Transformation of the University of Gdansk towards Sustainable Development – Selected Activities and Initiatives.

Today’s societies are confronted with a number of challenges, which are recognised and defined in the United Nations resolution “Transforming our world. 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), with the capacity to educate graduates aware of contemporary civilisation challenges, have been involved in supporting the implementation of the Agenda’s goals.

The University of Gdańsk pays particular attention to sustainable development, the social responsibility of the university and its role in social impact. This is reflected in the development strategy and mission of the University of Gdansk, which is to provide education, scientific activity and shape civic attitudes by addressing challenges and problems oriented towards supporting sustainable development, i.e. one that takes into account the well-being of future generations.

As the largest university in the region, it educates more than 21,000 students in 89 fields of study and conducts research in 24 scientific disciplines at 11 faculties and two International Research Agencies, undertaking institutional activities in science, teaching and cooperation with the socio-economic environment in these areas. In 2023, the university maintained its first position in the Times Higher Education Impact ranking among Polish universities.

This article presents the most important activities undertaken by the university in recent years in the field of sustainable development focusing on university-wide activities and those undertaken by the Faculty of Economics of the University of Gdańsk, which has significant achievements in this area.

The Centre for Sustainable Development of the University of Gdańsk (CZRUG)

The institutional transformation of the university towards greater sustainability can be divided into several areas. The first involves the university’s commitment to social engagement. In 2017. The University of Gdańsk was one of the first Polish universities to sign the Declaration on the Social Responsibility of Universities and, as a consequence, has its representation in the working group operating at the Team for Sustainable Development and Corporate Social Responsibility – a subsidiary body of the Minister of Funds and Regional Policy. It reports and disseminates its activities in this area in the Catalogue of Good Practices of Universities in ESG areas, which are published annually.

In 2019, the Commission for Social Responsibility was established at the University of Gdansk with the task of pursuing the strategic objective included in the “Strategy of the University of Gdansk for 2020-2025”, formulated as “Openness, social responsibility and engagement of the University”, building an academic community based on an academic culture of equality and developing and implementing a coherent monitoring system for gender equality.

Over the past few years, university-wide units have been established within the organisational structure of the University of Gdansk, which have taken and are taking action for sustainable development within the scope of their competences. On the area of cooperation and development, these include the Office of Analysis and Expertise, the Centre for Sustainable Development, and the Centre for Marine Research. The decisions to establish them have affected not only the university itself, but also its environment, by promoting education and disseminating knowledge for sustainable development through the exchange of scientific knowledge and experience between researchers of social and economic phenomena and strengthening cooperation between representatives of various scientific disciplines with business.

Established in 2017, the Centre for Analysis and Expertise, now the Office of Analysis and Expertise, as part of its activities initiates and builds collaborative networks for the implementation of research and expert opinions on issues such as: good quality education (objective 4), clean water and sanitation (objective 6), clean and accessible energy (objective 7), innovation, industry, infrastructure (objective 9), climate action (objective 13), life under water (objective 14), life on land (objective 15).   An important aspect of the Bureau’s activities is to bring together researchers representing different scientific disciplines of the University of Gdansk and to obtain commissions for research, expert opinions, opinions on topics relevant to sustainable development. Recently, the Office of Analysis and Expertise has managed complex projects concerning pre-investment studies and environmental impacts of the construction and operation of artificial islands in the Baltic Sea. These studies covered a wide range of parameters including: noise, marine mammals, ichthyofauna. The Office of Analysis and Expertise coordinates the CALALISI project on the part of the University of Gdansk, paying particular attention to ESG and SDG issues.

