Aurora’s Sustainability Working Group brings the network’s partner universities together to discuss all aspects of sustainability. Our aim is to embrace and embed sustainability in institutional strategy, promote good practice, stimulate joint activities, and to develop mechanisms through which we can benchmark our activities and monitor progress, both individually and collectively.
Societal impact is at the heart of the Aurora mission and, while sustainability as a concept can mean different things to different people, the emergence of the United Nation’s SDGs as a widely understood proxy for sustainability impact has transformed the discussion of sustainability in universities. The SDGs inform not only the work of Aurora’s Sustainability Working Group, but also its bibliometric research analysis, and its discussion of inclusion and equality. Aurora was delighted to become an Endorsing Partner Network of the global SDG Accord in early 2020.
We have organised our discussions around several clustered thematic areas that directly address the main priorities and interactions of the Aurora network. These include: the showcasing of partner research through a Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) themed lecture series; sustainability benchmarking; sustainability leadership; discussion of the travel-related impacts of conducting Aurora activity; and events management.
Further detail on some of the key areas of discussion, including full details of the SDG Lecture Series, are included below:
Launched in June 2019, the SDG Lecture Series aims to give academics and senior doctoral students from Aurora’s partner universities, a platform through which to share their research in areas that can be readily linked back to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
The lectures are recorded and live-streamed to form an archive of material that we hope will grow to cover all of the SDGs, with contributions from all of the Aurora partners. To date we have welcomed presentations from the following colleagues:
5 June 2019: Professor Phillip Pattberg (VU Amsterdam) presented on SDG 17 under the heading “Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnerships for sustainable development”. For details see the full video, trailer and event links.
14 October 2019: Professor Faruk Ülgen (Grenoble Alpes) presented on SDGs 1, 10 & 16 under the heading “Finance and poverty; how to get out of the madness of liberal finance?”. For details see the full video, trailer and event links.
15 October 2019: Professor Hervé Charmettant (Grenoble Alpes) presented on SDGs 8, 12 & 16 under the heading “Cooperative organizations: an alternative economy for another world?”. For details see the full video, trailer and event links.
16 October 2019: Professor Sabine Lavorel (Grenoble Alpes) presented on SDG 13 under the heading “Going to court to engage the states’ climate responsibility: an incentive for climate action or misleading strategy?” For details see the full video and event links.
16 October 2019: Professor Adam Price (Aberdeen) presented on SDGs 1, 2 & 13 under the heading “Rice – the world’s favourite food: towards healthier, more resilient and more sustainable”. For details see the full video, trailer and event links.
Further lectures are being planned for 2020 subject to adaptations in the format to permit social distancing.
If you would like to contribute to the SDG Lecture Series please contact your Institutional Co-ordinator for Aurora or one of the sustainability leads.
In December 2019, Aurora’s Board agreed to become an Endorsing Partner Network of the SDG Accord. The Accord invites institutions to make a high-level commitment to the SDGs. It also provides a light-touch reporting mechanism through which institutions can declare their support for the SDGs and contribute to a globally aggregated report to the United Nations detailing the impact of tertiary education in tackling the SDGs.
In endorsing the Accord, the Aurora Board noted that it provided “a clear, unambiguous baseline commitment that we should all be able to support” and encouraged all Aurora partners to “sign the Accord as a shared, collective and demonstrable public commitment to the SDGs”. For full details of the Aurora Board position, please see this press release.
To date, Universitat Rovira i Virgili and the University of Aberdeen have joined East Anglia (which had adopted the Accord earlier) as signatories.
Full details of the SDG Accord can be found here. Please note this is an external site.
More recently, the 2020 Times Higher Education ‘Impact’ Rankings saw six Aurora institutions make submissions, with VU Amsterdam and Aberdeen featuring in the Top 100.
Colleagues from Duisburg-Essen and Innsbruck are leading our discussions to develop guidance for Aurora institutions as regards their business travel behaviours. While initially aimed at limiting, and compensating for, the impact of travel-related with conducting Aurora business, the hope is that this work will feed into the wider travel-related decision-making of all partner institutions.
With the global pandemic of 2020 having dramatically transformed global travel and forced educational institutions to reappraise how they conduct business, there is considerable opportunity for Aurora to embrace and embed digital engagement. Having all been forced to adopt remote working, how Aurora can best utilise this technology to enhance its partnership will become a particular focus of this discussion cluster.
Should Aurora biannual events return, colleagues from the Sustainability Working Group will be encouraging Aurora to consider other unambiguous commitments to climate-friendly behaviours e.g. by encouraging the adoption of vegan and vegetarian menu options as standard.
A key parallel strand of Aurora’s discussions has been the discussion among our bibliometric colleagues to identify mechanisms to analyse the research outputs of Aurora institutions against the 17 SDGs.
For full details of this activity please see the Societal Impact and Relevance of our Research pages.