Sustainable development – the term says it all: both today and tomorrow, both locally and globally, our development must be economically, ecologically and socially responsible.
The technical jargon for what organisations have to contribute to this is ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ (CSR). The university is a special kind of organisation, so we are also concerned with what’s known as ‘Organisational Social Responsibility’.
Together with our researchers and students, the University of Antwerp is working on sustainable development through a number of channels simultaneously. Our sustainable ambitions are among the university’s core tasks.
The topics below illustrate how we are realising CSR in practice. Our ambitions are still growing.
Organisation and policy
At the University of Antwerp, Organisational Social Responsibility is embedded in numerous policy levels.
Sustainability is not just a buzzword in the operational management of the University of Antwerp. Since 1999, the university’s mission statement has demonstrated our commitment to caring for the environment and for sustainable development in ecological, economic and social terms. This is also evidenced by our signing of the Copernicus Charter, which happened in the same year. The mission statement was reviewed on the occasion of the University of Antwerp’s 10th anniversary, but sustainability is still very much in the picture.
The Corporate Social Responsibility steering committee is a think tank of academics and employees from some of the university’s central services which, like the other University of Antwerp steering committees, provides advice to the Board of Services to the University and the Community. In addition, the Environmental Office is working on various sustainable initiatives.
To familiarise every student with the basics of sustainable development and corporate social responsibility: this is one of the ambitious goals of the 2013-2016 policy statement.
Our interfaculty initiatives serve to bring students together from diverse fields and help broaden their horizons, thus giving them a wider perspective on corporate social responsibility and sustainable development.
- Integrated case and River21
The 'Integrated case' and 'River21 project: Vision-building for transboundary river management' are often cited as examples of best practice in reference texts on sustainable education. The impact these projects have had is reflected in the Ecocampus publications:
‘Inspiration book’ for sustainable higher education: the publication investigates the role of higher education in the transition towards a sustainable society. National and international experts, representatives from the field of higher education, students, business players, and actors from civil society and the government put their heads together to consider this question at a number of meetings.
- Sustainable enterprise in the Port of Antwerp
The university-wide project on sustainability in the Antwerp port area affords students the opportunity to go beyond the university’s walls and look at sustainable enterprise from a unique angle in relation to the port.
- Climate week
During Climate Week, various faculties and disciplines throw open the doors to their classes on climate change. Students and staff can come and familiarise themselves with new insights and expertise.
USOS, UAntwerp’s University Foundation for Development Cooperation, organises a Sustainable Development Masterclass for those interested in deepening their knowledge.
Training in Sustainable Development and Corporate Social Responsibility
IMDO (UAntwerp’s Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development) organises and coordinates various training programmes for those wishing to become multi-skilled environmental experts.
- Faculty curriculums
The curriculums of various faculties include regular lessons on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, the environment and nature.
- Tomorrow’s entrepreneurs learn to apply CSR principles in practice by supporting NGOs.
- Sustainability is used as a starting point for innovative work carried out during the international 'iWeek: Challenges for business'.
- Sustainable design is just one of the aspects of the Ecodesign course, while the fascinating relationship between humans and nature plays a central role in the Ecological History course.
- Aspiring sociologists can take a course on transitional thinking for sustainable development.
Ecology and sustainable development constitute one of the University of Antwerp’s research priorities.
The concepts of Sustainable Development and Organisational Social Responsibility are embedded in many of the university’s research fields.
The relevance of many European and Belgian research projects to both society and policy means that research results are of public interest. Another aspect of research related to social responsibility is the fact that researchers often use innovative methods in their research.
Research is carried out responsibly at UAntwerp, as clearly evidenced by the codes of conduct signed by our research units when cooperating in European projects.
Research into sustainable issues is now being performed by more and more research units, and especially by the Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development.
Food for thought
Our planet is under pressure. And our current eating habits leave behind a considerable ecological footprint.
Adhering to the principles of sustainable food lends a helping hand to our planet but is also good for our health.
Organic fruit and vegetables
Every Monday throughout the academic year, students and staff can get their hands on a portion of organic fruit and vegetables. Thanks to our partnership with Voedselteams, the veggies are distributed by the farmers themselves at four pick-up points at the university. The supply chain doesn’t get any shorter than that, unless you grow your fruit and vegetables yourself.
