Finnish universities commit to 12 principles of Sustainable Development

24th November 2020

Carbon neutrality by 2030, sustainable development at the heart of strategies, and strong support for the Finnish Government’s climate and biodiversity goals.

All of the above is included in the plans of Finnish universities through 12 mutual principles on sustainable development and responsibility, which have been published today.

The principles contain extensive recommendations for measures to be taken in teaching, research, administration, societal impact and funding model of universities.  Developed by the Council of Rectors of Finnish Universities, (UNIFI), all 13 of Finland's universities have committed to them.

The 12 principles are:
Sustainable and responsible research
1. Research activities are aimed at solving great sustainability challenges.
2. Attention is paid to sustainability and responsiblity in the assessment and funding of research projects.
3. Universities support an interdisciplinary approach, the principles of open science and a multifaceted global perspective in finding solutions to sustainability challenges.

Teaching promoting sustainable development
4. Studies in sustainable development are part of all degrees and the continuous learning offered.
5. Universities promote the accessibility of higher education and a safe research and teaching environment.

Universities’ own functions and administration create a responsible and sustainable world
6. Universities’ management, administration and campus activities are in line with the sustainable development goals.
7. Universities follow the principles of a carbon neutral circular economy in their activities and take concrete measures to foster biodiversity.
8. Universities work actively to promote equality, equity and well-being.

Societal impact and cooperation as drivers of change
9. Universities are bold, committed and responsible partners that act and exert influence at both national and international levels.
10. Universities share sustainable and responsible practices openly and actively and develop them together.

The preconditions for responsibility and sustainable development are created in cooperation
11. Universities integrate sustainability and responsibility work in their strategy and allocate more resources and monitoring tools to it.
12. Sustainable development and responsiblity are strongly visible in the national funding model, evaluation and auditing of universities.

Tom Böhling, vice-rector at the University of Helsinki, and chairman of the UNIFI working group that came up with the principles, said: "Universities are bringing their sustainability and responsibility work to a new level. This has to be done in order to save the future of our planet and leave hope for the next generations. There is no more time for ceremonial speeches – now is the time to act." 

The principles list key measures that universities intend to take without delay. These include making sustainability and responsibility a part of all studies, emission reduction targets, determined elimination of discrimination and including sustainability thinking in all activities from management systems to the recruitment criteria and the evaluation of research projects. Each university promotes these goals, prioritising them in a way that best suits them. What is essential is that the measures are effective and that the vision created for 2030 is achieved.

Keijo Hämäläinen, Rector at University of Jyväskylä, and Chairman of the UNIFI, said: "With this ambitious plan, universities strongly support the climate and biodiversity goals of the Finnish Government and the European Union. Research and education play a key role in ideas on how to make Finland carbon neutral by 2035 or how to become a pioneer in the circular economy. We hope that the theses will also create strong cooperation with decision-makers and other operators in society." 

The principles have been prepared by a working group of Unifi, which includes all universities and the National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL). Hopefully the end result will stimulate lively discussion both in the academic community and on a broader scale.

We invite colleges and universities across the world to join the Race to Zero by pledging to a three-point plan outlined by the Global Climate Letter. Find out more here and sign up today!

Find out more here.