Work on the University’s environmental and sustainability efforts will receive a boost in the form of a new Sustainability Forum at Uppsala University. Lotta Hallnäs Rask is its Director. Photo: Anders Berndt.2023-10-12
Sustainability Forum to Support Environmental and Sustainability Efforts
Uppsala University has established a Sustainability Forum open to everyone. It is intended to gather and support ideas and projects related to the University's environmental and sustainability work.
The Sustainability Forum has been launched by the Vice-Chancellor, Anders Hagfeldt, and is aimed at employees, students and the general public. The Sustainability Forum was inaugurated on 20 September 2023 and has a dedicated physical location on the ground floor of the Segerstedt Building.
“The Sustainability Forum is meant to serve as a bridge between research, education, and action, accelerating the University's efforts in combating climate change. We need to be flexible, nimble, and willing to try, even when we don't have all the answers,” explains Lotta Hallnäs Rask, Environmental Coordinator at the University Administration and Director of the Sustainability Forum.
Hallnäs Rask describes the Sustainability Forum as a digital and physical meeting place to inspire action and strategic advancements in sustainable development.
Activities will evolve
The activities at the Sustainability Forum are intended to evolve in collaboration with those who get involved in it.
“The Sustainability Forum should meet the needs, expectations, and criticisms that arise. We therefore want the activities at the Sustainability Forum to evolve with the help of employees, students, and the general public.”
Hallnäs Rask frequently returns to the words ‘platform’ and ‘bridge’ in the interview, while acknowledging that she doesn’t have all the answers.
“Those who have needs and are committed – regardless of who they are – need to signal their needs, ideas, or energy. The Sustainability Forum’s success depends on all of us participating; all feedback is valuable. The Sustainability Forum will have its teething issues, but we must be willing to adapt based on constructive feedback.”
Addressing pent-up needs
She speculates that there are likely pent-up needs that the Sustainability Forum can channel – both pent-up commitment and frustration that more needs to be done in terms of the University's environmental and sustainability work.
“This is where the Sustainability Forum can provide a space to highlight both that commitment and frustration.”
During the inauguration on 20 September 2023, Hallnäs Rask also realised that there is a significant need to share good examples throughout the organisation. Positive developments can be seen across the University, but such examples need to be shared more widely.
Broad perspectives essential
She also believes that the Sustainability Forum plays a crucial role in broadening perspectives and bringing together individuals from different parts of the University. It is easy to end up working in silos at the University, in part because it comprises largely self-governing units.
“Silos can also form around various sustainability issues, but these issues are so complex that we need to collaborate in diverse ways. The Sustainability Forum can create strength by allowing us to meet broader perspectives and groups. We can’t solve sustainability issues alone. More people need to see the possibilities and work together. That's when we can make a difference.”
Workshop on Climate Emotions, 18 October 2023
Climate issues evoke a range of emotions. It is important to take climate emotions seriously and give them space to be aired. The Sustainability Forum is therefore organising a workshop on climate emotions on 18 October 2023, which is open to all interested parties.
Background of the Sustainability Forum
Before the Vice-Chancellor’s decision to establish the Sustainability Forum, the idea of starting a Green Office was explored by Fay van Zeijl, an advisor on sustainability issues at Utrecht University. Internationally, this function is often referred to as a Green Office, but at Swedish higher education institutions they are often given names related to sustainability.
The Vice-Chancellor’s decision that forms the basis for the Sustainability Forum states that “The Green Office should tap into the interest and commitment in this area from both students and staff. The Green Office should provide students and employees with the opportunity to work on concrete solutions and ideas within the environmental and sustainability field.”