“Time to raise KTH's environmental profile”
KTH's profile on environment and sustainability issues must be raised. And it is not enough to just change the light bulbs, as Sverker Sörlin points out, who is leading the work of revising KTH's policy and action plan on sustainable development.
“The sustainable development perspective should also be included when planning research and education,” says Sverker Sörlin.
The review has been brought to the fore by the fact that the present action plan will cease to apply as from the end of June this year. But the purpose of the review is not just to dust off and freshen up the present sustainability documents, Sverker Sörlin assures, professor of environmental history and chairman of the work group that will be carrying out the review.
“The ambition is to raise KTH's profile in the area. There is considerable potential here. But there is quite a lot to do in order to achieve our objectives so that KTH can become a role model when it comes to sustainability issues, ” he says.
On the one hand, specific actions are needed such as making technical and environmental demands on contractors and suppliers, says Sverker Sörlin.
“And yes, we also have to change to low energy lamps. And on the other hand, we must promote an image for KTH's knowledge and make it visible to the world around us. Today only certain aspects of the sustainability work and knowledge we are acquiring is visible at KTH,” he means.
“You can see how a few specific research groups and educations with a closer tie to the area are sticking up out of the water.”
Asset for KTH
In addition to improved lighting for the research groups and educations that already have a strong tie to the area, it is also important to include the sustainability perspective in the planning and development work. The correct combinations within the area could become a major asset to KTH, Sverker Sörlin emphasises.
“To combine a profile such as innovation where we are strong, with sustainability where we, as of yet, are not so strong, I believe, can produce extremely good results,” Sverker Sörlin explains.
Against this background of a growing interest in sustainable development among students and research financiers, Sverker Sörlin is surprised that KTH has not carried out this work before.
“There is a strong demand for research and education on sustainable development. And several of our main competitors maintain a higher profile in this area,” he says.
KTH's present policy of sustainable development was adopted four years ago and in the autumn 2007 an ambitious action plan was linked to the policy. The sustainability work has, among other things, resulted in a significant reduction in domestic air travel. But overall, the effects have otherwise been unclear.
The work group that has been appointed will partly map out and evaluate to what extent the present policy and action plan has been implemented, and partly present proposals for a new policy and action plan.
Management signals important
In addition, the group's report must include a strategic analysis of the world around us. The report will be ready at the beginning of the autumn; and in October, the President and the University board will make a decision on the new sustainability documents.
The assignment also includes presenting proposals on the kind of resources that are required to achieve the objectives in the action plan. This is something which Sverker Sörlin regards as a clear indication that KTH's management is now prepared to invest in these sustainability issues in a different way compared to before.
“And the signals from management are extremely important. A fundamental reason why we never succeeded completely during the previous period is that it was not a prioritised issue from the top management,” says Sverker Sörlin.
KTH's central environmental administrator, Leif Svanblom sees another reason why it has been difficult to achieve the sustainability objectives – the present action plan was not adequately supported.
“It is not enough with just enthusiasm in the workgroup,” he says.
Key person interviewed
This is something the new workgroup has taken into consideration. Already in the introductory phase, 20 or so key individuals are being interviewed. The object of the interviews was to both assess the present sustainability work and also to gather views as to how the work should be organised in the future.
Parallel with the interviews, Leif Svanblom is also working with a more definitive aspect of the workgroup’s assignment – to provide support for the implementation of sustainability issues which the President prioritised during 2010. This concerns lighting, the use of paper and environmental certification.
Work which is of major importance for KTH's credibility, Leif Svanblom points out.
“The students are wondering why we at KTH are not doing anything ourselves -when they at the same time, and during their education, are learning about sustainable development,” he says.
Text: Ursula Stigzelius