Good public health is both a prerequisite and a goal of sustainable development. An important part of Karolinska Institutet's sustainability work is to highlight and strengthen KIs research and education that contribute to knowledge about how society affects human health, now, in the future, locally and globally. KIs sustainability efforts also include environmental and social responsibility in the way KI as an organisation is operated.
According to KIs environmental and sustainability guidelines KI shall;
- Through research and education contribute with knowledge on health and sustainable development
- Use energy efficiently and in the future become climate-neutral
- Reduce the climate impact of our business trips
- Set environmental and ethical requirements for our procurements and purchasing
- Minimize the health and environmental risks in the laboratory activities
- Sort waste at source and reduce the amount of waste
Research for sustainable development
Climate change, other large-scale environmental change, population growth, widespread poverty, increase in welfare diseases across the world, spread of infectious diseases and antibiotic-resistant bacteria are all examples of global sustainability challenges related to human health.
Although all research conducted at KI contributes to improving human health, the research that highlights the links between health, socioeconomic factors and human environmental impact is of particular importance for sustainable development.
Epidemiology is the science of occurrence of diseases in the population. Major steps forward have been made with regard to factors that play a role for disease occurrence and disease risk. This includes studies on causal factors in environment, life style and genetic factors.
Public and Global health
KIs research in public health studies inter alia the links between health and our living, working, school and built environment. The research in international and global health relates to health problems that are often related to poverty in low income countries.
Infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
Control of communicable diseases is crucial for a sustainable future. Global warming, increased populations, migration and deforestation alters the spread of pathogens creating new challenges. KI researchers are contributing to solutions at many levels.
Understanding the spread of disease at hospitals and in society helps alter behaviour. Basic research on pathogens (parasites, bacteria and viruses) can help developing new drugs and vaccines. Antibiotic resistance is an increasing problem where KI structural biology researchers provide important structural templates for drug development.
Climate and health
Health effects of the ongoing climate change is a new area of research at KI within the fields of global health and environmental medicine. The goal is to build the KI research capacity in areas such as climate change, natural disasters and health care; climate change and infectious diseases; and climate change and health effects in exposed areas.
KI:s research in environmental medicine includes research on the contribution of air pollution to cardiovascular disease, the effects of persistent organic pollutants on the hormone balance, the contribution of metals to cancer and the potentially adverse health effects of new materials such as nanomaterials.
The research also constitutes the basis for risk assessments of toxic substances and other pollutants, as well as for national and international restrictions.
Education for sustainable development
Universities have a key role in shaping a sustainable world. The UN has declared 2005 - 2014 the decade for education and learning for sustainable development. According to the Swedish Higher Education Act universities should promote sustainable development so that present and future generations are provided a healthy and good environment, economic and social welfare and justice.
Sustainable development in KI:s education
Karolinska Institutet has as a medical university a particular responsibility to disseminate knowledge about health in the context of social and economic development, locally and globally, in the short and long term. This may regard health related to society's environmental impact, or deficiencies in its economic and social structures and systems.
Other aspects of sustainable development with particular relevance for KIs education is the environmental impact of health care, or its ability to provide good health care regardless of a person´s gender, culture, ethnicity or economic situation.
A number of KIs educational programs and courses have an explicit sustainability approach but KIs goal is to strengthen all programs in this respect.
The Board of Education has given KI:s program directors the task of introducing sustainable development in their respective programs.
KI students for sustainable development
Want to see a better world that satisfies today's needs without compromising future generations to meet their needs? Are you interested in joining a student think tank to formulate new and creative ideas for sustainable development? Then you might be one of our new "ambassadors" for sustainable development! If you are interested in joining KIs student think tank or if you have any questions, please contact Michel Silvestri.
An important part of KIs sustainability work is to be environmentally and socially responsible in the manner in which KI operates. Prioritised areas are the university's energy use, business travel, procurement and purchasing, laboratory safety and waste management.
In 2010 KI shifted to using energy from renewable resources which resulted in roughly a 30% cut in the energy carbon footprint.
KIs energy use and carbon footprint is however significant due to its extensive experimental research. KI has set a target to reduce the energy consumption per square meter by 25 percent by 2025 compared to 2010.
A lot of the necessary energy saving measures must be carried out in cooperation with KIs property owners. KI is however solely responsible for the use of energy that is related to its own activities. Everyone can contribute to using less energy by an energy-conscious behavior and by choosing energy-saving equipment when procuring and purchasing.
KIs travelling is the university's largest carbon footprint, mainly due to the many distant flights undertaken since KI is an international university.
KIs travel regulations steers towards more environmentally friendly means of transport and to meetings that do not require any travelling. According to KIs travel regulations, we who work at KI shall:
- Always consider using the phone, video or webb conferencing instead of travelling
- Use the train instead of flying when travelling to Göteborg and other nearby domestic destinations
- Choose eco-taxi
- Rent eco-cars
- Take the KI bus between Campus Huddinge and Campus Solna
- Use public transport
- Choose hotels that are eco-labelled, environmentally certified or that can prove in any other way that they conduct active environmental work
Procuring and purchasing
KI can contribute to improving the environment as well as the living and working conditions of people by placing environmental and social requirements for the procurement and purchasing.
KIs guidance for procurement and purchasing describes how environmental and ethical requirements should be made in connection with procurement or purchasing (see Management system).
KIs research laboratories handles a large number of chemicals and biological agents. KIs laboratory safety work aims to minimize the risk of exposing people or nature to hazardous substances.
KIs system for handling waste allows for source separation of many materials. The university administration is responsible for providing sorting furniture in common areas while KIs departments are responsible for their premises.
KI:s environmental and sustainability work is managed in a system that is being built up in accordance with the international standard for environmental management - ISO 14001.
More about KI:s environmental and sustainability management system on the Internal website.