All activities at SLU aim to create and share knowledge about sustainable systems and responsible use of natural resources. Therefore, the university has now taken a further step in its work to reduce emissions from business air travel.
“We want to reduce our environmental impact in line with the Paris Agreement, while pursuing world-class activities. This is not always easy and can contain many conflicting objectives. Hence we have now taken some (bold, progressive) decisions,” says Vice-Chancellor Maria Knutson Wedel. The objective is in line with our new strategy, in which sustainability is one of three focal points.
Work to establish new environmental objectives for business travel and updated guidelines for travel and meetings has been driven by the Environment Unit and Division of Human Resources. A reference group has been set up that includes representatives from SLU management, heads of department, Sluss, heads of division, employee organisations and the Climate Group, all of whom belong to the various SLU campuses throughout Sweden. The work began with a workshop in January 2020 where the current and desired situations were discussed. In the spring, the first proposals for objectives and guidelines were sent out to all of SLU for comment. The response rate was positive and many well thought out responses were submitted.
Environmental objectives for business travel:
- By 2025, SLU will have reduced its total fossil fuel emissions by 60%, compared to 2019 per full-time equivalent. This could be the equivalent of a 90% reduction in domestic flights and 50% reduction in international flights.
What does this mean for SLU and all staff and students?
Will this stop SLU staff/researchers from participating in conferences, and will this mean an end to research in low-income countries?
“SLU plays an important roll in the transition to the sustainable management of our planet. There is still the need for a great deal of air travel to enable participation in conferences or conducting field work – however we can replace much of this travel with online alternatives,” Maria Knutson Wedel continues.
Will it be difficult to maintain a work-life balance now we won’t be able to do much domestic flying?
“To help us make decisions about how we conduct our business travel, we have created targets as well as guidelines. Working for SLU still needs to be socially sustainable – it needs to be possible to combine work with both family and an active lifestyle. We have a few years ahead of us before we reach the 60% target for reducing emissions, and despite all the suffering the coronavirus pandemic has created, we have learnt a great deal about online meetings and how to work with advanced collaborations remotely,” says Anna-Karin Olofsdotter, Human Resources Director.
How will this work?
“We have created an action plan that gives us a concrete to-do list that outlines who will do what, the steps we can take to ensure our infrastructure supports working life with less air travel, how our culture can promote this, and finally, what actions we need to take if we still have to fly,” says SLU’s Environmental Manager Johanna Sennmark. However no-one expects this to be easy – the air travel we have conducted so far is usually justified. Now is the time to think anew.
During the 2020/2021 winter, SLU has taken decisions to adapt our organisation in five areas, including updated environmental objectives for education, environmental monitoring and assessment, emissions generated by business travel, energy production and savings and guidelines for food purchases.
The latest government restrictions in place due to the coronavirus pandemic take precedence over these new guidelines for business travel.