In view of the increasing priority given to sustainable development issues, a unit dedicated to the SDGs  – the Centre for Sustainable Development (CSD) – was established at the University of Gdansk in 2021. In addition to conducting research, the Centre carries out projects to educate and promote the idea of sustainable development among the academic community and in the socio-economic environment. It operates on the basis of 7 substantive programmes: Research and Projects, International Cooperation, Education for Sustainable Development, Green University, Cooperation with the Social Environment, Culturally about Sustainable Development, Conversations about Sustainable Development and one practical one: the Internship Programme. The Centre undertakes specific educational activities for sustainable development by creating or co-creating, among others, postgraduate programmes on sustainable development such as: Education for Sustainable Development: offshore wind energy, Outdoor EducationMitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change. Centre’s activities also focus on raising awareness of sustainability through cultural activities, e.g. through the implementation of projects, a virtual bookshelf; the organisation of meetings on the challenges of the modern world: “Difficult migrations. On the refugee crisis once again’, ‘For Ukraine, with Ukraine. Experiences and perspectives’, “Good education in times of crisis” or active participation in international events: Global Crusade e-culture for all (Latin America-Europe Cultural Ring). The Green University programme, in turn, implements initiatives to reduce the university’s carbon footprint by: using green energy from renewable sources, implementing procedures to reduce electricity and heat consumption and waste generation, applying CSR (cooperate social resposibility) procedures in public procurement.

The Centre coordinates or participates in national and international research, teaching and development projects:

 We zero emissions – knowledge transfer from the University of Gdansk

The project includes activities to popularise anti-emissions, aimed at students and teachers of primary and secondary schools in Pomerania, as well as students and university staff. 

TOWNSHIP – Towards Sustainable Beautiful and Inclusive Cities  

The project will result in three Intensive International Training Programmes (IMPK) to increase the internationalisation of UG’s educational offer

CIR-CO-WAY – Polish-Norwegian way to the circular cooperation in industrial, science and technology parks  

The project is about Polish-Norwegian cooperation to increase the competence and role of science, industry and technology parks in green transformation, especially in the context of a circular economy. 

REGIONS2030: Monitoring the SDGs in EU regions – filling the data gaps

The aim of the project is to develop indicators for monitoring the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the NUTS II level of the European Union.

RE-WIRING – Realising Girls’ and Women’s Inclusion, Representation and Empowerment

The aim of the RE-WIRING project is to analyse the prevailing legal, political, social and cultural and educational approaches that contribute to discrimination against women and girls with a view to change, by redesigning existing legal, policy and institutional approaches. 

The Faculty of Economics at the University of Gdansk is one of 11 faculties at the University of Gdansk that stands out for its SDG and ESG activities. Many departmental initiatives have inspired representatives of academic disciplines other than economics and finance. 

The selected sustainability activities of the Faculty of Economics of the University of Gdansk are:

SDG 1: Individual support in the form of suspension of university fees in special cases, such as a pandemic or war in Ukraine. Participation in activities at local and regional level to combat poverty in all its dimensions.

SDG 2: Actions to disseminate knowledge on food security and rational use of food. Participation in collections organised as part of World Food Day.

SDG 3: Launching the first degree course in Telemedicine and projects in health care Health Care Technology. Participation in the preparation of a study on efficiency problems in the functioning COVID-19 vaccination system. Organisation of a collection of daily necessities for the Hospice House (Student Business Club). Participation in the #StudentsForUkraine campaign.

SDG 4: Organisation of events open to the community environment, including primary and secondary schools. Interactive lectures and workshops, science cafés and competitions for young people as part of the project “Science Clubs at the University of Gdansk – known and unknown faces of science”, Fridays with Logistics, World Entrepreneurship Day, Sustainable Development Day, Open Days of the Faculty of Economics.

SDG 5: There are two public drinking water dispensers in the faculty building. Toilets are installed with water saving valves, mixer taps with water mixers.

SDG 6: Since 2021, the lighting in the faculty has been successively replaced with nergy-efficient lighting (replacement of fixtures and fluorescent lamps with led lamps). Development of study offerings in the field of renewable nergy sources. A specialisation in offshore marine sectors has been launched in the economics faculty, which fits in with the concept of the blue economy and responds to market signals.

SDG 7: Establishment of the HR Excellence in Research Strategy Implementation and Monitoring Team. Its tasks include analysing the needs in relation to the principles of the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for Staff Recruitment in the implementation of the HR Strategy and monitoring the needs and corrective actions taken.

SDG 8: Introduce facilities for people with disabilities. Elimination of architectural barriers.

SDG 10: Implement community education campaigns on climate change risks, mitigation and reduction.

SDG 11: Undertake research and educational activities to support the protection of marine ecosystems.

SDG 12: Conduct research on inland navigation and maritime and road transport that will take into account the protection of ecosystems and their diversity.

