sustainability – AEGEE-Europe | European Students' Forum AEGEE (Association des Etats Généraux des Etudiants de l’Europe / European Students’ Forum) is a student organisation that promotes cooperation, communication and integration amongst young people in Europe. As a non-governmental, politically independent, and non-profit organisation AEGEE is open to students and young people from all faculties and disciplines – today it counts 13 000 members, active in close to 200 university cities in 40 European countries, making it the biggest interdisciplinary student association in Europe. Wed, 18 Apr 2018 09:33:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Position paper on sustainable universities /position-paper-on-sustainable-universities-2/ Tue, 18 Nov 2014 10:06:40 +0000 /?p=5595 1. Introduction

The history of the concept of sustainable development goes not far back in time. In 1987 sustainable development is defined by the Brundtland Comission as follows: Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs[1].

The need for sustainable development was recognised by political leaders in 1992 during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The Agenda 21 was adopted during the conference. This document stated that action was needed towards a more sustainable developed world[2]. The Agenda 21 is not fully implemented yet, and due to economic challenges the attention of world leaders towards sustainable development has decreased in the recent years. This does not mean that the need for sustainable development has disappeared. With the ongoing exploitation of the Earth, the visibility of the limits of our resources and the tangible effects of climate change, the need for sustainable development is more urgent than ever.

As young people are the present and the future and have the ability to make a change for the better, the university has an immediate impact on the present and the future. A university is a state or private owned knowledge centre where young people are educated. A sustainable university is defined as a higher educational institution, as a whole or as a part, that addresses, involves and promotes, on a regional or a global level, the minimization of negative environmental, economic, societal, and health effects generated in the use of their resources in order to fulfil its functions of teaching, research, outreach and partnership, and stewardship in ways to help society make the transition to sustainable lifestyles[3]. In this position paper the focus lays on the environmental impact a university has.

”Sustainability means to me making sure future generations will still be able to enjoy the nature of our planet”[4].

2. Position of AEGEE-Europe

The start of the shift to a sustainable society starts with educating people[5], and practicing a sustainable lifecycle as a university has to complement any inclusion of sustainability in the curricula. AEGEE-Europe considers that universities, as innovative knowledge and education centres, have the duty towards society to educate young people in a way that makes them conscious of their lifestyles and give them the knowledge and the opportunity to make their lifestyles more sustainable. This must be done not only by educating students in a formal and informal way, but also by being an example to the whole society. Students are the present and give shape to the future. The shift to a more sustainable lifestyle becomes more realistic by educating students and showing them what a sustainable lifestyle is.

3. Sustainable Universities in Europe

Sustainability of universities and the value given to sustainability differ very much among countries in Europe. When the country itself values sustainability, this is reflected in its universities, which are more sustainable than average. It seems that the combination of the knowledge on sustainability, the power to change and interest in sustainability is what forms the three pillars for a sustainable transition[6]. Not all the universities have an awaiting approach. There are several universities, mainly in Western and Northern Europe that are taking responsibility for putting an emphasis on sustainability.

”I didn’t even learn what sustainability is at my University[7].”

4. Recommendations

4.1 Recommendations for NGOs

There are several organisations that are working towards more sustainable universities. The exchange of knowledge between them and cooperation among them would strengthen the message and actions that are taken.

Furthermore, the bottom up approach which ensures change driven by the activation of students of that specific university has proven successful in the cases where it has been implemented. The university usually listens to students if they raise their voice. In case the university does not, students are inventive enough to make sure that the university will listen.

Next to this, the bottom up approach in combination with including the value of sustainable lifecycles within the university and sustainable education in the policy of the university is the most successful combination. In this way the students are the driving force behind the change and the implementation of sustainability in the policy of the university ensures permanence of the values.

4.2 Recommendations for students

Students are important stakeholders in the university. Students are more powerful than they believe, especially if they form a group together and stand behind a common idea. Students can take care of education on sustainability in a formal or non-formal way or make the university more sustainable at own initiative. The education towards other students can occur if the university sees no need in taking the responsibility, or as a replenishment to the existing education. In this way students can teach others and create support and acknowledgement in the university as well.

4.3 Recommendations for awarding of sustainable universities and including sustainability in rankings

There are prizes and rankings for the most sustainable universities. It would be an opportunity to spread the importance of sustainable universities and to create more willingness in the universities itself to become more sustainable if these sustainability rankings where more known and the prizes where more prestigious.