Read more about the University of Antwerp’s vegetable bags
Food with a conscience
Since 2012 the University of Antwerp’s student restaurants, Komida, have been receiving coaching from Vredeseilanden on how to bring their food to the table as sustainably as possible.
In this way, Komida can truly stand by their slogan: 'eten met een geweten' (‘food with a conscience’). The student restaurants have been leading the way in spreading sustainable principles throughout the university’s other catering services:
- More fresh fruit and vegetables: seasonal and locally grown
- Less meat: Thursday is Veggie Day
- Opting for sustainable fish
- Opting for sustainably produced products, such as those certified organic
- Opting for fair trade products, i.e. those bearing the Fairtrade label
- Combatting food waste
- Opting for responsibly designed disposable packaging
- In 2012, UAntwerp took tuna off the menu for good in response to Ocean Week, an initiative organised by students
The University of Antwerp promotes the ‘STOP’ approach to transport.
The ‘STOP’ strategy is a list of transportation types in order of preference, beginning with Stappen (walking), Trappen (cycling), Openbaar vervoer (public transport) and, finally, Particulier autovervoer (private car transport). Driving directions appear at the bottom of the list in our accessibility guides: this is a conscious strategy which aims to encourage the use of alternative means of transport.
- A group of UAntwerp staff members have worked out a cycle route between the various university campuses. Staff can claim a cycling allowance every month, cycle to work together and sign up for Bike to Work.
- In order to help reduce car use, we have invested heavily in cycling facilities like showers and bike sheds. A bicycle pump is also available to borrow in every campus library.
- Bike problems? Go and see the LWP bike mechanics in the bike workshop on Stadscampus, or the mobile mechanics of Werkmmaat on Campus Drie Eiken, Campus Groenenborger and Campus Middelheim. Our partnerships with these two companies from the social economy sector ensure that the bike mechanics can accumulate the hands-on experience they need to complete their training.
- With Fietshaven, students can hire a bike for a few months, a semester or a whole year. UAntwerp guarantees a fair rate.
- The Blue-bikes available to hire at Mortsel, Antwerp Central and Antwerp Berchem train stations will get you to campus in no time at all.
- The university campuses are easily reachable by public transport, possibly in combination with a Blue-bike.
- UAntwerp covers all employees’ commuting costs for journeys made by public transport.
Private car transport
- On the University of Antwerp’s carpool portal you can search for a carpooling partner: get a lift with someone or let others know that you have a space in your car. Whether you want to carpool on a regular basis or only when public transport lets you down, it’s all possible.
- The University of Antwerp has a number of efficient city cars available for work use. As a result, staff can get around without leaving a giant ecological footprint while still enjoying the benefits of having access to a car. Some departments also have bikes available for work use.
Business Mobility Award
In 2013, the University of Antwerp won the Business Mobility Award thanks to our extensive transport policy and our focus on sustainable transport.
Buildings and energy
The University of Antwerp manages more than a hundred premises, ranging from historic buildings to new developments.
Here, too, the focus is on sustainability. Some examples:
When realising new developments and renovations, the university employs innovative techniques in order to build as sustainably as possible. The new building in which Applied Engineering is housed has been designed in such a way that students can immediately see how installations work best in practice.
- Green energy
Heat recovery, solar panels, rainwater recovery, green roofs: we investigate the various possibilities for each project and implement them wherever possible.
- Water policy
The University of Antwerp’s employees are encouraged to use water, materials and energy sparingly. Our sustainability coordinator is on hand to provide tips and advice.
- Stadslab 2050
The University of Antwerp’s Energy and Materials in Infrastructure and Buildings (EMIB) research unit is working with the City of Antwerp, among other partners, in the 'Energy for Antwerp’s heart' forum as part of Stadslab 2050. The aim is to chart heat loss in the city and propose solutions.
The University of Antwerp strives to marry its research activities with optimum use of the campuses, both in and outside of Antwerp’s city centre.
Green roofs and swifts’ nests in the city
- Wherever technical limitations allow, the university installs green roof constructions. The green roof on the Meerminnecampus has benches where students and staff can sit and unwind for a while, and other campuses in the university district also have gardens.
- In addition, the University of Antwerp has a number of nesting spots for swifts, a species which survives in the city as though it were a kind of modern rocky landscape.
