University of Basel publishes first Sustainability Report
How does the university contribute to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals? Which degree programs address issues of sustainability? What are the university’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas balance levels? Details of these and other questions can be found in the University of Basel’s first Sustainability Report, which is published online and provides a summary of key figures and information relating to operations, research and teaching.
The biggest contribution that the University of Basel can make to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is through its key areas of research, teaching and knowledge transfer. By anchoring sustainability in its teaching, the university aims to train students to become “change agents” for sustainability and enable them to use these skills in their future careers for the purpose of sustainable development.
The university’s role in shaping the future
In total, 18 degree programs offer courses on sustainable development issues – from interdisciplinary courses to specialized courses on topics such as the adaptation of plants to climate change. The Master in Sustainable Development, which is embedded in three faculties, offers the opportunity to complete a stand-alone degree in this field.
In addition, academics are making numerous specific contributions to achieving the SDGs via research projects on topics such as microplastics in bodies of water, sufficiency in everyday life and peace-building. Their results provide an important basis for political and public decision-making, as demonstrated, for example, by the contributions of the Competence Center for Research in Energy, Society and Transition (CREST) to the energy transition in Switzerland. Last year, issues relating to sustainability were the subject of dialog with representatives from politics, business and civil society at more than 40 public events.
The Sustainability Report also describes the University of Basel’s contribution to sustainable development at the regional level: The establishment of a dynamic start-up community at the Allschwil location is aimed at ensuring that knowledge generated at the university is of even greater benefit to the general public and stimulates the regional economy.
The university as a role model
An institution with some 13,000 students and 5,000 staff needs resources – the report now provides an overview of consumption figures for the first time. The university performs well in terms of catering. In 2018, more than half of the meat used in the student canteens and cafeterias was sourced from animal-friendly farms. The proportion of goods shipped by air was just 0.12%. Approximately 54.5 gigawatt hours of energy and 229,230 cubic meters of water were consumed on campus last year for research, teaching and administration.
For the first time, the university has calculated the greenhouse gas balance for the energy it consumes, reaching a figure of 2,961 tonnes of emitted CO2 equivalents. This does not include emissions from business travel or procurement. The report also hears from the students who campaigned at the Senate in fall 2018 for a reduction in air miles at the University of Basel. In a video interview, they explain what motivated them to launch the initiative and what they hope to achieve.
Furthermore, the report addresses social aspects of sustainability, also in relation to the well-being of students and staff, and in areas such as diversity, family-friendliness and working conditions. For example, the Diversity unit’s “antelope” career program provides support to highly qualified female researchers in their career development. The Students Without Barriers (StoB) service point supports students with physical, chronic or mental impairments, and assists the faculties in meeting their special requirements.
The publication of the first report marks the beginning of a continual sustainability reporting at the University of Basel. The report is to be published every two years in order to provide a transparent overview of relevant aspects and to give a further boost to the establishment of an active culture of sustainability. Over the coming months, the plan is to work with the relevant university units to draw up a series of goals and measures in the key areas based on data from 2018, which will then be published in fall 2019.
Arne Menn, University of Basel, Head of Sustainability, phone +41 61 207 09 65, email: firstname.lastname@example.org