However, sustainability is not included in the overall ranking of universities. There are several rankings of universities available, to name a few: U-Multirank, Shanghai Ranking and the Times higher education ranking. Rankings of universities should not only consist of the level of teaching and the facilities the university has, also the sustainability of a university should be taken into account. The sustainability of a university could be measured out of the average hours of education on sustainability at each study every year, the sustainability of the building and the catering, the existence of a committee on sustainability and the inclusion of sustainability on the policy of the university.


AEGEE/ European Students’ Forum is a European Student organisation striving for a better Europe, including a more sustainable Europe, and believes in the power of young people. AEGEE was born in 1986 with the vision of creating a unified Europe, based on democracy and respect for human rights, bringing together students with different cultural backgrounds. Today, AEGEE is Europe’s largest interdisciplinary youth organisation: 40 countries, 200 cities, 13.000 friends.

This network provides the ideal platform for young volunteers to work together on cross-border activities such as international conferences, seminars, exchanges, training courses, and case study trips. In line with the challenges young people are currently facing in Europe, AEGEE’s work is focused on three main areas: promotion of youth participation, development of European relations with its neighbours, and inclusion of minorities.

AEGEE’s work on environment and sustainability is relatively new. Its diverse membership however, provides a great potential for the development of cross-disciplinary efforts in this field — a role taken up with increasing success since the creation of its Environmental Working Group in 2007, the Sustaining our Future project in 2008-2009, and since 2012 its Policy Officer on Sustainability.

[1] Brundtland Report, 1987. Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development.

[2] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Division for Sustainable Development. Sustainable Development in the 21st Century (SD21) Review of implementation of Agenda 21 and the Rio Principles Detailed review of implementation of Agenda 21. January 2012.

[3] Velazquez, L., Munguia, N., Platt, A., & Taddei, J. (2006). Sustainable university: what can be the matter?. Journal of Cleaner Production, 14(9), 810-819.

[4] Survey on Sustainable Universities, AEGEE 2014.

[5] See the position paper: AEGEE Position on Education for Sustainability.

[6] Csurgó, B., Kovách, I., & Kučerová, E. (2008). Knowledge, power and sustainability in contemporary rural Europe. Sociologia Ruralis, 48(3), 292-312.

[7] Survey on Sustainable Universities, AEGEE 2014.

Czech Republic: Nation of Sceptics? /czech-republic-nation-of-sceptics/ Sun, 20 Apr 2014 10:35:34 +0000 /?p=4860

Visit to the Metro Depot

In Prague we were met by the representative of the Youth for Public Transport (Y4PT). Together with our partner we are trying to raise an awareness among the young people about the most sustainable and the most environmentally friendly ways of travelling. Especially for our journey, Y4PT developed a Carbon Emission Calculator that helps our followers to track the impact our journey has on environment. In the Czech capital Y4PT invited us to visit the oldest Depot of Prague – Kačerov  to experience first-hand how does the maintenance of the city’s transport centre looks like and why do people in Prague prefer to use public transport?

Metro Depot Kačerov provides services for more than 50 trains on the red line of the Prague’s metro system and is one of the biggest in the Czech Republic. As passengers, we hardly ever think about how much effort and resources is put into maintaining and keeping our public transport safe. It was explained to us that one of the main goals of the Dopravní podnik hlavního města Prahy, a public transit company in charge of running all of the means of the transportation in the capital, is to make travelling accessible­ and most of all comfortable for the passengers. In Prague more than 55% of all the journeys are done via public transport, explained to us the Head of the External Relations. As long as the system functions properly young people will be more prone to use trams, busses and metro thus limiting their usage of the private cars. This will not only help to slow down the effects of the climate change, it will also make our cities much more pleasant to live in.

An Outlier

Another question that had to be answered during our stay in Prague was why are the Czechs so Eurosceptical? In fact, according to the recent study of the Republikon Institute, the Czech Republic is the most Eurosceptical nation in the Central and Eastern Europe. It is not very surprising to see United Kingdom at the top of the list, but why does the Czech Republic, located in the heart of Europe, has 43-46% of Eurosceptics is an intriguing question. When we asked young people in Mannheim what they think is the reason for this, there was only one person willing to explain why Czechs stand out (read more City of the Squares). It is the time to finally ask Czechs, what they think about the European Union and where is this national Euroscepticism coming from.

