Inaugural meeting of the CIVICA Environmental Sustainability Board highlights commitment to EU's Green Transition


On March 11th, the CIVICA alliance convened its first Environmental Sustainability Board meeting. This significant move by Europe's leading social science universities underlines the crucial role higher education plays in addressing environmental challenges and advancing the green transition.

The European Commission underscores the importance of education strategies focused on environmental sustainability as a core goal of the European Universities Initiative. Recognising the unique position of the higher education sector to address the environmental challenges, CIVICA is committed to fostering ecological transitions and achieving carbon-neutral campuses by integrating environmental sustainability into all educational and operational facets.

Each partner institution in the alliance has appointed a Senior Sustainability Officer to the board, which operates under the coordination of the CIVICA Secretariat. The board's threefold goals include exchanging best practices, conducting assessments of the alliance's carbon footprint, and producing a sustainable strategy report detailing joint actions and recommendations.

In a recent interview, Héloïse Lammens, Chair of the Board and Sciences Po's Head of Environmental Sustainability, shared insights on the impact and aspirations of this newly established board.

Could you briefly describe your roles and responsibilities at Sciences Po and within CIVICA?

"At Sciences Po, my principal focus is to measure and minimise our environmental footprint. This involves reducing energy consumption across our campuses, cutting down carbon emissions from travel, and implementing sustainable purchasing practices. We are actively working towards a net-zero strategy, deploying an action plan to hit our climate targets. Within CIVICA, I coordinate these efforts across all departments, aiding in the transition to a low-carbon future."

In your opinion, how can the CIVICA Environmental Sustainability Board benefit individual institutions and have a broader impact?

"The board serves as a vital platform for sharing best practices among member institutions. Each session addresses a specific sustainability challenge, with presentations on different approaches and subsequent discussions. For instance, in tackling travel policies, we explore various strategies like train travel mandates, carbon taxes, and quotas. Additionally, our collaborative tools on CIVICA social allow for continuous exchange of methodologies, tools, and advice. The board's proactive approach in suggesting and promoting ecological initiatives across the alliance aims to produce impactful joint actions and recommendations."

Following this first CIVICA Environmental Sustainability Board meeting, could you share the primary vision and objectives outlined by the Board members?

"Our initial roundtable discussion was highly productive, revealing common challenges and strategic alignments across institutions concerning environmental policies. Key areas of focus include accurately measuring carbon footprints, establishing net-zero or carbon-neutral policies, and reducing energy consumption. The enthusiasm from the board members was palpable, prompting an agreement to convene sooner than planned. This eagerness underscores the urgency and commitment to refining policies like travel regulations and enhancing systems for carbon emission accounting."

The CIVICA Environmental Sustainability Board's next meeting is eagerly anticipated, as member institutions continue to strive towards a cohesive and robust environmental strategy. This collaborative effort underscores a significant step forward in higher education's role in combating climate change, setting a precedent for global academic communities.

CIVICA Environmental Sustainability Board members - March 2024
The members of the CIVICA Environmental Sustainability Board first met in March 2024.