” says Olivia Lind.
Pushing the School to do more
The School of Business, Economics and Law has a clear sustainability profile. Sustainability is integrated into the educational programmes and there is research relating to all 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals within the 2030 Agenda, as well as research of particular importance linked to several of the goals. . However, there is much more still to do.
“We want to push the School to go further. The most important thing is for sustainability to be more of a feature of the courses than it currently is. We would also like to see greater diversity at the School, more measures to reduce negative climate impacts, and more work from the School on increasing student participation in sustainable development within the Faculty,” states Olivia Lind.
Social engagement and whistleblower function
Under the new Sustainability Policy, the HHGS Board must take part in annual training on the art of leading a sustainable organisation. Each year, the Board must also take part in a social project. In spring 2020, the Board members were out picking up rubbish along the coast, as part of Keep Sweden Tidy’s “Coast Savers” project.
“We’re going to continue with this, and we also have some other plans for the autumn. It’s a good way to set an example and show that we’re also doing something concrete,” adds Olivia Lind.
Even before the new policy was finalised, the current Board launched a whistleblower function, through which union members and other students can report irregularities within the Student Union and the School.
“Many students contact board members about their misgivings, but there has to be a way to do this anonymously. The function has not been used yet, but it’s important that every organisation offers a way to anonymously report things that are wrong,” says Olivia Lind.
Sustainable business contacts
Ahead of the autumn, Olivia Lind is hoping for many exciting discussions that will advance the Student Union’s sustainability work. HHGS will also be working to create more occasions where students can have contact with sustainable actors in the business world, with a view to gaining inspiration, a wider network and perhaps job opportunities.
“I’m incredibly proud of everyone’s commitment to sustainability. I hope that we can recruit many new members with new thoughts and ideas, and that we can offer even more sustainable opportunities moving forward,” concludes Olivia Lind.
Text: Maria Norrström
Handels Council for Sustainability (HCS)
Established in autumn 2020 and responsible for the Student Union’s sustainability work. The council includes representatives from associations, projects and companies within HHGS. The work of HCS is both strategic (e.g. drawing up the new policy and monitoring the work) and operational (e.g. managing the sustainability certification and creating opportunities for contact with sustainable actors in the business world). For those with an interest in sustainability in the Student Union’s many associations, projects and companies, HCS also offers a forum for discussion and exchanging experiences.
Handels Students for Sustainability (HaSS)
An association within HHGS. Set up in 2012, its purpose is to engage, inspire and educate students on issues concerning economic, social and environmental sustainability. This takes place through collaborations with companies and other student associations, talks on sustainability, workshops and events, amongst other things. One annual project is “Enviro Travel”, where HaSS organises study trips, often abroad.