The discussion took place at the VŠE, Prague’s well known University of Economics. The Rektor, Prof. Ing. Hana Machková, welcomed us by introducing the University and its external relations. The workshop soon turned into discussion and participants were actively engaged in answering questions such as: what is Euroscepticism and which factors in their daily life have an effect on the way they view the European Union. Some believed it was studies, others pro-EU student organizations and opportunity to live and travel abroad. Jana Pokorna explained that her views are strongly affected by the legislature coming from Brussels. Often these new laws are not fair to the Czech people, thus this creates a strong resistance.

IMG_9723Generally speaking the discussion about Europtimism in Prague often reminded us that of Mannheim, yet there were some significant differences. Whereas the image of the EU among the participants in Mannheim was rather positive, young people in Prague have neither strongly positive nor strongly negative feelings towards the EU. It is of course not scientifically correct to generalize on the basis of such small and non-representative sample but it does seem to us that the scepticism in the Czech Republic is stronger than in Germany. So how did our participants explain this phenomenon? Some of them believe that the EU is limiting freedoms of the Czechs and this is something that goes against the Czech mentality. Czechs have learned very painful lessons from the Czech history and they are afraid to be taken over by more powerful players.  Another participant, Adnan suggested that such high level of Euroscepticism among Czechs might be a result of the scepticism of the former President of the Czech Republic – Vaclav Klaus. It took a lot of effort for the EU officials and leaders of the EU member states to convince Mr. Klaus to sing the Lisbon Treaty. He was the last president of the 27 member states to sign this historical treaty. With the new pro-European President Miloš Zeman the situation might be changing for better, think students.

The difference between young people in Mannheim and those in Prague were also noticeable in the way they answered the question about the future of the EU. Should the EU get more powers, less we preserve the status quo? Most of the students in Prague wanted to preserve status quo or to limit the powers of the EU (read answers of the students in Mannheim here). The EU should not be interfering in our daily life, it should not tell us how a marmalade or a cucumber should look like, exclaimed one of the students.


EU Energy targets for 2030. On the way to 2050? /eu-energy-targets-2030/ Tue, 01 Apr 2014 08:50:55 +0000 The European Union strives for less than 2 degrees temperature rise this century in comparison with the pre-industrial times. In order to reach this goal, scientists have calculated that the carbon emission should be reduced by 80% in 2050 (1). There are different ways in which this reduction could be reached: achieve a higher energy efficiency, increase the use of renewable energy, and reduce the share of polluting energy sources are ways to decrease the greenhouse gasses emissions.

Every ten years, the European Commission proposes new mid-term energy targets. The current energy targets are set for 2020, and the first energy proposal for 2030 was recently voted upon in the Parliament. The proposal of the European Commission for 2030 is a 40% reduction of greenhouse gasses and reach a 27% (non-binding) share in renewable energies in the mix. The Parliament voted in favour on a resolution of 40% reduction of carbon emission, 30% share of the renewable energy market and 40% energy efficiency improvement by 2030. The Parliament criticised in this way the proposal of the European Commission (2): the renewable energy target is set to 20% in 2020, and increasing it only by 7% in 2030 would be unambitious. Furthermore, there are no national targets for renewable energy, which makes the Member States unaccountable. Additionally, the energy efficiency should be a very important objective, and there is no target set about this topic in the proposal of the Commission right now. However, the resolution of the EP is not binding, and the final proposal will be voted upon by the new Parliament in October.

In an analysis of the Friends of the Earth,  a decrease of 60% of carbon emission would be in line with the targets of 2050, instead of the 40% proposed right now. In total there should be a reduction of 80% in carbon emission by 2050 to strive for less than 2 degrees temperature rise at the end of this century (compared to the pre-industrial times). The reduction of only 40% in 2030 means that after 2030 there should be still an additional reduction of 40% in 20 years. There are no changes in the Emission Trade System so far, and the carbon prices will be low until 2030 when nothing is done (3). Internationally, Europe will continue the trend of losing its leading position in carbon emission with this proposal. The US and China will probably have more ambitious plans and targets to reduce their carbon emission in the future.

We wonder: where is the voice of the scientist and the youth in this proposal? The knowledge of the scientists is used to support decisions when it is in the benefit of the decision-makers, but non-scientific arguments become suddenly more important when the scientific facts are not pointing in the direction of the interest of the political forces. The youth has the power to reform the present in order to preserve the future; their voice and their concerns should be heard!

