Whole Systems Approach

Chalmers University of Technology and KTH Royal Institute of technology

The Climate Framework

Higher education institutions (HEIs) have central roles in combating the climate crisis. We have the important tasks to educate citizens and future leaders, do research on possible ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change, collaborate with society on these issues and reduce our own footprint.

The Higher Education sector in Sweden has banded together to create a ground-breaking climate framework to serve as the basis for individual climate strategies with the goal of coming into line with national and international commitments including the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C warming limit and the Swedish national target to become climate neutral by 2045. This ambitious national agenda aims to both reduce direct emissions of all Swedish Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) as a collective and to make sure that Swedish HEIs integrate climate action in education, research and external collaboration. This is therefore a unique whole-system as well as a whole nation project. The signatories includes all types of HEIs including large comprehensive universities, large specialized universities, medium sized university colleges, and several smaller specialized HEIs in all areas. It also includes both private and public HEIs.

The foundation of The Climate Framework is the shared belief that a sustainable future is better achieved working collectively to tackle the challenges of making our sector sustainable. Signed by the Presidents of 37 Higher Education Institutes, the shared framework includes but also extends beyond local projects and initiatives to deploy implementation of climate targets on campuses throughout Sweden.

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Partnerships for Progress

LUT University

LUT Junior University – case “Lappeenranta Junior University”

LUT University has done cooperation with different school levels over 20 years. In 2017 LUT University launched LUT Junior University and decided with the city of Lappeenranta to build up an equally educational co-operation which focus on LUT University’s top research topics (clean water, clean energy, circular economy, sustainable business and entrepreneurship) and engage all the selected age groups (pupils in early childhood education, the 3rd, 5th and 8th grade and students in upper secondary schools). All the themes and activities support the National curriculums and are incorporated into the curricula of local schools. Several local and national partners are also engaged in Junior University concept.

The Lappeenranta Junior University started in 2018 and the objective of the cooperation is to increase all the children’s and adolescents’ interest in science, technology, research, and sustainable business, develop their skills for academic studies, and enhance their opportunities to build a sustainable future. This is ensured by bringing the LUT University’s sustainability expertise to local schools. Yearly over 3000 pupils and 150 teachers take part in Lappeenranta Junior University -action and over 100 experts take part in organizing, planning, implementing and developing these actions.

Lappeenranta Junior University is a continuous collaboration between the university and the city. The inclusion of Junior University in the city’s latest strategy is a strong indication of the city’s commitment. LUT Junior University has already started the same kind of cooperation with the cities of Lahti and Imatra and shared knowledge and experiences with many other cities, too.


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Cultural Change for Sustainability

Thammasat University

Thammasat Campus Life: No more single-use plastics

Campus cultural change plays important role toward sustainability. Among many issues, Thammasat, a small city of 35,000 people, aimed at the reduction of single-use plastics. Our strategy is to begin with small actions and do less for more.

Starting with encouragement in 2005, we distributed cloth bags and water bottles to freshmen. In 2015 we stepped up to create conditions with choices, such as voluntary-paid plastic bags fee in convenient stores; in 2016, price reduction for using personal cup in canteens. In the same year, we intensified the actions to campus operational change, including eliminating water bottle cap seals – extended nationwide a year later; banning of all single-use plastic bags in 2017; use of washable cups and utensils in canteens and meetings in 2018; banning of single-use plastic cups and straws in all shops and cafes in 2019. Finally, we provided campus-wide lifestyle change, ‘Thammasat Refill Shoppe’, the cool place where everyone enjoys buying food & supplies using their personal containers.

Partnerships and participation are the key to our success. To accelerate changes in policy level, in 2018, we signed MOUs with major convenient stores and the members of Sustainable Campus Network of Thailand. We also let students and staffs be part of the planning and operations to make everything fun and be sure the actions can be implemented locally.

For 15 years, we have integrated many strategies and actions and using our campus as a living lab for social changes.  Thammasat are heading toward the success of nurturing sustainable campus lifestyle. If Thammasat can do it, why can’t other campuses and every city?

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Honorary Member Award

McGill University

Vision 2020: Climate & Sustainability Action Plan

McGill University’s Vision 2020: Climate & Sustainability Action Plan 2017-2020 (‘Vision 2020’ or ‘Action Plan’) is the product of a deeply collaborative engagement process which brought together the entire McGill community to work towards the collective goals of addressing the climate crisis and building a more sustainable future.

