The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the global blueprint of action for Sustainable Development. The 17 goals target the planet's most pressing issues including the aim to alleviate poverty, hunger and inequality as well as environmental degradation. In order to raise awareness and give everyone the opportunity to learn regardless of gender, origin and income, providing quality education is a fundamental step towards sustainable development.
As higher education institutions encompass a wide array of disciplines, they can have a great impact on sustainable development through research, innovation, education, and organizational decision-making. Indeed, it can be said that the SDGs will not be achieved without tertiary-level educational institutions.
The work of CeST focuses on all SDGs through the Green Pillar of the Goals. This is how the Eco-Campus supports the principles of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and align with the Sustainable Development Goals:
Goal 1: No Poverty
FEE EcoCampus is an inclusive programme which can be adapted to any social and cultural background. This is supported by the program encouragement to invest in policies that promote environment, social and governance (ESG) principles, ensure fair trade and ethical supply chains, and create inclusive structures for students living in poverty such as scholarships and assistance packages.
Goal 2: Zero Hunger
Several FEE EcoCampus Themes promote improved nutrition and sustainable food production. Many campuses have gardens to teach students about sustainable growing techniques, local food products and the importance of biodiversity in agriculture. In addition, it is encouraged that campuses provide sustainable, nutritious and affordable choices on campus, as well as actively working to reduce food waste. Students and staff can actively promote this through food-waste campaigns.
Goal 3: Good Health and Wellbeing
The FEE EcoCampus Health & Wellbeing Theme promotes the health and wellbeing of students and the wider community and makes environmental connections to health and safety. To work with this theme campuses may provide access to noise-free green spaces, affordable health and services on campus, provide wellbeing programs for staff and students and promote mental health, and ensure that good practices are in place for dealing with hazardous substances. Students and staff can promote this through campaigns, supporting student groups, curricular integration, and working with organizations and businesses from outside the campus.
Goal 4: Quality Education
The FEE EcoCampus 7-Step Methodology is a powerful tool for providing quality education for sustainable development at all tertiary education institutions, from undergraduate campuses to professional training schools, to masters and doctorate levels. Its whole institution approach ensures an inclusive implementation throughout the campus, and the involvement of all students. This is achieved through the 7-Steps as it requires the active promotion and incorporation of sustainable lifestyles and sustainable development. This can be achieved by teaching cooperative learning skills, critical examination and fostering action-based learning centered in integrated problem-solving. This includes the development of systems thinking via interdisciplinary learning and encouraging curiosity, entrepreneurship and cross-departmental collaboration. In addition, it involves giving students the tools within their discipline to understand and work towards the SDGs.
Goal 5: Gender Equality
FEE EcoCampuses works towards the achievement of gender equality by giving all students and teachers the equal right to participate in the FEE EcoCampus Committee and the activities which are related to the FEE EcoCampus program. In addition the committee should also aim to raise awareness regarding global issues of gender equality. This can involve raising the issue through campaigns, workshops and research related outputs, as well as locally through the provision of consent workshops and inclusive policies regarding gender fluidity.
Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
Within the FEE EcoCampus programme students are being sensitised to the sustainable use of water and sanitation. The Theme ‘Water’ especially focuses on this issue by providing an introduction to the importance of water both locally and globally and by raising awareness of how simple actions can substantially cut down water use. Similarly incorporating this topic into engineering, environmental science and agricultural studies can help students become leaders for change by engaging in the development of solutions to the UN criteria of SDG 6.
Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
The FEE EcoCampus programme promotes energy saving initiatives and innovative solutions to reduce energy consumption within the universities, within students’ and teachers’ homes, as well as within the wider community. All members of the institution work together to increase the awareness of energy issues and to improve the energy efficiency. Architecture, Engineering, Economics, and Management students can be actively involved in this process and learn from changing the institutional structure on campus and help create new clean energy solutions. There could further be a sustainable transport policy in place providing the required architecture to encourage cycling, public transportation or electrical charging stations.
Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
The FEE EcoCampus programme promotes and fosters a deep understanding for sustainability issues among students which are also of increasing importance in the working environment. Through the implementation of the programme students learn how to take leadership in sustainability development and to find sustainable solutions. Their knowledge and experiences gained through the FEE EcoCampus programme can further arouse their interest in employment related to sustainability issues and broaden their opportunities on the labor market.
Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
Through the implementation of the FEE EcoCampus programme, innovation in sustainable development can be enhanced by creating the opportunity for trial and error experimentation, innovation and entrepreneurship in all schools and faculties. This occurs in Engineering and Science programs by developing technical SDG solutions, in business courses by developing innovative circular business models, in Political Science by developing and analyzing policy solutions to complex sustainability challenges. Indeed, all disciplines can be part of this change. Campus supported hackathons, workshops and other informative solutions-oriented events also further SDG 9.
Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities
FEE EcoCampus is a global programme, allowing the adaptation to national and local cultures and contexts. To date, 21 countries have joined the programme, and the international coordination of FEE EcoCampus is continuously encouraging new countries to participate in the programme in order to widen the network and to give access to education for sustainable development to all.
Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
By integrating Themes such as Sustainable Living, Waste Management and Responsible Consumption into the curriculum, students learn how to reduce the environmental impact of their schools as well as of their personal lifestyles. Through the fostering of responsible behavior within the campus environment, students will also learn how to value and protect the cultural and natural heritage in their countries, as well as abroad. Universities have a unique role to play in this as they can scale up and deliver sustainable solutions to global challenges developed by the university for the wider community and industry.
Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
The FEE EcoCampus program supports responsible consumption and production through many of its Themes. The creation of infrastructure that supports sustainable consumption is essential. This includes potentially banning single-use plastics, encouraging reusable coffee mugs, creating clearly marked recycling, bin separation and re-use. This encourages students to reflect on their consumption habits and develop ideas and solutions for a more sustainable use of resources in their courses as well as student outreach programs that teach up-cycling skills, zero waste and sustainable living courses.
Goal 13: Climate Action
As research and education institutions, universities play an essential role in the development of climate change mitigating and adaptive solutions, as well as educating and inspiring future leaders to embody the behavioral changes the world needs. This includes educating to engage in sustainable consumption, circularity, make sustainable lifestyle choices, and proactively share this in all that they do. The campus itself can also initiate such changes by embodying this in their actions.
Goal 14: Life below water
Marine litter and the exploitation of the oceans are two of the most urgent matters of the twenty-first century, which is why one of FEE EcoCampus Themes is especially based on marine and coastal environments. Students learn about the sources of marine litter and its negative effects on the marine flora and fauna. FEE Eco Campuses do this for example by divesting from fossil fuels, developing management and guardianship plans for on-campus and surrounding waterways, installing appropriate drainage traps to minimize pollution and encouraging marine based science students to inform and involve the greater campus on urgent issues.
Goal 15: Life on Land
The FEE EcoCampus programme promotes the protection, restoration and the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems through many different activities developed and implemented by the Eco Committee and the students. Some campuses engage in this theme by opening campus gardens, bee keeping, planting bee-friendly plants, or growing forests. The ‘Biodiversity’ theme actively encourages campuses to integrate, grow and map biodiversity on Campus.
Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
Justice and democratic values are integral elements of FEE EcoCampus. Through the Eco Committee the pupils learn how democratic decision-making works and how to respect the views and opinions of others. As complex large institutions campuses can have a large impact on this in other nations through their spending and investment policies. The FEE EcoCampus certification therefore requires that campuses show a determination to work with green product procurement and sustainably sound investments policies that preclude investment in industries that deal in fossil fuels, arms or human trafficking.
Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals
The FEE EcoCampus program provides a variety of linking opportunities and partnerships both with other FEE EcoCampuses as well as external organizations. Nationally and internationally the program cooperates with institutional and corporate partners to develop new projects and support initiatives for Sustainable Development. Amongst others, FEE EcoCampus partners with the UN Environment Program and their Global Universities Partnership on Environment and Sustainability, UNESCO, and The International Foundation for the Young Master’s Program (ISYMP) and its educational platform ‘TheGoals.org’.