SDG 13: Collaborate with local, regional and national authorities by providing their expert support and delivering research results to, among others: Pomeranian Investment Council for Reimbursable Instruments, Task Force for Integrated Development Policy of Poland and Europe of the Committee for Spatial Planning of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Mobility and Transport Council at the President of the City of Gdańsk, Expert Council for Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans at the Minister of Infrastructure.

SDG 14: Involvement in educational activities on sustainable development that are socially relevant and addressed to all students, e.g. an Oxford debate tournament for secondary schools on the topic of social responsibility of science. Organisation of a Congress of Economic and Environmental Student Circles on sustainability with the participation of students, pupils and their parents.

There is an ESG Working Team in the department. This is a research team that has formed at the Pomeranian ESG Forum. The first activity of the team is the creation of an ESG report for one of the Tri-City non-profit organisations. This provides the basis for a research analysis of the problems that small and medium-sized enterprises that have decided to report on sustainability and those in the supply chains of reporting companies may encounter. The Directive requires large companies to review their supply (value) chains for ESG compliance. As a result, ESG reporters will require a lot of data from their collaborators that was not previously required. These relate to issues such as employment or greenhouse gas emissions.

The initiative of the Faculty of Economics also includes the Pomeranian ESG Forum. These are cyclical meetings organised for entrepreneurs with the aim of creating a space for business and academics to jointly exchange experiences in the field of ESG and support each other in implementing sustainability criteria in business practice. The 2nd meeting of the Pomeranian Forum will take place later in 2023. And will be dedicated to raising finance for sustainable business. The first Forum was about an introduction to ESG and attracted a lot of interest from companies – a total of more than 90 people signed up, more than 70 actively participated. Our main success is that businesses want to build such a space together with us and are themselves volunteering to present their concept of ESG action as part of the Forum. We, in turn, get the opportunity to define real economic problems faced by entrepreneurs. 

The department organises the competition, under the auspices of the Ministry of Education and Science, which attracts more than 6,000 students from schools across the country every year. One of the main thematic areas is the sustainability of the TSL (transport, forwarding and logistics) sector. This year, the first-level competition (the competition is a three-stage event) took place on 17 November 2023.

In terms of staff training, the postgraduate course in ESG – ESG Manager, which responds to the needs of businesses in relation to non-financial reporting, deserves particular attention.

The activities of the Faculty of Economics in the field of sustainable development are reflected in the coordinated and ongoing international research, development and teaching projects.

CE4CE “Public Transport Infrastructure in Central Europe – facilitate transitioning to circular economy”

The CE4CE project is reducing the environmental footprint of public transport by using circular economy principles. 

SPINE “Smart Public transport Initiatives for Climate-Neutral cities in Europe”  

SPINE’s vision is to accelerate progress towards climate neutrality by strengthening public transport systems through their smart integration with new mobility services, sharing schemes, active transport modes and micromobility. 

SUMPs for BSR “Enhancing effective Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning for supporting active mobility in BSR cities”  

The project supports cities in changing their planning practices towards people-centred sustainable urban mobility planning, promoting active modes of transport and supporting active and healthy lifestyles of citizens, while reducing traffic emissions. 

The CATALISI team from University of Gdansk is involved in many of the above sustainability activities.

Adamczuk Monika, MSc; Director of the Cooperation and Development Office

Borkowski Przemysław, PhD, DSc; Vice Dean for Science ans Internationalization, Faculty of Economics

Czerepko Joanna, PhD; Assistant Professor, Department of Transport Market, Faculty of Economics, Member of the ESG Working Team, Organiser of Pomeranian ESF Forum, Member of SPINE project

Disterheft Izabela, MSc; Employee of the Office for Analysis and Experice,

Markiewicz Katarzyna, PhD; CATALISI technical manager, Employee of the Office for Analysis and Experice,

Mrozowska Sylwia, PhD, DSc; Vice-Rector for Cooperation and Development

Susmarski Sebastian, PhD; CATALISI project manager, Director of the Office for Analysis and Experice,

Szmelter-Jarosz Agnieszka, PhD; Assistant Professor, Department of Logistic, Faculty of Economics, Member of C4CE project, SPINE project, SUMPs for BSR project

Tłoczyński Dariusz, PhD, DSc; Head, Department of Transport Market, Faculty of Economics