Reawakening for local environmental work
Over a period of three years, a new, certifiable system designed to manage environmental issues will be built at KTH. This focus has led to a reawakening of the environmental work and has provided the environmental delegates with a clearer role.
“We are far more focused now. And we have a holistic approach, previously it was more of an ad hoc effort,” says Holger Berling, environmental delegate at Biotechnology.
As a link between the central and local environmental work, the schools’ environmental delegates have a key role. Holger Berling has been an environmental delegate at the School of Biotechnology for over three years and is enthusiastic about the changes since he started his assignment.
“KTH’s ambitions have become much clearer with regard to environmental work. It can be seen, both internally and externally, that KTH has chosen to invest in the environment,” he says.
Both Holger Berling and KTH’s environmental manager Johan Sundqvist point out that great things have already been done at KTH in terms of the environment. For example, projects conducted in collaboration with Akademiska hus to reduce energy consumption for district heating, electricity and district cooling.
“But what we are doing now is to introduce a structured work method involving the whole of KTH,” Johan Sundqvist explains.
The groundwork of the new Environmental Management System (EMS) has started in the form of a survey of current practices related to the environment and sustainability.
“In order to find out what we need to change, we must first find out how we do things today. Otherwise it’s easy to start to tear down the things that already work. But what already exists and works, we will of course maintain and build on,” says Johan Sundqvist.
“The environment comes second”
The survey focuses on certain prioritised environmental issues. One example is the management of chemicals which is to be documented from start to finish. The survey will be particularly important in schools such as the School of Biotechnology, which uses a lot of chemicals, Holger Berling points out.
“I think for a long time many laboratories have had a good safety policy but that the environment might have come second,” he says.
But before the picture of current practices has become clearer it is difficult to say what could be improved, he thinks.
“It could be anything from looking into which products and the quantities we buy – ‘Would less toxic chemicals work?’, ‘Do we need these volumes?’ – to how we deal with chemical residues”.
The start of KTH’s new environmental initiative was the sustainability study conducted during 2010. It led, among other things, to the recruitment of Johan Sundqvist, as Environmental Manager. In September 2011, the President made the formal decision that KTH would have an ISO certifiable EMS no later than by the end of 2014.
Three years may seem a long time but Johan Sundqvist believes that the time is needed to establish a functioning EMS in an organization of KTH’s size and complexity. He points out that it is not enough to formulate goals and action plans on a piece of paper.
“We also need to ensure our work method. And it will take a while to get everyone to embrace this system, we will need to educate and inform.”
The President’s decision regarding certification involves the provision of “adequate resources” in order to achieve the objectives. This means among other things that environmental delegates will be given enough time for their assignments. Johan Sundqvist feels that at least 20 per cent of a full-time employment is needed, corresponding to one day a week.
At most schools, environmental work has now been allocated that amount of time, although the organization differs from school to school. At the School of Biotechnology, for example, two environmental delegates have been working together on the assignment over the past few weeks.
The dissemination of information, the internal marketing of the EMS, Holger Berling sees as one of the crucial issues in the work.
“There is a strong commitment to the environment at KTH. People want to be involved in the improvement process, but we also need to know how. I think one of the major challenges will be to reach out to everybody with this way of thinking, so that all areas of KTH are involved.”
Text: Ursula Stigzelius