For many European citizens, the legislators in Brussels seems to be the big angry power which limits the growth of their countries when they impose a limitation of the carbon emissions. It is the responsibility of governments to explain why these energy targets are so important for the future of Europe, and show that this is the only way for a long term successful economy. We should develop not by bringing the healthy future of our planet and children in danger, but striving for a sustainable Europe.

To the decision makers we would like to say: about the importance of a sustainable future, do not only talk but act accordingly!

Written by Iris Hordijk, Policy Officer of AEGEE-Europe for Sustainability

#FreeTheArctic30 /freethearctic30/ Sun, 06 Oct 2013 06:56:10 +0000 Company wrecks climate. Climate melts ice. Company prepares to drill even more oil. NGO protests drills. Coast guard attacks NGO’s boat. Crew are called pirates. Pirates are locked up. The end.

Or is it?

Today, October 5, in 160+ cities around the world citizens stood together with the Arctic 30, their families, friends, and colleagues. #FreeTheArctic30 became a global cry for justice, as those 28 Greenpeace activists, along with 2 freelancers are in a Russian jail, facing piracy charges. Criminal charges which even Russian president Vladimir Putin has dismissed.

Following a successful protest at the Prirazlomnaya oil platform in 2012, Greenpeace activists attempted to board the rig again on September 18. Their mission: to stop Gazprom from producing the world’s first Arctic oil. Oil which Greenpeace and other environmental organisations say is neither wanted nor safe, given the extreme circumstances and remote location of Arctic drilling.

The activists barely began their climb up the side of the platform though, as they are hosed down with icy water by Gazprom employees, with 2 of them being captured at gunpoint and taken aboard a vessel of the Russian coast guard. Less than 24h later, while in international waters, their support ship the Arctic Sunrise is boarded and taken over by armed FSB forces, and towed to Murmansk, Russia.

According to several international law experts, this armed boarding and capture of a foreign (Dutch) ship in international waters constitutes a breach of international maritime law (UNCLOS). Ironically, after days of legal uncertainty, the Arctic 30 have now themselves been charged with piracy under Russian law, thereby creating a post factum pretext for the illegal boarding of the Arctic Sunrise.

While people gathered in peaceful protest from Seattle to Sydney and from Cape Town to Moscow, adding their presence to the more than 1 million emails sent to Russian ambassadors the world over, the Arctic 30 remain imprisoned in Murmansk. If convicted, they could face sentences of up to 15 years of jail. They are being treated as criminals, though their only crime consists of peaceful protest against practices which are putting the health of the fragile Arctic at serious risk.

As an organisation which above all values respect for human rights, in particular freedom of speech, AEGEE-Europe is deeply concerned about the situation of the Arctic 30. Each one of us should be given the liberty to peacefully express their views on the society they live in, without fear of political or criminal persecution. The Arctic simply is not a playground for ill-prepared mining companies, a topic AEGEE’s own Environmental Working Group will take up in its upcoming meeting.

AEGEE-Europe therefore wholeheartedly supports the Arctic 30, their families, friends, and colleagues in these difficult times. We further applaud the Dutch government for its decision to take legal steps to gain the release of the Arctic Sunrise and its crew, activists, and freelancers. Adding our voices to those of Amnesty International, WWF, and 1 million others, AEGEE-Europe calls upon the Russian authorities to immediately #FreeTheArctic30.

Written by Mathieu Soete, AEGEE-Europe’s Policy Officer for Sustainability.

Fighting Climate Change Starts At School /fighting-climate-change-starts-at-school/ /fighting-climate-change-starts-at-school/#comments Sun, 31 Mar 2013 08:03:19 +0000

“The Ministry of Magic has always considered the education of young witches and wizards to be of a vital importance. Although each headmaster has brought something new to this… historic school, progress for the sake of progress must be discouraged. Let us preserve what must be preserved, perfect what can be perfected and prune practices that ought to be… prohibited!


With those words, Dolores Umbridge enters the life of Harry Potter at the start of his 5th year at Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft. A little speech aptly interpreted by Hermione Granger as “The Ministry is interfering at Hogwarts.” Played by Imelda Staunton, these days, Umbridge is being impersonated by UK Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove, or at least according to a post on the UK Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC) blog, calling Mr. Gove the Climate Change High Inquisitor.

Seriously now, what’s happening?

