Tore Betten

Tore Betten is a senior advisor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, in the Division for Governance and Management Systems. His role is to coordinate the measures NTNU use to reduce their collective carbon footprint.

Big Idea(s) for Advancing Sustainability in Higher Education

Is there one thing you know now that you wish you had realized 5 years ago related to your work?

I wish I had understood earlier how serious the climate crisis was and is. I had been fairly environmentally conscious in my private life, while having jobs that required a lot of air travel. My climate concerns slowly started impacting my career plans. At some point, I realized I was spending so much time on trivial assignments and commuting by plane an embarrassing amount – I’ll never be able to compensate for the amount of flights I’ve taken, although I will try! I wish I had realized this earlier in my career. But like other things, a certain amount of life experience and maturity was needed.

Leadership and Inspiration

What does excellent leadership look like to you?

I see excellent leadership as a combination of three dimensions. First and foremost, the ability to inspire. This is incredibly important in our field, because reality isn’t always accepted by those around us. A leader has to communicate messages, paint pictures, and plant seeds, and do all of this in heterogeneous contexts. Second, the ability to lift people up and give them the freedom to find their own way forward, while being willing to step out of the spotlight as a leader themself. Third, as a former health and safety professional, I think the ability to create a positive and healthy work environment is the alpha and omega. Being able to make work into a place that people want to go to every day will help teams grow, prosper, and reach their creative potential.

Tenacity and Perseverance

What is the biggest implementation barrier you see, and what would you need to overcome it?

It goes without saying that the climate crisis is complex. Yet I do see a few key challenges, the first being consumption – and more specifically, over-consumption. In my corner of the world, this is absolutely our biggest challenge. If everyone on earth consumed like the average Norwegian, we would need three to four earths to resource us, per year. “Earth Overshoot Day” arrives earlier and earlier each year, and we consume more and more. Culture is really the main barrier here, as well as the accepted idea that economic growth is a key (positive) indicator, and a measure of success. I really think we can get far through developing policies that encourage a longer life of products – both from the production side and the consumption side. This will really require politicians and policymakers to, and for people like me to show that it is possible.

Fun Fact

What is your favourite activity in your spare time?

During the pandemic a lot of people rediscovered their own city and country, and the same went for me. I went on so many great bike trips with those in my bubble and went to places in Norway that I had never been. In year 2 of the pandemic, I biked every day for more than half of the year. One of my favorite trips was a 520 km trip through the Lofoten islands. Admittedly, “white nights” during the summer definitely facilitate being outside! But I am thinking about winter tires this year…