Sustainability vision

Ghent University wants to be a leading knowledge institution for an ecologically, socially and economically sustainable future in a local and global context. In this respect, we uphold three specific sustainability principles:

  • We create substantial support for sustainable development
  • We integrate sustainability in our education, research and service
  • We implement sustainability in our management and organization

Sustainability principles

Towards substantial support for sustainable development

We create strong involvement among all sections of the university population (students, professorial staff, academic assistant staff, administrative and technical staff,...), both at faculty and central level, through awareness building and communication, and by offering the opportunity to participate in the University’s sustainability policy. In this way we build on the efforts of the think tank Transition UGent.

UGent interlaces its sustainability policy with several other strategic projects from the strategic plan that are also directly or indirectly concerned with sustainable development.

UGent wants to bring together expertise and interest in sustainable development in education, research and business management; one of the tools it uses to achieve this is the creation and reinforcement of learning networks.

Since focus on sustainability is not (altogether) new to UGent, the project will also detect and stimulate where and how, starting from our existing strengths in terms of sustainability in its educational and research activities, relations can be established in order to secure strong support from the economic, social and political actors involved in the sustainability agenda.

Taking into account the policy questions that are formulated, various support-gaining initiatives (involvement, wider dissemination of research outcomes, organization of or participation in sustainability-promoting initiatives, etc) may be set up to give external publicity to the University’s sustainability policy. In this connection, UGent could undertake to publish an annual sustainability report.

Integrating sustainability in education, research and service

Higher education is a major (potential) catalyst for sustainable development, primarily through its educational, research and service mission. During the last two decades, institutes of higher education worldwide and in Flanders have signed international declarations (such as the COPERNICUS Charter) to demonstrate their commitment.

Through its education programme, we wants to make our contribution to a more sustainable society and familiarize its students with social, environmental and economic sustainability issues and with potential solutions. A university-wide optional subject ‘Sustainable Development’ may be an important first step on this road.

The integration of sustainable development in the full range of education programmes will have to be implemented substantively and systematically. In terms of substance, what is needed is education with a high degree of social relevance, connected with and inspired by today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. The progress made in this process will have to be shown during the educational establishment’s review, where ‘sustainability’ as a policy theme has been included in the evaluation framework.

In the field of research, UGent wants to further stimulate opportunities for research with a view to a socially just, environmental and economically feasible sustainable future. This kind of research applies a wide diversity of scientific approaches, often involving multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary methods, and based on a high degree of social relevance.

UGent offers society as a whole, both locally and globally, a range of services in the area of sustainability on a solid scientific basis.

In order to stimulate the debate and to get sustainability transitions moving in our core business, the relevant boards, faculties and advisory committees are encouraged to formulate proposals together with the sustainability policy steering committee and a broader internal sustainability network, to work out those proposals in detail, and to incorporate them in regular policy.

Implementation of sustainability in the management and organization

UGent invests in sustainable energy management, sustainable mobility, sustainable nutrition, sustainable purchasing and materials management, and ecological greenery management in the general management of the university.

The principles of a sustainable energy and mobility policy had already been adopted by the Board of Governors, while the principles of sustainable nutrition, sustainable purchasing and materials management, and ecological greenery management are now well documented too:

  • The sustainable energy policy plan pursues a 20% reduction in energy consumption by 2020 in relation to 1998 in the university buildings as at 2009. This will have to be achieved by making the right energy choices in renovations and by investing further in rational energy use in the existing buildings. In addition, the energy use in new building projects should be minimized, with any extra energy needed being self-generated using wind turbines, solar panels, etc. (see goals of the 2009 energy policy plan).
  • By conducting an organization-oriented and integrated policy, the sustainable mobility policy aims to create a framework within which equitable and sustainable mobility becomes possible for staff and students (see mobility vision of the 2004 corporate transport plan).
  • In a sustainable purchasing policy, the principle of materials hierarchy is followed, and social, environmental and economic criteria are integrated in all stages of the process of purchasing products and services.
  • A sustainable nutrition policy aims to implement a healthy, affordable and ecologically sound dietary pattern with less meat and non-sustainable fish consumption.
  • Ecological greenery management is sustainable and pesticide-free, and implies a harmonious coexistence of human and nature-oriented needs.

These principles have already been taken into consideration in several areas of the University’s management, a lot of work has already been done, and some interesting building blocks have been put in place. However, much work still remains to be done, and the challenges facing us are tremendous. UGhent wants to take on a proactive and inspiring role in this development.

Instruments are being worked out for each of the five themes which render the management structurally sustainable and have long-term effects. In addition, focus is on sample projects that are visible in the short term and are designed to make the members of the University community aware of the importance of sustainable development. Such projects offer scope for experimentation, and in some cases they may serve as a step towards the implementation of more structural measures.

The relevant boards, faculties and advisory committees are encouraged to devise and work out these policy instruments and sample projects together with the sustainability policy steering committee and expert groups, and to incorporate them in regular policy.