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Science for Sustainability

VU Amsterdam has a clear vision and a clear set of ambitions when it comes to sustainability. Sustainability is an integral part of teaching and research, operations management and the buildings at the VU campus. Our core values are stewardship, responsibility and consideration for future generations. VU Amsterdam strives to maintain its current position amongst the top 10 most sustainable universities worldwide.

Sustainable development involves achieving an ideal balance between economic interests (profit), ecology (planet) and social concerns (people). This is not just of concern in the here and now, but also in the ‘there’ and ‘later’, with relevance abroad (particularly in developing countries) and for future generations.


Check out the video on Sustainability at the VU


During the opening of the Amsterdam Sustainability Institute, the director of SDG Charter Nederland, Maresa Oosterman, and the vice-dean of the Faculty of Science, Jacqueline Broerse, signed the SDG Charter. View the video of the opening here >

Check out all VU profile themes

Science for Sustainability

  • Collaboration

    Green Office VU
    Green Office VU, which was established in 2014, is VU Amsterdam’s sustainability platform for students and university staff. The office is run by students. It is concerned with sustainability projects within four portfolios (campus, community, education and research), and organizes events, campaigns, lectures and information days. These community services help link VU Amsterdam with society, with academic knowledge flowing back into society. 

    Centre for International Cooperation
    The Centre for International Cooperation (CIS) initiates, coordinates and (co-)implements programmes and projects in capacity building, education, research and outreach in cooperation with partners (universities, government agencies and civil society organisations) in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
    The CIS programmes express the societal engagement of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in a global perspective beyond the Euro-American axis, in line with the four profiling themes in the strategic plan of the university. Our programmes are: 1) Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Land Management, 2) ICT for Development, 3) Conflict Resolution and Mediation and 4) Governance for Society: Good Governance & Democratisation and Security & the Rule of Law.
    CIS believes in an integrated, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approach to address global challenges in close collaboration with VU faculties and international partners. CIS is an important pillar of the VU's internationalisation and sustainability policy, dedicated to international cooperation and the Sustainable Development Goals.

    Green Business Club Zuidas
    The Green Business Club Zuidas is where local businesses, local authorities and social organizations meet in order to initiate and carry out sustainable and social projects in Zuidas. VU Amsterdam is an active participant in the GBC, which has been based in the VU Amsterdam Main Building since 2017, close to the Green office.

    Aurora Network
    Aurora brings together research universities in Europe in their joint efforts towards an inclusive and diverse university community. We share the mission to make society better and find solutions to the major problems of our world - and so do our students. In Aurora, we are committed to find solutions for the major challenges of this world, such as sustainability, digitization and healthy living.

    Aurora helps participating universities:

    • to learn and benefit from each other's successes in inclusiveness and diversity. Accessible education is a core value and that is what we want to achieve with each other.
    • to take advantage of the opportunities that increasing digitization offers us.
    • to do research and develop knowledge that offers solutions to major social problems: local, national and international.
    • to provide excellent education for our students, but also to give them a lasting and meaningful experience that helps them to be responsible citizens of the world.

    SDG Dashboard

    The 14 Dutch universities are committed to achieving the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs). The SDG Dashboard is a tool developed by VU Amsterdam that provides access to the scientific publications on the SDGs and provides an overview of the link between these studies.

Sustainable Development Goals

  • 1. No poverty

    Social security
    One of the goals involves designing policy and setting up programmes for an inclusive job market. VU Amsterdam is working on an inclusive organization using a personnel policy that focuses on attracting, appreciating and utilizing diversity.

    Alderpersons for the City of Amsterdam, Marjolein Moorman and Simone Kukenheim, came to visit us in 2019 to set up an intensive partnership with VU Amsterdam for the purpose of investigating ways to resolve inequality of opportunity in education and improve access to the job market.

  • 2. Zero hunger

    Food production and consumption
    The study “Sustainability in global agriculture driven by organic farming” was published in the online scientific journal Nature Sustainability.

  • 3. Good health and well-being

    Smoke-free campus
    Part of the VU Amsterdam campus, the area around the 0|2 Lab Building, ACTA building and the Botanical Gardens Zuidas, joined Amsterdam UMC in becoming the first smoke-free zones on 1 October 2019 (see plan). Over the course of 2020, the entire VU Campus will become a smoke-free zone. This will ensure a more pleasant and healthier work and study environment for students and staff and will help pave the way towards a smoke-free generation.

  • 4. Quality education

    A Broader Mind
    In 2019, the university launched the A Broader Mind programme. A Broader Mind rests on the tripod of personal development, academic expansion, and societal orientation. The first group of Bachelor’s students took part in the A Broader Mind course at VU Amsterdam in 2019. VU Amsterdam wants to offer its students the opportunity to be successful and play a meaningful part in this world. Community Service learning allows students to use their knowledge to solve issues that have a major impact on today’s society. Important themes include digitization, sustainability and poverty.

