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SLU takes stock of progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals

Published: 28 November 2023

In 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) gave us a comprehensive plan for a sustainable world by 2030. Halfway there, it is now time to take stock and reflect. On 14 November, SLU hosted SLU Sustainability Day 2023 – for all students and staff. The day delved into global and national achievements, SLU's contribution as well as discussions on strategies for the future.

Global and national perspectives

Kicking off the day, Pro Vice-Chancellor Ylva Hillbur set the stage for a series of impactful discussions. Åsa Persson, co-author of the UN Global Sustainable Development Report 2023, presented key findings, offering a critical assessment of the world's progress toward the SDGs.

- Unfortunately, the work is not progressing at the pace that would be required to reach the targets by 2030. But every progress counts and from the research side we know what needs to be done to reach the targets, said Åsa Persson, in her presentation.

National perspectives were explored featuring representatives from diverse sectors like the Government offices in Sweden, Tierp Municipality and the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise. They all engaged in a dynamic discussion after short presentations of their sustainability work.

During the discussion, Thomas Klein from the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management stressed that SLU has a key role to play for scientific input. He also pointed out that we have to bring the Agenda 2030 back to the agenda, meaning that it has been rather quiet regarding the SDGs in media lately.  Other speakers brought up the need for capacity development in all sectors and that we require a better dialogue between universities and the business sector, with goal 17, Partnerships for the goals, at the core. The youth representative Bitanya Kassaye (Youth Delegate of Sweden at the UN) talked about the importance of engaging the youth through trust and integrity, and that it is sometimes difficult for younger people to access clear and distinct science.

SLU's role in sustainable development

The midday session turned the spotlight towards SLU's contributions to Agenda 2030. Maria Knutson Wedel, Vice-Chancellor of SLU, outlined the university's dedication to sustainable development.  She presented the latest results from the THE SDG impact ranking for universities where SLU is ranked high on several of the goals, for example for goal 2, Zero Hunger, SLU is ranked 13th in the world

SLU has also advanced its position for goal 13, Climate Action, and now ranks as 29th best. For goal 14, Life below Water, SLU is ranked the 39th best university.

A conversation ensued with questions from the audience, featuring SLU researchers and representatives from the management, alumni and the environmental unit at SLU. They all offered insights into SLU's multifaceted impact.

Afternoon workshops: Engaging for a sustainable future

In the afternoon, participants had the opportunity to delve into parallel workshops, choosing from a diverse range of topics. These workshops, led by experts within SLU, covered areas such as teaching and learning perspectives on Agenda 2030, environmental monitoring and assessment, social justice, achieving a climate-neutral SLU by 2027, the role of researchers and activism, and fostering healthy urban living environments.

The day concluded on a high note with a joint digital session, emphasising the importance of collaboration and individual commitment in shaping a sustainable future. SLU Sustainability Day 2023 not only took stock of progress but also ignited a collective vision for a world aligned with the principles of sustainability.

- We are very pleased that over 200 students and staff chose to prioritise the day. The engagement during the many interesting presentations and discussions bodes well. I think and hope that we all got new thoughts and ideas to take forward in our respective roles in the future, said Ylva Hillbur when concluding the day.

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