5 steps this Spanish university is taking to be more sustainable | Top Universities

5 steps this Spanish university is taking to be more sustainable

By Laura Lightfinch

Updated July 22, 2022 Updated July 22, 2022

Sponsored by IE University 

Sustainability has become embedded in the conversation across all walks of life. Its relevancy in higher education no longer sits within the faculties of geography, environmental science and landscape studies. It’s built into the curriculum across most subjects, whether you study law, fashion design or even healthcare.  

Understanding how universities are making a positive impact on the climate is vital for students choosing where to study. At IE University in Madrid, Spain, sustainability isn’t simply a target to aim for. It’s built into the very fabric of the institution’s culture and community.  

Santiago Iñiguez de Onzoño, President of IE University, believes that the key to solving all our biggest global problems, including climate change and unsustainable consumption, lies in education.  

Here are five steps IE University is taking to be more sustainable across the board: 

Driving forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development 

Dedicating a new hub to finding innovative solutions to the most urgent global issues, IE University has teamed up with the United Nations.  

The aim is to drive social innovation through big data, AI, blockchain technology and the Internet of Things (the concept of linking devices and objects to the internet so they can share data about the way they are used). IE do this through collaboration with other world-leading institutions.  

The partnership will go even further than pursuing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by expanding and accelerating efforts to solve problems sooner. As a founding member of Spain’s Global Compact Network, IE aligns every one of its sustainability efforts with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

Zero emissions in 10 years 

In 2020, the university set itself a goal to reach zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, giving them 10 years to reach their goal. Six key areas were identified: energy, paper, plastics, transport, waste and water. 

Within the first two years, energy was purchased from renewable sources, students have planted trees, compostable and plant-based alternatives to packaging were made available, and water fountains were installed to reduce the consumption of plastic bottles.  

Car-pooling initiatives, electric shuttle buses and bicycle racks were also installed across campus. In 2020 alone, the IE University community spent over 53,000 hours on social impact initiatives.  

Center for Social Innovation and Sustainability 

In 2021, the Center for Social Innovation and Sustainability was set up to drive the university’s entrepreneurial mindset and shape leaders with a global vision to create positive impact in the world.  

Leveraging the university’s global network and applied experience, the centre creates a collaborative space to design and implement impactful projects and promote climate action, from a ‘Rebuilding travel: social innovation network for SMEs’ project to refugee scholarship programmes.   

Student clubs 

IE University has over 100 student clubs, many of which have a focus on sustainability and responsible consumption. Each club has the option to choose an area of impact, including water, energy, plastic, fashion or food, and can build their own initiatives to reduce consumption in their organisations.  

IE University writes: “The concerted drive from our entire student body in moving towards a common goal shows that small, individual efforts can make a significant impact when done cohesively.” 

The IE Alumni in Sustainability and Social Innovation Club brings together graduates with a keen interest in protecting the planet. The club focuses on building connections and creating action to help achieve the United Nation’s SDGs, working with each other and beyond the network to make real change on the ground.  

Sustainable entrepreneurship 

IE University has an entrepreneurial mindset at its heart, and recognises that sustainability is key in building successful, futureproof businesses. Bringing together the most innovative members of the IE community, the university hosts a number of events throughout the year, including masterclasses and conferences to online networking.  

Staff, students and public can learn about IE’s impact on ‘strategic management: business and sustainability’ or ‘sustainability as a company advantage’, demonstrating the clear connection between profitability and sustainability in the business world.  

IE University president, Santiago Iñiguez de Onzoño said: “There’s still a long way to go to achieve our goals for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, but with our institution’s commitment, innovation and proactivity to accelerate our impact, we’re well on track.” 

This article was originally published in July 2022 .

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