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Sustainability Reports

Sustainability Reports - Available at University of Iceland

The University of Iceland's sustainability report for 2021 is now accessible; the first of its kind at an Icelandic university. The report provides valuable insights into the multitude of activities ongoing at the university every day: in research, innovation, teaching, student affairs, and in sharing the results of academic work with the public.

Furthermore, the report highlights numerous opportunities in the field of sustainability, so we can join hands to make our good university even better - and ensure its leading role in this field into the future. Sustainability and sustainable development are central concepts of our times and annual reports are thus an important tool to evaluate and shed light on where the University stands and the importance of sustainability in all university operations. It is important to bear in mind that the methodology behind the report will be further developed in collaboration with university schools and administration for the next publication.

The purpose with the sustainability report is manifold; but the main goals are:

  • To incorporate the UI26 - The University strategy where sustainability and diversity form two of the four main pillars, and UI aims to become a leader in sustainability through teaching, research, and knowledge creation.
  • Mapping the status of sustainability within the University of Iceland from different angles and diverse operations.
  • To communicate and increase understanding of sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); both inside and outside the University.
  • Use the report in international rankings of higher education.
  • Evaluate reforms and seek opportunities in sustainability issues within the University.

The sustainability report criteria

The Institute for Sustainable Studies created the report upon request from UI’s Sustainability Committee in the summer of 2022. A survey was sent to all UI’s staff members and doctoral students where participants were asked to provide information on research projects, teaching, and studies from 2021 related to sustainability and the SDGs. Deans of all five schools, as well as Directors of Research within each school were asked to send material for the report.  Meetings were held with the Student Council and various other parties affiliated with sustainability within the University of Iceland. The authors of the report made a point of consulting extensively with University schools and others within the University in order to paint a comprehensive picture of sustainability issues within the university. Furthermore, they went through all news and events series posted on the UI’s website from 2021, as well as all doctoral defences. A website on the societal impact of research ( was used for gathering data as it contains comprehensive coverage on research at the University of Iceland. The data was then categorized by the 17 SDGs and divided into five main areas: 1) research, 2) teaching and learning, 3) community outreach and partnerships, 4) operations, and 5) student initiatives. The aim of this mapping was not only to show the vast work done at UIn but also to show in a clear way how research, teaching, and learning; community outreach and partnership students’ initiatives, and operation can be connected to the SDGs.

Operations, courses, and publications

The report contains an overview of the environmental performance of UI’s operations as well courses and peer-reviewed articles affiliated with the SDGs. Information on environmental factors in University operations was retrieved from the UI’s Division of Resources and Operations compiled annually through the initiative Green Accounting: 1) waste, 2) electricity, 3) water usage, and 4) carbon emissions.

When mapping courses in relation to the SDGs, data was used from research conducted by Auður Pálsdóttir, Associate Professor and Lára Jóhannsdóttir, Professor. The research focused on course descriptions at the University with a view to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  The percentage of courses that could be linked with each of the SDGs categorised by the five University school and the data was based on an analysis of course descriptions and learning outcomes for all courses listed in UI’s course catalogue for the academic year 2019–2020. It is critical that all faculties and schools embark on better mapping courses connections to the SDGs in the course catalogue.

Information from published peer-reviewed articles relating to the SDGs was gathered from Scopus, the largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature. The articles could relate to more than one SDG. In the Scopus database, articles in Icelandic are not included, and it is estimated that around 75% of all published peer-reviewed articles of UI are in the Scopus database. It is, thus urgent to get a clearer picture of the status within the University of Iceland.

There 4,342 courses, 719 peer-reviewed article, and 4,486 citations related to the SDGs. This information can be found under each SDG arranged by University school.

Recommendations for improvement

One of the goals with the sustainability report is to evaluate reforms and seek opportunities in sustainability issues within the university. The authors' suggestions for improvements are based on their work, including the input from University staff. Recommendations for next steps for sustainability at UI are built upon the goals of the University of Iceland’s strategy for 2021–2026 (UI26), and its Work Programme Sustainability in Teaching, Research and University Management. 

To facilitate the implementation of these recommendations, strong support is needed. It is thus recommended that a vice rector and/or a manager in central administration be made responsible for sustainability (and SDGs) related issues within the University of Iceland. This role can be supported by the sustainability committee and the Institute for Sustainability Studies.

The following section includes recommendation for improvement in the four focus areas in Sustainability in Teaching, Research and University Management. The recommendations in the report are divided into critical, very important and important; below is a description of the critical ones.