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Good grades for KTH’s environmental work

Published May 14, 2018

A systematic approach, excellent engagement and lots of good examples that deserve to be better showcased. KTH Royal Institute of Technology was commended by its recent external environmental audit.

Göran Finnveden, Vice President for Sustainable Development.

An external environmental audit of KTH’s environmental management work took place in April. Following the extensive review, KTH will, after a few minor adjustments, be recertified under the new ISO standard.

“It was a great outcome. Our strength is working long term and systematically based on our sustainability policy and targets, and this was also verified by the audit,” says Göran Finnveden , Vice President for Sustainable Development.

“The positive outcome is the result of excellent work from everyone who works with the environment and sustainable development, both centrally at the Sustainability Office and locally at the schools,” adds Göran Finnveden.

Environmental and sustainability engagement is also something the auditors picked up on. The report notes that “Management and employees show excellent engagement at all sites visited.”

The new international standard ISO 14001:2015 contains new requirements regarding development in a number of areas, including “leadership and engagement.” Recertification therefore also involves the upgrade of environmental management work and the annual review was significantly more extensive than the last external audit.

“Worked really hard”

This year, external auditors were at KTH for five days, compared with two days in 2017.

Kristina von Oelreich, Head of Sustainability.

“We worked really hard ahead of this external audit to show the auditors how we’re working based on the new requirements of the standard. This includes good cooperation with environmental representatives and an internal audit that we conducted in the autumn to assess how we were doing in terms of the new requirements,” says KTH’s Head of Sustainability Kristina von Oelreich .

More employees at the schools and from management were also involved in this year’s external audit. The two auditors visited all schools at the different campus areas and met both management and administration, as well as infrastructure managers, researchers, heads of department, programme directors and course directors.

This year’s external audit had a slightly different focus, with an emphasis on research, education and purchasing. Previous audits were much more about directly reviewing environmental impact.

“This time the auditors focused in particular on the processes of core activities, how we integrate sustainable development into research and education and KTH’s indirect environmental impact. There were lots of interesting discussions with the Dean and Vice Dean of the Faculty,” notes Kristina von Oelreich.

Suggested improvements

The auditor’s suggested improvements demonstrate that they regard KTH’s external reporting of sustainability work as rather modest. Clearer showcasing of the work would ensure a fairer reflection of KTH’s indirect environmental impact and could provide inspiration and a counterweight to future students’ concerns about climate issues, the auditors note.

“Yes, they were pleasantly surprised at all the examples of good results and opportunities for environmental and sustainability improvements reported by the schools and administration,” says Kristina von Oelreich.

In addition to the good engagement and the many good examples, the auditors mention several other positive observations, such as “well-organised administration and facilities,” “ongoing improvements” and “well identified” external factors, stakeholder requirements and key factors.

The deficiencies noted by the audit are graded as “less serious” deviations, but still need to be rectified before full completion of certification. There are two deficiencies: one concerns transportation documentation regarding hazardous waste that has not been signed and recorded; the other is that at least one school had no safety data sheet about what to do in an emergency.

Emissions from business travel

The audit report also lists a total of 14 suggested improvements, a number of which relate to ensuring or enhancing procedures and operating processes, and integrating sustainable development into guideline documents.

“KTH’s Sustainability Office will continue working on the suggested improvements in collaboration with KTH’s management, the Faculty Council, the schools and the administration,” explains Kristina von Oelreich.

But the certification doesn’t mean that KTH has achieved all its sustainability targets, according to Göran Finnveden.

“No, what we’re being certified for is our working practice and our processes, and the fact that these are adequate in order to approach our sustainability targets. We’ll now use this to achieve our targets. For example, we need to continue strengthening elements of environment and sustainability in certain subjects and reducing emissions from our business travel.”

Text: Ursula Stigzelius

Find out more about the environmental audit (in Swedish) here