After the much-talked-about introduction of climate change into formal education curricula across the UK in 2007 — including the Brown ministry being taken to court over the distribution of Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth — the current Cameron ministry, in the person of its Secretary of State for Education Mr. Gove, has decided to take it off again. The change means climate change as such will be scrapped in the so-called Key Stages 1 to 3, roughly corresponding to primary and the first half of secondary school, or everyone under the age of 14.

Are they just reconsidering a small bit of policy then?

According to a spokesperson of the Department of Education, there is no need for concern, as “all children will learn about climate change. It is specifically mentioned in the science curriculum and both climate and weather feature throughout the geography curriculum.” Rita Gardner, director of the Royal Geographical Society, on the other hand, welcomes the change, saying that “in the past, in some instances, young people were going to start on climate change without really knowing about climate” and she expects students to be better prepared by the time they start discussing climate change earnestly at the age of 14.

Various other stakeholders were quick to denounce the Ministry’s move though, and with reason. Arguments range from the desired content of climate education, over the responsibility towards future generations, to what the government’s former science advisor Prof Sir David King calls “a major political interference with the geography syllabus.”

One of the loudest protests against the decision comes from a secondary school student, Esha Marwaha, a member of the UK Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC). Outraged by the move, Esha launched a petition which collected 25,000 signatures in less than two weeks, calling on Mr. Gove to “Keep Climate Change in the Curriculum.” A call supported by the results of a recent AEGEE survey on sustainability, where 73% of respondents asked for more attention for sustainability education.

Other opponents of the decision include John Ashton, former government climate change envoy, and Jim Hickman, author of “Will Jellyfish Rule the World”, a book about climate change aimed at 8 to 10-year-olds. Both disagree with Ms. Gardner’s claim that kids younger than 14 could not grasp the complexities of climate change. “We must never underestimate a child’s intelligence, or their capacity and eagerness to learn something new,” says Mr. Hickman, while Mr. Ashton also touches upon our responsibility towards the next generation: “We cannot let our children face such a journey without equipping them at the earliest possible stage with a compass.”

An approach which actually seems to work, and is being supported by climate campaigners and scientists who say teaching about climate change in schools has helped mobilise young people to be the most vociferous advocates of action by governments, business and society to tackle the issue. Coincidence then that the UK government is trying to eliminate climate education for young students?

Not according to Esha, who claims that “our government intend to not only fail to act on climate change themselves, but to obscure the truth, and any chance young people have to act.” Camilla Born, international expert at UKYCC shares her point of view: “It appears climate change is being systematically removed from the curriculum.” A frightening perspective, when at the same time in the US, the National Research Council is updating nationwide science standards to include climate change, building on the fact that “only one in five students feel they have a good handle on climate change from what they’ve learned  in school.”

Moreover, effective climate change education should include much more than just the scientific functioning of climate and weather. As Mr. Ashton puts it, “what’s important is not so much the chemistry as the impact on the lives of human beings.” This coincides with the findings of Rosalyn McKeown Ph.D. in her seminal Education for Sustainability toolkit, where she states that we need more than a theoretical discussion at this point, and that education therefore needs to be used “as a tool to achieve sustainability”.

Finally, the Ministry defends its decision by pointing out that the change would not forbid the teaching of climate change — which, luckily, prevents this from being a perfect Umbridge parallel — but allows ‘sensible teachers’ to introduce it whenever they feel ready for it. Mr. Hickman draws a complete comparison between the current and proposed guidelines to prove this possibility, but not every teacher will read those guidelines with the same intent of adding climate change on his own initiative. As Mr. Ashton points out, the changes “would make it legitimate not to do so.”

In conclusion, the Ministry tries to justify removing climate change from the lower curricula by using a list of highly debatable arguments, which have been strongly opposed by both scientists and civil society:

1. Climate change is too complex to teach below 14 — Wrong, we cannot start educating early enough.
2. Teaching climate change is still allowed — Wrong, it will only be effective when clearly supported.
3. Climate change is still sufficiently mentioned — Wrong, this change will decrease kids’ readiness.

AEGEE-Europe/ European Students’ Forum strongly supports actions and campaigns for a wide-spread presence of education for sustainability at all stages of the education curriculum. This was recently reflected in the almost unanimous vote of AEGEE-locals in the Netherlands for the topic as focus for lobbying by the Dutch youth council (NJR), which was subsequently confirmed at the NJR’s general assembly.

