Interview by Florian Schanznig | Research in Austrian Universities

Franz Fehr is working at BOKU since 20 years and has much experience in university networks, consulting and is specialised in agriculture. Additionally, he is the local Councillor for environmental issues in his hometown. He is responsible for the coordination of SDG implementation at University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU), Austria.

Florian Schanzig

Why has the BOKU been 21st in the international ranking of Green Metric in 2018?

Mr. Franz Fehr

Due to historical reasons and the topics that are focused on at BOKU, there is a strong sense and focus on sustainability related issues. This is also with lectureship, which always had environmental connections such as agriculture, forestry, landscape architecture and so on. A [strategy of]  high relevance [is] the Sustainability Strategy, which was developed by BOKU. The main topics are research, teaching, organisational culture, company ecology and exchange with society.

Florian Schanzig

Which SDGs are in focus in BOKU’s activities?

Mr. Franz Fehr

In the partnership “Uni Netz”, BOKU is the leader for the goals 2 (zero hunger), 6 (clean water and sanitation) and 15 (Life on land). But in the activities there is also an emphasis on goals 1 (no poverty), 4 (quality education), 7 (affordable and clean energy), 11 (sustainable cities and communities), 12 (responsible production and consumption) and 13 (climate action). So, there are 8 which are not really in focus. [However,] there are publications that can be attributed to many goals, [including] the ones that have not been mentioned.  There are also other activities and events, like a BOKU health day and meetings that fit to the SDGs.

Florian Schanzig

How is BOKU active on international level to foster the SDGs?

Mr. Franz Fehr

BOKU is a partner in different networks like the Euro League of Life Sciences (ELLS), which offers different projects and summer schools to students, and is a member of the Global Challenge University Alliance (GCUA). Furthermore, BOKU is also participating in an announcement for bio-economy. There are also many exchanges from students and scientists from and to the USA, New Zealand, Kenia, Uganda, Mongolia, Bhutan and Indonesia. It also happens quite often, that scientists from BOKU are consultants for special issues in water management or regional development. For example in Bhutan or China.

Additionally, there is an CO2 compensation system that supports afforestation [efforts] in Ethiopia and other countries.

Florian Schanzig

Are there also other stakeholders involved, except universities?

Mr. Franz Fehr

Yes, for example there are partnerships with the Austrian Development Agency and with private stakeholders in microbiology or  pharmacy [sectors].

Florian Schanzig

Is BOKU consultant for sustainability strategies for other universities?

Mr. Franz Fehr

Not really. But since this year there is “Uni Netz”, an initiative from the Climate Change Centre Austria and the Alliance for Sustainable Universities. Its aim is to embed sustainability in education and teaching in different universities in Austria. [In] a special  position  [is]  the Centre for Global Change and Sustainability at BOKU, which has great impact on activities and the third mission of BOKU.

Florian Schanzig

What are future plans for the implementation of the SDGs?

Mr. Franz Fehr

The SDGs remain the main topic at BOKU until 2030. There will be a stronger cooperation with ministries and other stakeholders. There is also a revision of the Sustainability Strategy, which process will start soon. BOKU also plans to publish sustainability reports yearly from this or next year on.

For the Uni Netz project, there will be a stakeholder dialogue with universities, experts and others. Next year, it should publish a perspective report for Austria, which describes different scenarios and ways of future development. After that, urgencies for action on different topics will be added. And finally, a report on possible actions and policy suggestions [will be] published for the Austrian government for implementation

Interview by Florian Schanznig

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