Vision 2020 is the University’s second sustainability strategy and the first to incorporate climate action. Driven by two ambitious long-term targets—to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040 and to attain a Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS) Platinum rating by 2030—the Action Plan institutionalizes concrete objectives to reduce McGill’s carbon footprint and bolster sustainable initiatives on campus. Vision 2020 defines 22 short-term priority actions and 45 associated deliverables and distributes ownership and accountability of these activities across the University. This framework encompasses all three pillars of sustainability while setting up McGill for long-term success.

Vision 2020 is a dynamic action plan that addresses the needs of over 50 000 community members. Its legacy is that it has paved the way for creating collaborative and representative plans for and from the McGill community for many years to come. With McGill’s main campus in the heart of Montreal and satellite campuses in the surrounding area, Vision 2020’s impact has resonated throughout the region and sets the stage for the next Climate and Sustainability Action Plan (2020-2025).

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2020 ISCN Award Finalists

Whole Systems Approach

Stellenbosch University – Water Optimization Project

Stellenbosch University campus wide Water Sustainability Project achieved a 50 % reduction in municipal potable water consumption and 50% reduction of irrigation water usage. In 2010 SU adopted a Sustainable Green Plan which detailed the future use of this scarce and finite water resources. This project required a consolidated and integrated approach by aligning actions with the assistance and support of the entire university community and external stakeholders. With a clear goal to overcome the most recent drought crisis (2014-2017), Stellenbosch University were able to draw on the support of a broad range of stakeholders from the executive, staff and students, services providers, local and national government. This system change built resilience in the water supply system and placed the institution on a sustainable trajectory to withstand future environmental shock. This is the first African university to implement a campus wide whole systems approach project at this scale.

Partnerships for Progress

Universidad Catolica Lumen Gentium in partnership with Yale University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Promoting the Sustainable Universities Cali Network

Cali, Columbia is a city of over 3 million people with an extraordinary natural resource endowment. The city faces serious environmental and social challenges related to its current development pathway. There are over 20 universities in Cali, most of which have strong programs to support biodiversity, efficient use of energy and water, excellent waste management, green building practices, and teaching and research related to sustainability. However, historically, these universities have not communicated with each other. The Sustainable Universities Cali Network is an ongoing project aiming to develop a collaborative network to improve the environmental action and performance of universities in Cali and the surrounding area. This project was the result of the seed project of ISCN with the help of ISCN, the universities of Yale, MIT, British Columbia and UPUC and the Cali universities. Currently in the organization phase, the network has already developed a plan for the first semester of 2020 to share experiences in solid waste management, energy efficiency and sustainable transportation.

Cultural Change for Sustainability

ETH Zurich – “Stay grounded – keep connected”: ETH Zurich’s Air Travel Project

ETH Zurich’s air travel project seeks to motivate members of ETH Zurich to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated by business trips, which account for over half of the total greenhouse gas emissions caused by ETH Zurich, with 93% of this due to air travel. Launched in 2017, the project focuses on cultural change, which is stimulated and supported through a combination of a top-down and bottom-up approaches. The aim is to embark on a greenhouse gas emissions reduction path compatible with excellence in science and the best career opportunities for researchers. Working in a participatory process, the departments, Executive Board and administrative units at ETH Zurich agreed to a per capita reduction of on average 11% from 2019 until 2025 (taken against the average for 2016-2018) with a range of concrete measures which will be adopted to achieve the reduction target.

Honorary Member Award

University of Lausanne – Sustainability strategy at UNIL

UNIL’s sustainability strategy aims to place sustainability at the heart of the institution’s concerns at all levels. It is the foundation of all sustainability projects at UNIL and is one of the priority objectives of the Rectorate Strategic Plan (the framework document that sets the objectives of the Rectorate for a period of 5 years). This strategy was launched in 2011 with the appointment of a Vice-Rector in charge of sustainability directly at the Rectorate level. In 2016, a new Rectorate was established and the sustainability’s strategy gained importance at the institutional level. The team in charge of sustainability is now composed of the vice-Rector, two deputies and the newly created Interdisciplinary Centre for Sustainability, composed of a team of four full-time equivalents. This centre focuses particularly on teaching and research on sustainability and aims to value what already exists within UNIL, to promote interdisciplinarity, to develop teaching on sustainability and to work in partnership with society.