In times of increasing attention for sustainability in all parts of social life, removing climate change from the curriculum is not only illogical but also counter-productive in the joint effort for more sustainable ways of living. As Esha puts it: “All the people who are passionate about this issue call for more climate education, not less. We should be taking a step forwards, not backwards.”

AEGEE-Europe therefore supports the petition by Esha and the UKYCC, and urges the British government to reverse its decision and keep climate change firmly rooted in the educational curriculum. In the end, we all have to fight climate change or face its effects, and education is key in providing us with the knowledge and tools for doing this. Ignoring this fact is not serving anyone.


Written by Mathieu Soete, AEGEE-Europe Policy Officer on Sustainability

My aim as Policy Officer is to bring the opinion of AEGEE to the policy-makers while sharing opportunities for learning and action. But for this I need your input of course. So contact me at to share your ideas and questions.


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TUNZA: Youth goes for Sustainability /tunza-youth-goes-for-sustainability-2/ Thu, 21 Feb 2013 16:23:57 +0000 The UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) TUNZA International Youth Conference took place 10-14th February in Nairobi (Kenya), and it provided a platform for over 300 young people from 100 countries to come together to exchange information, best practices and most importantly, learn from each other.

European delegates at TUNZA Youth Conference

Participating in the TUNZA International Youth Conference allowed AEGEE to realize once more the enormous potential which young people have to act as change makers in the world. Our president Luis Alvarado represented AEGEE-Europe there and he discussed the outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference and the Post 2015 Millennium Development Goals with the other delegates. For one week they shared experiences, attended panels and workshops with the professionals working in UNEP, and prepared recommendations directed to the Governing Council of UNEP and the Member States (Global Ministerial Environment Forum). AEGEE played a strong role in the preparation of the recommendations that you can find here:

During the TUNZA Youth Conference the GEO-5 for Youth report was launched: a youth friendly version of the GEO (Global Environment Outlook) that the UN creates every 5 years to make the information accessible to young people around the globe.

Read here what Iris Hordijk, speaker of AEGEE’s Environmental Working Group, thinks of the publication:

If you want to change the world you have to begin with yourself. This well known quote from Mahatma Gandhi is obviously the main idea of the report TUNZA: Acting for a Better World from the GEO-5 for youth. The aim of the book is to show that there is still hope and that inspiring successful stories in a green and sustainable direction are happening every day.

This colourful report is written by and for youth. The part of the book named Our world and its challenges today deals with the explanation of the Earth as a closed system. Trough the population increase and unsustainable economic development the pressure on our blue planet is increased. The big challenges according the atmosphere, land, water and biodiversity are explained and the knowledge about chemicals and waste increased after reading. Not only facts passing the revue, also are successful case studies presented together with the things you can do about the problems. Not only youth is dealing with the question how we can strive for a better world, in the politics it is also a point of debate. A description about the RIO+20 conference and the vague outcomes are discussed. Because of the vague outcomes from RIO+20 so far it is very important to act yourself! The tools and tips to contribute to a better world yourself are present as well. Do you want to spend 1 minute or 1 decade to change the world? It is up to you, but it is clear that it is necessary for the maintenance of our planet that the world has to change! Can you imagine a better point to start with yourself and the young generation?

You can check yourself downloading the GEO-5 for Youth:

AEGEE strongly encourages all European youth to find out more of the TUNZA youth network of UNEP, where you will be able to learn and empower yourselves to become youth environmental activists:

Young Enterprises, Young Entrepreneurs – European Commission “Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan” /young-enterprises-young-entrepreneurs-european-commission-entrepreneurship-2020-action-plan-2/ Sat, 09 Feb 2013 20:47:12 +0000 AEGEE-Europe warmly welcomes the “Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan” published by the European Commission earlier this month. As an organisation striving to provide young people with the necessary tools to take their future into their own hands, and concerned by the dangerously high levels of especially youth unemployment throughout the continent, AEGEE-Europe strongly supports the Commission’s aim of reigniting the entrepreneurial spirit in Europe.

Photo: The European Commission

When going through the Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan, one could almost say it has been written after consultation with the teams of the “Europe on Track” project and the hundreds of young Europeans they have involved in their research along the tracks of Europe. The Action Plan identifies many of the barriers which were also mentioned by youth—such as the image of entrepreneurship, heavy bureaucracy, and various financial constraints—and develops almost the same solutions, including investing heavily in entrepreneurship education, cutting red tape, and setting up business incubators.

