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A Holistic Approach to Embedding Social Responsibility and Sustainability in a University—Fostering Collaboration Between Researchers, Students and Operations

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Handbook of Sustainability Science and Research

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Abstract

Universities have the potential, and a responsibility, to contribute to sustainable development through their own business operations, through research and through providing learning opportunities for students. The University of Edinburgh is committed to social responsibility and sustainability, and a department of the same name works on seven key areas: climate change and energy; resource efficiency and circular economy; supply chains and fair trade; responsible investment; learning, teaching and research; community and public engagement; and sustainability reporting. There are clear links between these areas of work and the Sustainable Development Goals, both in terms of environmental protection, and in reducing poverty and increasing well-being locally and globally. One approach to these themes is to view the university as a Living Lab—where research is carried out on the institution’s own operations, both by academics and by students. This paper shares experience from implementing the Living Lab approach at Edinburgh, which has provided useful learning on how to facilitate collaboration between different stakeholders within a university (academics, operations and students), and how to foster a sense of being a united learning community with sustainability aims. The paper highlights issues and learning around developing networks, data governance and initiating action research as practitioners.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    See http://www.ed.ac.uk/about/sustainability/about.

  2. 2.

    http://www.environment.admin.cam.ac.uk/living-lab.

  3. 3.

    http://universitylivinglab.org/.

  4. 4.

    https://green.harvard.edu/climate-solutions-living-lab-course-and-research-project.

  5. 5.

    http://sustainability.psu.edu/sustainability-strategic-plan/our-approach-living-lab.

  6. 6.

    Regenerative sustainability is described as the capacity for human activity to actually improve both environmental conditions and human quality of life.

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Cooper, L., Gorman, D. (2018). A Holistic Approach to Embedding Social Responsibility and Sustainability in a University—Fostering Collaboration Between Researchers, Students and Operations. In: Leal Filho, W. (eds) Handbook of Sustainability Science and Research. World Sustainability Series. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-63007-6_11

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