ZHAW Sustainability Strategy
We take our responsibility for ensuring a sustainable society seriously and are contributing to this in all core areas at the ZHAW. We conduct research in the field of sustainable development, and we educate and prepare our students to shape the present and the future in a way that will enable future generations to face social, economic and ecological challenges in a responsible and reflective manner.
A common way forward
Since 1 November 2019, the ZHAW has had its own Sustainable Development Officer: Urs Hilber, Dean of the School of Life Sciences and Facility Management. Urs Hilber firmly believes that embracing sustainability in its three facets – economic, ecological and social – and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are among the most important tasks facing our society. As he explains: «Each and every one of us will have to change our behaviour if we are to achieve these goals. But this also means that each and every one of us can make a positive contribution.» As the Head of ZHAW Sustainable Development, Urs Hilber is in charge of implementing the sustainability strategy (in German) within the ZHAW. He also represents the ZHAW externally in matters of sustainability, monitors and anticipates national and international developments, and guarantees the exchange of information both within and beyond the ZHAW. In his new and challenging role, Urs Hilber places great importance on networking, awareness-raising and participation. For him, one thing is clear: «The common way forward is the only way forward!»
«One of the particularly challenging tasks of sustainable development is to achieve behavioural changes in ourselves in a world of unsustainable material abundance. Thanks to our sustainability strategy, we can make a difference if enough of us take this common way forward.»
Urs Hilber, Dean of the School of Life Sciences and Facility Management and Head of ZHAW Sustainable Development
Sharing and exchanging ideas
As Head of Sustainability Programs at the ZHAW, Francesco Bortoluzzi is responsible for implementing the sustainability strategy at the ZHAW together with Urs Hilber. He creates and maintains networks, both inside and outside the ZHAW, and brings together people involved in existing projects in the field of sustainable development in a committee consisting of management, staff and students. Francesco Bortoluzzi is also working to ensure that the right conditions are created for participatory activities in order to allow the ZHAW to function both as a sustainable community and as a genuine laboratory for sustainable solutions.
«With their projects and research programmes, the ZHAW Schools boast impressive expertise in many areas of sustainable development. We are using this as an opportunity to help us along our common way forward.»
Francesco Bortoluzzi, Head of Sustainability Programs at the ZHAW
Participation a core principle
Our proven expertise in all our areas of activity and study enables us to work towards a sustainable society. At the ZHAW, we do research and develop solutions that address the questions of the future. At the same time, we educate and sensitise our students to the challenges of sustainable development. Our long-term goal is focused squarely on ensuring inter- and intragenerational social and economic justice. This means respecting the ecological limits of our use of natural resources. A comprehensive task such as this requires reflection, negotiation and compromise at all levels of decision-making and action, which is why the ZHAW regards participation as a core principle of sustainable development.
«The sustainability strategy allows the ZHAW to take action precisely where its core competences lie: providing students with hands-on knowledge so they can integrate sustainability into their everyday work and into society.»
Nico Frommherz, Master’s student in Environment and Natural Resources
Principle for action
Sustainable development at the ZHAW calls for changes to our culture, organisation, infrastructure, curriculum and didactic approaches. It also requires our staff and students to develop new skills and to adjust how they act and behave. For this reason, the sustainability strategy addresses not only our study programmes, research, knowledge transfer and business services, but also our campuses, operations and governance policies. The sustainability strategy is long-term and participatory, combining both top-down and bottom-up initiatives. The ZHAW is guided by the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals from the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Sustainable development, however, is more than just a strategy at the ZHAW: it is a vibrant principle of action and a responsibility for all stakeholders.
«With the sustainability strategy, we are strengthening awareness of the importance of a sustainable lifestyle among our staff and students and turning research results into action, all of which is contributing to much-needed systemic change.»
Regina Betz, Professor for Energy and Environmental Economics, ZHAW School of Management and Law
While the sustainability strategy sets the course for the future, it is rooted firmly in our existing activities and allows us to develop and enhance these even further. The strategy also enables all members of the ZHAW community to engage in a deeper, more interconnected discussion on the topic of sustainable development. This is an area in which we have achieved a lot over the past ten years and which has been a key aspect of the university strategy since 2015. Nevertheless, there is still a need for action, which is why the ZHAW has defined concrete goals and measures in its sustainability strategy.
Embedded at the highest levels
The Executive Board is sending a clear signal with the ZHAW sustainability strategy by embedding sustainable development at the highest levels. The strategy applies to all areas of activity at the ZHAW, with motivational and participatory goals set for academic programmes, continuing education, research, knowledge transfer, business services, operations and governance alike. The full sustainability strategy can be read here: