The BOKU assumes social responsibility in terms of sustainable development

The BOKU is aware of its social responsibility for university research and teaching and is working on actively and comprehensively perceiving this responsibility in all of its fields of activity - for "solving human problems and for the prosperous development of society and the natural environment" (UOG 2002, §1). System, target and transformation knowledge for sustainable development is developed and made available. BOKU students are prepared for the challenges and possible solutions of sustainable development. The exchange of knowledge with social actors is an important concern of the BOKU in order to work together on solutions. The bridging function between science and society, open discussions with society and external communication play an essential role. In terms of a consistent approach, the BOKU is working to act in a way that conserves materials and resources, contributes to the achievement of the 1.5 ° C climate target and thus also sets an example. The sustainability strategy takes concrete steps and aims at a culture geared towards sustainability. In order to guide this process, changes and target achievement are regularly monitored and evaluated in order to learn from them for the further development of sustainability at the BOKU.

Strategic goals

I.    The BOKU establishes the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework for teaching and research

The University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences wants to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs on a national and international level. It takes a clear position on sustainable development, strengthens SDG-relevant, transformative research and teaching and makes the SDGs visible and effective to the outside world. As a university, we also face the conflicting goals within the SDGs, name them and make the decisions made about processing transparent and understandable. BOKU research projects contribute to the achievement of the goals or reflect their work in the context of the 2030 Agenda. The SDGs are blended with the BOKU's fields of competence and, if possible, incorporated into curricula and learning goals. In teaching, awareness of the sustainability goals and the associated social challenges and opportunities is promoted. This enables students and teachers to contribute to the development of normative competence in the sense of an ethically sound, critical assessment and judgment ability.

II.    The BOKU promotes research and teaching that supports sustainable development

Interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity, system-oriented and transformative approaches for sustainable development, as well as alternative methods that enable a different perspective on the challenges of our time (imagination, creativity, art), are strengthened in teaching and research. The funding is of a financial, non-material and structural nature and is based on international discourse. Funding includes established research and teaching, but also student (qualification theses) and junior research. When promoting sustainability-related teaching, the focus is not only on subject-specific content but also on the development of (holistic, forward-looking, strategic, normative, interpersonal) sustainability skills. This is reflected in the curricula and the corresponding teaching and learning methods. Student engagement is encouraged and at the same time demanded in order to strengthen the students' personal responsibility and to increase the effectiveness of teaching.

III.    The BOKU promotes debates and reflection on topics and areas of tension in sustainable development

The transformation towards a sustainable society implies numerous areas of tension and conflicting goals. These must be thematized and made workable: The BOKU promotes corresponding discussion and reflection processes.
Sustainability research raises areas of tension and contradictions and also shows where non-sustainable trends are supported and promoted by research. For example, different perspectives and solutions for sustainable development arise within and between the research fields. Overarching questions arise such as the freedom of research versus the orientation towards normative concepts (e.g. SDGs), the evaluability of research in terms of scientific excellence and social effectiveness, but also the question of prioritization and understanding of roles as a scientist in the context of Sustainability.
These contradictions must also have a place in teaching. Therefore, spaces are needed that enable creativity, critical debates and self-reflection. It is about an adequate design of the ideal teaching and learning environment as well as physical teaching and learning rooms.

IV.    The BOKU is the primary contact for stakeholder groups in the field of sustainable development and involves affected groups in society in the formulation and processing of questions

Due to the research topics and expertise of its employees, the BOKU is the primary contact for external persons (groups) from politics, administration, civil society, the population and business who need specialist knowledge on questions of sustainable development. BOKU actively shapes social debates on topics relevant to sustainability and takes up questions of society in a research and teaching manner. Thanks to the mutual exchange between BOKU members and practitioners, the BOKU can start its research activities where there is a need for research in terms of sustainable development and thus address socially relevant research questions. In the case of topics relevant to sustainability, affected groups in society should be integrated into research processes in the sense of transdisciplinary research approaches or citizen science. In addition, the participation of BOKU members in discussion and information events as well as stakeholder processes and the dialogue with politics and administration as well as with civil society actors is desired. Through this cooperative exchange relationship, the BOKU is able to proactively set key topics in terms of sustainable development, to point out possible paths for the future and to identify undesirable developments and dead ends. BOKU sees itself as an important driver of the transformation of society towards sustainable development.

V.    The BOKU supports broad public relations work in terms of sustainable development

BOKU is perceived as an actor and a pioneer in the context of sustainable development. Through repeated fact-based clarification and broad-based public relations work, the BOKU makes a significant contribution to raising awareness and increasing the potential for action in society in terms of sustainable development. Corresponding socially effective science communication is structurally anchored at BOKU and is thus gaining in importance. In addition, the BOKU supports that its relatives also act individually critically and socially effective in public debates. BOKU members are encouraged to proactively position themselves on sustainability-related topics - on the basis of their scientific work - and through training in dealing with the media and the public they are enabled to participate openly and critically in social debates.  

