Overcoming obstacles to Lund University’s sustainability goals: a case study on the use of behavioral insights in canteen settings

University essay from Lunds universitet/LUCSUS

Abstract: Universities are in a unique position to lead society through a sustainability transition. Still, there is an unexploited potential, even of low-effort, low-investment measures, for improving environmental sustainability at Lund University. This raises the question of what obstacles lead to suboptimal environmental management in universities. Through a literature review, I identified thirteen obstacles preventing the implementation of sustainable practices in university operations. I then organized these obstacles in a multi-level framework. By conducting key stakeholder interviews, I found that all of these obstacles are also present at Lund University. Nine of the obstacles (university governance, context dependence and lack of knowledge, resources, leadership, data, societal support, stakeholder engagement and communication) play an important role in the lack of measures aiming at reducing meat consumption in Lund University canteens. The limited resources of the environmental management appear to cause a narrowed focus on risk, legal compliance and safety hazards, excluding most operations from the scope of sustainability action, manifesting itself in, among other things, the absence of nudges in the canteen settings. Fortunately, several things can be done to improve this situation. First, more employees are needed to deal with environmental matters and to broaden the scope of action to enable taking action on all operations with environmental impacts. Second, there needs to be a systematized rather than ad hoc way in which experts can communicate findings with practical implications for sustainability to the relevant actors in the university management and operations. Third, in order to improve environmental performance, data on food consumption and other operations with an environmental impact at the university need to be collected and monitored systematically. Finally, nudges can be implemented with the purpose of reducing meat consumption at the university as a way of facilitating a behavior shift that contributes to more sustainable university operations.

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