Bee hotels on the outer campuses
In 2013, the University of Antwerp opened a number of ‘bee hotels’ on the outer campuses. As a result of the disappearance of green spaces and certain nectar plants, caused by all kinds of diseases and the use of pesticides, the wild bee population is in decline.
“The impact of this campaign has been enormous,” says sustainability coordinator Carla Uwents. “Bees are now pollinating thousands of flowers, plants and fruit trees in the immediate area. This way, the University of Antwerp is helping to develop valuable new wildlife areas.”
Campus Drie Eiken is situated near the site of Fort 6, part of the ring of fortifications around Antwerp. The forts are known for the populations of bats that spend the winter there, although some species also have summer broods.
UAntwerp consults regularly with the authorities in order to ensure that the colonies can stay on the site, but also to ensure that the necessary maintenance and construction works can be carried out.
The sheer number of bats on site is so exceptional that a bat is now the mascot of both the Environmental Office and Prevention and Protection at Work.
During the toad migration season, the amphibians at our campus get special treatment and all pedestrians and cyclists have to take a small diversion so as not to disturb them.
Water management demo project
The Kleine Struisbeek, a small stream, runs through Campus Drie Eiken in Wilrijk. In cooperation with Antwerp provincial authorities, an educational demo project is being run around the stream in order to demonstrate various types of bank reinforcement. In this way, Water Technology students get to see the techniques they hear about in class being applied in practice just outside.
Purchasing and waste management
As one of the biggest employers in the Antwerp region, with 5000 employees and 20 000 students, the University of Antwerp does a lot of buying and also produces a lot of waste.
Since 2008, UAntwerp’s central purchasing office has been buying only 100% recycled paper and for other large purchases, sustainable varieties are selected wherever possible. As a result, our fleet of cars includes a model that runs on natural gas, and our specifications for external cleaning services include a number of criteria related to sustainability and the environment.
In order to limit the amount of waste we use the 'materials ladder', which describes options for waste management in order of priority, as follows:
The best way to work with products is to ensure that nothing is wasted. UAntwerp therefore makes no purchases without thinking them through, and we only buy what is needed. Large purchases are made for the entire university wherever possible.
- (Preparing for) reuse
A great deal of material and furniture is reused and repaired at the University of Antwerp, especially when it comes to relocations. Items that can still be used are picked up by the Kringwinkel and thus receive a new lease of life. After all, what looks like waste to one department may well be useful material for someone else.
- Sorting and recycling
The most common materials, such as paper, plastics, organic waste, batteries, toners and mobile phones, are obviously sorted into dedicated waste bins. Other types of waste, like glass, lab waste, dead animals, wood and demolition waste, electronics and so on, are managed by the Environmental Office. They are familiar with the correct disposal methods and all the related procedures. The cleaner and purer the materials, the more easily they can be processed or reused.
- Other useful applications
Waste that has a high yield can be burnt, thus allowing energy to be recovered. The fruit and vegetable waste produced by our student restaurants is transformed professionally into biogas.
On the lowest rung of the materials ladder is removal: dumping and landfill are seen as a last resort.
Corporate Social Responsibility happens with proper consideration of other people. At the University of Antwerp, consultation with stakeholders occurs via a range of platforms.
The University of Antwerp’s employees are the human capital from which all our creativity, research and enthusiasm flow. Ensuring a safe, healthy and pleasant working environment is therefore of the utmost importance. This is where Prevention and Protection at Work comes in. As continuing education is another important factor, the university offers training courses coordinated by the Human Resources Department.
Our students implement their own sustainability initiatives, such as Climate Week, Ocean Week and so on. All those with ideas related to sustainability can contact the University of Antwerp’s sustainability coordinator. In addition, the University Foundation for Development Cooperation (USOS) puts students in touch with the global south and organises immersion trips.
During academic year 2013-14, a group of enthusiastic students founded Uact. This new student association organises activities designed to make sustainability more tangible for students. The association was born out of UAntwerp’s Duurzame Ontwikkelingsteam (Sustainable Development Team): DOt, a student club originally founded in 2002.
The University Anti-Poverty Foundation (USAB) has been working with academics, technical staff, students and volunteers from UAntwerp since 1991 to organise small-scale initiatives, such as a project on local housing, around the university’s Stadscampus.