While this was not the case, it is reassuring to see that the Commission has taken young people’s environment into account, and has managed to represent many of their personal concerns. This will undoubtedly help in providing young people with properly adapted tools and support, empowering them to see and take business creation as a route out of unemployment. For this, AEGEE-Europe whole-heartedly agrees with the Commission that “investing in entrepreneurship education is one of the highest return investments Europe can make.”

One particularly interesting realisation by the Commission in this respect, is the fact that “practical entrepreneurial experiences can also be gained outside education.” Indeed, many young people will for the first time come into contact with aspects of entrepreneurship through non-formal education, by taking part in a training course, competing in a business plan challenge, or volunteering in an NGO. Also during “Europe on Track”, youth have repeatedly spoken in favour of active participation in civil society—including students organisations—as a means to gain valuable experience and skills such as creativity, book-keeping, and project management. AEGEE-Europe therefore offers its support to the Commission in its commitment to promote the recognition and validation of entrepreneurial learning—and by extension all learning—outside the formal education system.

Unfortunately, this apparent understanding of the particular employment environment of young people is at times insufficiently translated into youth-specific measures and support mechanisms. While encouraging the specific attention for such vulnerable groups as women, seniors, or migrants, AEGEE-Europe regrets that youth do not receive equal recognition in the Action Plan, but are addressed together with unemployed people from all ages. In various fields the Commission could have gone further in supporting this particularly hard-hit part of society, by inviting Member States to implement tax breaks or easily accessible starting capital loans for young entrepreneurs, continue to offer practical entrepreneurial experiences also to tertiary education students, and actively involve young people in the concrete realisation and implementation of the proposed measures.

Finally, it is ironic that, while claiming that the potential of social entrepreneurs is “often underestimated”, the European Commission at the same time seems to underestimate the importance of social entrepreneurship in the European economy of the future. The Action Plan rightly states that social entrepreneurs are more resilient to the crisis and generate sustainable jobs, thereby contributing to the EU2020 objectives, but falls short in converting this realisation into structural support for sustainable start-ups. Also, results from “Europe on Track” show that, at least among young Europeans, social entrepreneurship has a better image, providing a means for changing the perception of entrepreneurs by stressing their value to society and the environment.

Set on its three legs of developing entrepreneurial education and training, creating the right business environment, and nurturing the new generation of entrepreneurs, the European Commission’s “Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan” offers a solid stool to those wanting to launch themselves into self-employment. Take a seat!

Written by Mathieu Soete, Policy Officer on Sustainability of AEGEE-Europe

Connected post: European Commission supports young entrepreneurs

The “world’s most sustainable company” is European: Umicore /umicore-most-sustainable-corporation-2013/ Tue, 29 Jan 2013 01:29:46 +0000 DAVOS—Reason for celebration during the World Economic Forum for the Belgian clean-tech and recycling company Umicore, as they have been ranked as the world’s most sustainable company in the Global 100. Umicore CEO Marc Grynberg: “This recognition shows that we are on the right track.”

Since 2005, Canadian media and investment research company Corporate Knights has been putting together the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World index. This list, published during the annual high-mass of corporate capitalism in Davos, includes companies from 22 countries, with a total sales number of over $3 trillion, and employing 5 million people. Compared to previous editions, the share of European companies continues to increase, to a total of 56 this year. This figures reflect the efforts made in this field by the EU and countries like Norway and Switzerland.

Corporate Knights uses the results of its Global 100 index to explore sustainable investment strategies. Behind these results lies a two-step methodology. Over 4,000 companies worth more than $2 billion are first sifted down to a shortlist of 400, based on their general sustainability performance and financial health. In a second step, these are further graded along 12 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), including energy and water productivity, innovation capacity, CEO-to-employee pay ratio, percentage tax paid and leadership diversity.

This Global 100 clearly goes beyond purely environmental concerns, though not everybody is so positive about the exercise. According to Raz Godelnik, co-founder of Eco-Libris, the main issue with the index is that it does not give any objective bench-mark. Godelnik: “It is like providing you with the results of a 100-meter race without telling you what the 100-meter world record is—how can you tell whether the runners did well or not?” So in fact, it does not tell us much about the current state of sustainability in global business.

The fact, however, that two-thirds of companies on this year’s list also featured in the ranking of 2012, shows that the companies are committed to continue their sustainability efforts. Umicore, last year’s #8, precedes Brazilian beauty products manufacturer Natura Cosmeticos and Norwegian energy company Statoil, also the numbers 2 and 3 in 2012. In the words of CEO Grynberg: “Being recognised as the most sustainable company is foremost an encouragement to continue to grow our business in a sustainable way.”

