Why publish this report?

Utrecht University is working to contribute to a better world. Scientists are investigating solutions for a future-proof society, students are being trained to become critical thinkers and engaged doers. The University has set itself the ambition of becoming a carbon-neutral organisation by 2030. Is it on track to achieve that goal?

Annetje Ottow onderaan trap

“Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do. This report serves as a monitor and will help to keep us on our toes. As a public institution, not only do we have a responsibility but we also have all the building blocks that we need to have a sustainable impact. In 2018, we made a number of important decisions that will allow the University to embark on a significant transition in the coming years. We are future-proofing all our buildings and we are switching to a completely renewable energy supply. A monitor, such as this report, will help us keep a close eye on this transition.”
Annetje Ottow, Vice President of Utrecht University

Practise what you teach

The University community consists of some 31,000 students and 7,000 researchers and employees; people who, like the rest of the Netherlands, are increasingly confronted with the effects of the loss of nature, environmental damage and climate change on their daily lives. Precisely because many scientists at the University conduct research within the Pathways to Sustainability strategic theme, they feel it is important to be able to follow their own University’s contribution to global sustainability issues.

“As co-initiator of the Universities’ Climate Letter, signed by 1,400 colleagues throughout the Netherlands, I have asked my own Board to contribute towards the fight against climate change with clear and measurable goals. This report helps me to monitor whether we are on the right track.”
Martin Junginger, Professor of Bio-based Economy

For a public institution that conducts research into sustainability issues and trains future generations, it goes without saying that sustainability plays a central role in its business operations. But the question is: is that enough? Shouldn’t a public institution’s responsibility go a step further? Thanks to its unique combination of research, students, business operations and the management of its own campus, Utrecht University can become an agent of change in the sustainable transition of Dutch society in general and of the Utrecht region in particular. This way, the University is at the heart of society and makes a visible contribution to social challenges. For Utrecht University, sustainability is about both global issues and local sustainability. 

“The diversity of plants and animals around us has an impact on the functioning of ecosystems. Without flowers in the grass there are no insects, so no pollinators and no food for meadow birds. At the Utrecht Science Park there are opportunities to strengthen regional biodiversity. To this end, I took the initiative – in collaboration with our own groundskeeping team, Green Office Utrecht and Landscape Heritage Utrecht – to take part in the Delta Plan for Biodiversity Recovery.”
Merel Soons, Professor of Plant Dispersal Ecology & Conservation


Transitions never happen overnight. It is a challenge that employees and researchers at all faculties work hard on every day. It requires a lot of patience, and solutions are not always easy to find. Occasionally, the concept of sustainability at the University seems to conflict with other interests. This report is intended to keep the University abreast of what is going well and what can be improved in the future.

“I am proud of the sustainable renovation of the Earth Simulation Lab: we have transformed an old ‘60s building into one of the most sustainable buildings at the Utrecht Science Park. This building is a symbol of the formidable task that lies ahead, to transform our outdated real estate stock. By future-proofing new buildings and renovating old ones, we as a University can really reduce our carbon footprint while increasing user comfort. This report will help us keep our eyes on the ball.”
Fiona van ’t Hullenaar, Director of Corporate Real Estate & Campus