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Report on Responsibility and Sustainability 2020

This week our Blog is covering a very special topic, which is also extremely relevant: the UN PRME Report. The university of St. Gallen publishes a Responsibility and Sustainability Report every two years, as part of our commitment to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Management Education. This report is crucial, to see the improvement that the University of St.Gallen (HSG) is making towards a more sustainable existence. The reason for the special dedication is not only because of the importance of the subject, but also because for the vast majority of the students, sustainability in a business school is of very high importance. According to a recent survey, 72% of the students of the University perceive sustainability as life defining. More than 84% of survey respondents would like to see a stronger emphasis on sustainability in their study programmes, which is a significantly larger percentage compared to results from 2013.

How does the University of St. Gallen respond to this major issue?

Firstly, there is the Sustainability in education such as for example Curriculum Change. Already in the assessment year everyone gets an introduction into Business Ethics. The Bachelor and Master courses emphasize sustainable programmes as well, offering courses as for example Sustainable Start-ups or Climate and Income Differences. Furthermore, oikos St.Gallen is mentioned on the report as the "platform where these conversations can happen" and curriculum initiatives like oikos In Residence and the oikos Academy help shape the pathway towards sustainability.

Another big part of their progress is supported by student organisations such as Student Impact, IGNITE and our student organization oikos St. Gallen, where motivated students come together to share their ideas and concerns to sustainability challenges. These organisations additionally join forces to set up impactful events like the mentioned TEDxConference, which took place in October 2020 as part of the global Countdown Initiative to champion and accelerate solutions related to the climate crisis by bringing forward ideas about a safer, cleaner, and a fairer future for everyone. The oikos conference is another fitting example to display the importance of sustainability for the students. It took place last November virtually and over 120 participants listened and interacted with practitioners from the food, mobility, energy, and textile industry, with a special focus on various forms of implementation of sustainable business strategies.

A further crucial aspect is research. The University of St. Gallen is ranked among the top three European business universities according to a study featured in the Financial Times on SDG-related publications in the FT50 publication list. This shows that also sustainability related research is of high importance at the university.

The mission of the organisation is not only to inform and promote sustainability, but of course to improve its own footprint. That is why the University founded the Climate Solution Taskforce with the goal of Carbon Neutrality by 2030 on Campus. The first comprehensive reporting of CO2 emissions has been concluded and will provide the foundation for improving measurement and CO2 accounting in the following years. Major influences to achieve a sustainable campus are for example a steady reduction of electricity consumption, as well as an increasing use of environmentally friendly transportation, which is already used by 70 % of employees at the University.

We fully support the HSG`s efforts towards sustainability as outlined in the PRME Report, and appreciate the publicity that it gives to this crucial issue. In this spirit, we would like to encourage the HSG student body to get informed and engage with the RRME report, but also to reflect upon it critically. Even though the University of St.Gallen has signed the Global Universities and Colleges Climate Letter initiated by the UN SDG Accord, they do not outline how exactly their three key committed goals will be reached and what concrete initiatives will be established in the future. They also aim to integrate sustainability in education by focusing on curriculum transformation, co-curricular integration, and faculty development but they have not given a future outlook on the implementation. Furthermore, when showcasing how different programmes integrate sustainability-related topics they only show one representative example of a sustainability-related course for each programme instead of using a holistic approach. Another important point in the report is their commitment to become carbon neutral by 2030 but they did not give an outlook on specific solutions to achieve such a big milestone. oikos has been mentioned 28 times in the report as student-driven organisation that focuses on responsibility and sustainability as part of the core mission. We are thrilled that our engagement had a positive impact and was recognized. To conclude we would like to thank the University for the recognition and would like to emphasize that we highly appreciate the commitment of our University and all activities that support their mission and goal.

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