So we hope that these 100 companies –more than half of them based in Europe– will continue to be “models for the art of the possible”, and show the way toward ever-more sustainable business practice. Of course, the entire Global 100 list only accounts for about 4.5% of global GDP. But it also has its value for the other 95.5%, especially in the development of the KPIs, and the possibility of measuring a company’s or organisation’s performance against them. Meanwhile, we congratulate Umicore’s management team and employees with their achievement, and wish them a successful year ahead!

From munironthemove blog
Written by Mathieu Soete
AEGEE-Europe’s Policy Officer on Sustainalility

The shortcut to sustainability /the-shortcut-to-sustainability/ Mon, 10 Dec 2012 11:43:54 +0000 /?p=2505 In our post from Berlin, we introduced the three most frequently cited obstacles encountered by young people on the road to sustainability—lack of information, time, and money. So now that we have identified the main problems, let’s take a look at the current efforts of young people, and some possible solutions they are offering.

First, looking at the answers to the question “How sustainable do you think you live?”, we can see that young people are generally willing to make some efforts. Most of them, however, do not go beyond the regular, basic examples of sustainability, which closely mirror their concerns identified in our previous post. David (24, Management) says, “I try to save energy, I recycle, and use public transportation.”

Then how do these people imagine a society in which their efforts are better supported? What new initiatives do they expect and from whom? One way to go about this, is by focusing on the community aspect of this shared responsibility we have towards our environment and future generations, says Jana (26, Immigration specialist). “In my village we have a waste collection point in the central square, where everybody brings their recyclables.”

Furthermore, sustainability need not always be more expensive, claims Petr (29, working in Sales & Marketing). “The ecological option can also be the economical one by using less, you waste less. For example we have to pay for the collection of non-separated waste. The more you separate, the less you pay.”

Also the business world should not be overlooked, as many young people cite an apparent lack of contributions from this side of society as reason for not seeing the benefit of changing their own behaviour. Ingel (26, Swedish): “The government should give subsidies to companies that are trying to be more sustainable. We need to enlist the free market in this effort, by giving them the right incentives.”

But of course, as Eva (25, Statistics) rightly points out, “the separation of waste works so well, because of constant promotion by the government, and because it is so easy to do.” Repeating this success story for other sustainability issues, such as overconsumption or intensive car use, would be much more difficult—if not impossible—without additional support measures, including a combination of fines and rewards, or even re-organising our cities to enable more sustainable choices. Finally, we need to “educate, educate, educate”, as Daniel (21, Law) puts it. “You can get grown-ups to recycle, but they will still buy too much stuff in plastic bags.” But more on this crucial role for education in a next post.

The bumpy road to sustainability /the-bumpy-road-to-sustainability/ Tue, 04 Dec 2012 11:55:36 +0000 /?p=2352 So far, the interviews indicate that young people are mostly preoccupied by our increasing dependency on fossil fuels, closely followed by the threat of resource shortages and the treatment of waste produced by our high-consumption society.

But what are they doing about it? How much are young people aware of their own impact on the sustainability of our planet, and how does it influence their lives? The first responses from Berlin show a mostly basic understanding of sustainability among youth, but young people also face a number of obstacles when pursuing a more sustainable life-style.

The first of these problems is a lack of information. Lise (25, Business and Marketing graduate looking for a job): “One of the rules in marketing is that you have to go to the people, instead of letting them come to you. So also with sustainability: you have to provide people with the information they need, and present it in the way they like, instead of expecting them to search for it.”

Does this mean young people are too lazy to search the internet for information on how to recycle correctly or what energy provider to take? The problem lies deeper, as the complexity of sustainability makes it hard to distinguish green from greenwash. On top of this, young people lack the time for doing all the research themselves, says Florian (22, Law student). “We are being pushed to finish our studies as soon as possible, leaving very little time for other engagements.”

Finally, sustainability is still largely seen as an expensive fashion, which is not within reach of the average student budget. Lise concludes: “It doesn’t make sense that I would have to pay more for sustainable products and services!”

What about you? Are you prepared to pay more for sustainable products? How much? And how to distinguish between greenwashing and genuine sustainability? Can we achieve this structural switch to supporting sustainability? And what can young people do to help this happen?