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Responsibility and Sustainability

Responsibility and sustainability are at the core of the University of St.Gallen’s strategy. HSG takes a holistic approach, considering how economic activity is embedded into society and the limits of the planetary boundaries. Our overarching goals are to: prepare our students to become leaders in a world that must solve severe environmental and social crises, and to lead by example mitigating our environmental footprint to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Responsibility and Sustainability has a long history at the University of St.Gallen (HSG) and is integrated into its governance structures. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the sustainability student association oikos, the Institute for Business Ethics (IWE-HSG) and the Institute for Economy and the Environment (IWÖ-HSG) were founded. In 2010, the President’s Delegate for Responsibility & Sustainability role was established, with an official mandate to steer the University’s sustainability activities.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) serve as a guiding framework for social and environmental topics relevant to the University.HSG has been a member of UN PRME since 2010 and produces biennial PRME reports. In 2019, HSG signed the SDG Accord joining the UNFCCC’s Race to Zero to become carbon neutral by 2030. 

Our environmental strategy was developed in 2020 and is guided by the Planetary Boundaries framework, with three focal themes: climate change, biodiversity loss, and circular economy. In 2022, the Social Sustainability Working Group was established to integrate socio-ecological and socio-economic topics more deeply into the overarching sustainability strategy. In addition, HSG also has an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion strategy embedded into the University’s strategic plan.

Contributions on the topics of responsibility and sustainability

Integrating sustainability into teaching

Integrating sustainability into teaching at all levels of education is an integral part of HSG sustainability strategy, supported by the Delegate Responsibility & Sustainability (R&S) team. In 2019, the certificate programme Managing Climate Solution (MaCS) was established, providing an opportunity for students to supplement their chosen Master’s degree. Our Executive School offers a broad range of sustainability-related content as well as specific courses on Renewable Energy Management and Sustainability for Business Excellence. The R&S team supports the development of extra-curricular activities on sustainability topics. The R&S ECOnnect platform supports more than 15 student organizations on topics such as sustainable consulting and finance. The team also initiated the Sustainability Mentoring Programme and organises many events.

“Our deep history with sustainability, rooted in student activism, teaching and research, means that we are well-positioned to take a leading role.”
Prof. Judith Walls, Delegate Responsibility and Sustainability, Director Institute for Economy and the Environment.
“Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our times. As future leaders in business and society, our students will have to navigate a carbon-constrained world. The MaCS programme prepares them to become part of the solution.”
Prof. Rolf Wüstenhagen, Academic Director, Master’s certificate in Managing Climate Solutions
“With respect to its three missions—education, generation of knowledge and dissemination of expertise for a positive impact on society—our strategy builds on the integration of ecological, social and economic thought and action.”
Prof. Dirk Lehmkuhl, Lead Working Group on Social and Economic Sustainability, Director Competence Center for Social Innovation

Research on sustainability in various areas

HSG ranks in the top three European business schools in terms of publications on the SDGs, according to the Financial Times. At least a third of the University's Institutes and Centres conduct research in the area of sustainability addressing topics on the natural environment, ethics, leadership and values, diversity, inclusion, social and responsible innovation, circular economy, and the global south. Over the last couple of years, HSG has increasingly sought out new hires to support its goal to develop sustainability excellence. In addition, the HSG Impact Scholar Community was created in 2020 to connect and support sustainability scholars. Finally, the HSG joined the Alliance for Research on Corporate Sustainability (ARCS) during 2022.

Environmental sustainability on campus

To become carbon neutral, HSG established the Climate Solutions Taskforce (CST). Most of the goals set by the CST pertain to campus activities, working closely with the University administration in the areas of accounting, procurement and supply chain, mobility, infrastructure and energy, and divestment from fossil fuels. In 2022, HSG released its first Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol report. Since 2007, HSG has been certified for the near-natural design of its environment by the Nature & Economy Foundation. HSG is also a member of the Blue Community to ensure efficient use of water.

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