Diverse challenges such as the climate crisis, social inequalities, scarcity of resources, the corona pandemic or the Ukraine war bring sustainability into focus. Young people who demand more responsibility, faster reforms and more commitment are doing their part. As a sustainable university, IMC Krems not only wants to participate in debates, but to actively shape them. “For this reason, we see it as our task to offer future-oriented teaching, to conduct research that offers solutions to societal challenges, to ensure a fair, healthy and safe workplace and to minimise the ecological footprint,” IMC Managing Director Ulrike Prommer summarises.
As a “Sustainable University of Applied Sciences”, IMC Krems is guided by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, which are in focus at national, regional and international level until 2030. These development goals are universally applicable and based on a holistic development approach, as the three dimensions – economic, social and environmental – are given equal priority in the goals. The goals also encompass the protection of human rights, the rule of law, good governance, peace and security. The 2030 Agenda is therefore relevant to many aspects of university teaching and research.
Stakeholders’ environmental and sustainability awareness is promoted by involving them in a variety of ways. This strategy concerns both internal staff and students as well as external alumni, part-time teachers, providers of internships and exchange semesters or companies. “The topics of environment and sustainability are continuously being developed at IMC Krems,” promises Prof.(FH) DI Roman Mesicek, Sustainability Coordinator and Programme Director of the Umwelt- und Nachhaltigkeitsmanagement degree programme (Environmental and Sustainability Management). “It is not enough to survey a status quo, but we exercise our social and ecological responsibility actively and reflectively. In order to implement and expand the measures aligned with the SDGs, we take all stakeholders in higher education to task.” The communication of science and sustainable values to the public is also noticeable in the form of the Children’s and Youth University, the “yourScienceAcademy Niederösterreich” or the SeniorInnenUNI, among others.
Sustainability in teaching and research
Aspects of sustainability are reflected and appropriately integrated into teaching and research. In view of the effects of the corona pandemic, for example, a focus was placed on innovative teaching formats and digitalisation. Expansion and further development of the eDesktop at IMC Krems, integration of the eVRyLab – a virtual reality room – in course projects and the definition of quality standards for blended learning were defined as goals. A digital toolbox for blended learning and distance learning was implemented.
A lighthouse project of the sustainability idea in teaching is the master’s programme “Environmental and Sustainability Management”, which teaches subject-specific and methodological skills that enable students to support companies and organisations in the implementation of measures and strategies for ecological and social sustainability in terms of both corporate and social responsibility. In addition, sustainability has been anchored in several degree programmes in the Business Department. So-called Business Base Courses teach basic economic content, one of which is “Sustainability and Ethics in Leadership”. The master’s programme in Management focuses on successful long-term corporate management and integrates aspects of social responsibility and sustainable development into all core areas of the programme. The Lectures for Future series offers insights into scientific work on the topic of the climate crisis, the environment and society, which is freely accessible to students and the interested public.
Especially in the emerging economies of Eastern Europe and Asia, there is a high demand for qualified professionals from diverse backgrounds. In recent years, IMC Krems has succeeded in positioning itself in these geographic regions as a leading provider of educational services in the areas of our core competences by establishing and expanding partnerships with private and public universities.
Contributions to the achievement of the SDGs are also made in various research areas and projects of the Departments of Business, Health Sciences and Life Sciences. Examples of research projects with a sustainability focus are
- sustainable biological recycling of environmentally hazardous rare earths from electronic waste and waste water
- LINK – Long-term care: implications for sustainable careers
- Sustainability from the perspective of wine consumers
Resources and mobility
The efficiency of the use of resources is constantly increased and waste is avoided as far as possible. The “Environment and Sustainability” team evaluates, updates and implements the university’s environmental strategies. Environmental and energy indicators are documented in a separate controlling system. They include emission data, paper consumption or an input-output representation.
The use of environmentally friendly means of transport is also promoted and traffic flows are optimised. IMC Krems strives to provide an infrastructure that enables a reduction in automotive mobility and facilitates the switch to more environmentally friendly alternatives. In addition, digital communication is promoted where mobility can be avoided.
The defined essential topics of IMC Krems also include financial stability, sustainable working conditions with further education and training, a good work-life balance and flexible working time models, as well as a focus on diversity and equal opportunities. In 2019, IMC Krems founded the Gender & Diversity Advisory Board, which continuously evaluates activities and takes new measures.
These values are reflected in a women- and family-friendly working environment. Above all, the compatibility of work, family and free time of the IMC team is promoted and supported. Therefore, IMC Krems offers the possibility of childcare, part-time parental leave, paternity leave as well as various part-time models and flexitime agreements. Furthermore, a re-entry programme for employees on leave has been introduced. Personal and professional development is also particularly important. The training and further education needs of each employee are determined in face-to-face talks. At least three further training days per academic year are planned. In addition, the health programme “Element Health”, which is dedicated to the three pillars of nutrition, exercise and psyche, is intended to put the health of employees in the foreground.
Self-auditing and reporting
IMC Krems voluntarily undergoes annual audits in order to have its own efforts reviewed from a neutral perspective. Memberships that require defined standards also serve this purpose. As the most important relevant networks, the university has been part of the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) and United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) initiatives since 2013. Since autumn 2021, the university has also been a founding member of the “Alliance of Sustainable Universities”, including 13 Austrian universities of applied sciences.
Certifications and rankings also support these efforts: every three years, IMC Krems is certified according to the international environmental management standard ISO 14.001. Study programmes, curricula and courses are evaluated with the help of manuals and guidelines. The most important rankings include the transnational CHE university ranking and the international university ranking U-Multirank. The Positive Impact Rating aims to actively contribute to improving the university’s sustainability performance with the help of evaluations by and for students. “All these efforts and challenges are reflected in the sustainability report, which is published every two years,” concludes Mesicek.