VI.    The BOKU aims to be climate neutral by 2030

Austria has committed to the Paris Climate Agreement. To this end, climate neutrality is necessary by 2050 at the latest. In terms of climate justice, Europe needs to achieve this goal as early as 2040. The Austrian federal government has also committed itself to this goal. Universities should lead as a positive example. The BOKU therefore aims to reduce its CO2 emissions by 2030 through a wide range of measures. This means a fundamental organizational restructuring of the university operations. Comprehensive measures in the area of mobility (business trips), nutrition, energy supply and consumption (electricity, gas, steam, district heating / cooling) as well as buildings, and accompanying user awareness and involvement are required. In addition, the aim is to expand the BOKU CO2 compensation system in such a way that unavoidable emissions can be compensated.

VII.    The BOKU organizes business trips and employee mobility in a sustainable manner

All BOKU members are enabled to take responsibility for the transformation towards a sustainable society in their everyday life and in their (later) professional life and to act accordingly. On the one hand, the mobility sector in Austria is particularly climate-relevant and also makes a large contribution to BOKU's CO2 emissions. On the other hand, it is precisely here that each and every individual is called upon to rethink their behavior and their behavior. In addition, teachers in particular have a significant role model effect when it comes to climate-friendly travel to work, to conferences and congresses, for example. Therefore, the BOKU is working to raise the awareness of employees and students about the effects of their mobility, to promote the debate about it, and to actively support alternative forms of action in the mobility sector (e.g. use of public & CO2-neutral transport, online conferences, avoidance of Air travel).

VIII.    The BOKU uses material resources sparingly and optimizes its waste management

The economical use of material resources in terms of sustainable development is an important concern of the BOKU. The procurement pursues the goal of promoting products made from sustainable raw materials and secondary use, as well as giving preference to high-quality products with a long service life. A BOKU waste management system ensures that the volume of waste is kept as low as possible and that unavoidable waste and problematic substances are separated and disposed of accordingly. In the interests of ecological sustainability, but also for reasons of budgetary frugality, the possibilities for the joint use of devices and resources are optimally exploited (establishment of BOKU Core Facilities).

IX.    Sustainability is lived in everyday life at the BOKU and the sustainability awareness of BOKU members is actively promoted

Sustainability is an integral part of everyday work at the BOKU. In order to further improve sustainable practice, both new and long-time employees at BOKU are continuously informed about sustainability practices at the university and trained accordingly. The BOKU actively promotes awareness and options for action about the individual contribution each and every one of us can make to a sustainable BOKU and offers space for reflection on sustainable values. The BOKU takes targeted action to enable BOKU members to get involved in sustainability and specifically involves them in the development of such measures. This includes that built-up know-how in the field of sustainability is retained, core processes are designed in terms of sustainability and the implementation of sustainability-related activities and tasks are made possible within the framework of everyday life at the BOKU.

X.    The BOKU strengthens transparency, participation and internal communication as basic principles of a sustainable university

BOKU members are involved in organizational changes by means of transparent participation options. The participatory process design and clear internal communication promote both motivation and acceptance for (sustainability-relevant) decisions. In addition, compliance with voluntarily set standards of conduct, which serve to ensure good scientific practice on the one hand and sustainable development on the other, is of particular importance for the university. Furthermore, the BOKU is committed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and thus also to SDG 16 with the sub-goal of building “efficient, accountable and transparent institutions”.

XI.    The BOKU is a place of work and training in the sense of comprehensive social sustainability

As an important cornerstone of social sustainability, attentive and appreciative interaction with other people is cultivated at BOKU. Diversity, inclusion, gender equality and anti-discrimination are lived principles at BOKU - in everyday interaction, but especially in teaching, where attention is paid to meeting eye-to-eye between students and teachers. The social skills of managers and employees as well as students are actively promoted in order to ensure a pleasant working atmosphere and to strengthen successful cooperation and team spirit. Cooperative modes of action between researchers, students, institutes, departments and service points are promoted and cooperation is upheld as an important principle and counterbalance to competitive pressure in science.
The BOKU also assumes social responsibility by taking care of the needs and health well-being of its employees beyond the legal requirements and evaluating them regularly. A wide range of offers enables a balanced work-life balance.

XII.    The BOKU establishes an integrative sustainability management and integrates sustainability in cross-departmental, consistent strategy and planning processes

Strategic orientation and decisions are based on the principles of sustainability and make a long-term contribution to social transformation in terms of sustainable development. With regard to a coherent strategic orientation, the objectives of the sustainability strategy are linked to other BOKU strategy papers such as the development plan and the communication strategy. BOKU's governing bodies pay attention to synergies and consistency and ensure that sustainability processes at BOKU are designed as goal-oriented and consistent as possible by regularly coordinating activities in the field of sustainability such as the BOKU sustainability strategy, the BOKU sustainability report and environmental management and using possible synergies .