  • 5. Gender equality

    Charter Talent to the Top
    VU Amsterdam has signed the Charter Talent to the Top manifesto. This manifesto is intended to get more women in top positions at VU Amsterdam. In the event of equivalent suitability, a woman will be chosen for the position in academic appointments. In addition, the tenure track system can be used to encourage the recruitment and promotion of female scientists. This is one of the ways in which VU Amsterdam intends to boost the number of women in top positions. 

    Walk-in office hours Culture & Safety
    VU Amsterdam recently set up walk-in office hours for Culture & Safety for both students and employees. Everyone is welcome to come and ask for advice on topics ranging from forced marriages, honour killings, fear of abduction by your family, a homosexual relationship that is not accepted by your family, etc.

  • 6. Clean water and sanitation

    Made Blue
    The Made Blue – a litre for a litre – programme is VU Amsterdam’s way to boost the amount of tap water students and employees drink while converting this water consumption into the same number of litres for developing countries.

    Join the pipe
    The drinking of tap water will be further boosted through the installation of more join the pipe taps on Campus. The proceeds of these taps will go towards setting up water projects in developing countries.  

  • 7. Affordable and clean energy

    Fossil-free campus
    The campus will be completely fossil-free by 2035. For this purpose the Energy Master Plan was drawn up and finalized in 2017. In the period until 2021, ten subprojects will be carried out to take the first steps.

  • 8. Decent work and economic growth

    Research Urbanization
    How can we, as a country with small to medium-sized cities, still benefit from the economic productivity benefits of a large city? And how do the highly educated influence the wages of the less educated? These questions were the reason for Paul Verstraten's PhD research. In concrete terms, this means that smaller cities that are in close proximity to larger cities also enjoy the productivity benefits of the large city. Utrecht and Amsterdam can therefore benefit very well from each other, despite the intervening distance. The benefits of urbanization extend so far that what one municipality does has an effect on the surrounding municipalities. Cooperation between municipalities can therefore have a positive effect on productivity.

  • 9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure

    Accessibility Zuidas
    VU Amsterdam is involved in the Zuidas accessibility task force. For this purpose a covenant has been drawn up in which twelve major companies and organizations from the area have made clear agreements and have drawn up specific measures to ensure that Zuidas remains accessible to employees, visitors and residents without any delays. 

    Green Deal Zero Emission Logistics
    VU Amsterdam signed the Green Deal Zero Emission City Logistics agreement with 24 other CEOs of Zuidas-based organizations. The goal is to contribute to the ambition to make city logistics in the Amsterdam metropolitan region emission-free by 2025. At Zuidas, the focus is on making logistics more sustainable, with specific attention to facilities purchasing, parcel delivery and waste.

  • 10. Reduced inequalities

    WO&MAN Network
    The wo/men network@VU aims to improve the position of women in the workplace, as long as it is still unequal to that of men. Promoting diversity, equal opportunities and tackling gender-specific stereotypes and roles within the organization is important when it comes to the quality of our employees: men and women. The network therefore refers to quality: allowing the best people to excel in their working environment - without letting them be limited by gender bias or discrimination. Especially for VU women, they organize network-meetings and further development and mentoring-programs. Of course it is important for every VU employee to feel involved and included. Because of this thinking along and participating in this network is enthusiastically encouraged at VU, naturally for both women and men.

    More color at the top
    Together with a number of large employers, VU is working hard for more color in the top of Dutch organizations. Through this four-year programme, we are increasing the inflow of bicultural talent into the top layer of business and government.

    Accessibility of new website
    The new website has been made suitable for the visually impaired.

    VU Amsterdam organizes VU pride every year.

  • 11. Sustainable cities and communities

    The VU campus is gradually being revamped and made greener. Plans for campus development and the buildings on campus are systematically assessed according to BREEAM. The aim is to work towards the ‘Excellent’ BREEAM Area Development certification of the master plan for the future VU campus. BREEAM Area Development focuses on various aspects such as combating heat stress, how to deal with extreme precipitation and flood risks resulting from climate change and improving local air quality. BREEAM Area Development also offers starting points to promote circular use of materials in public spaces.

  • 12. Responsible consumption and production

    Meat Less Monday
    Meat consumption at VU Amsterdam is discouraged by including environmentally-friendly alternatives in the range of products in more prominent ways. The Meatless Monday campaign will continue and will be expanded to include other working days and banqueting services. The goal is for vegetarian and vegan options to become the university standard. 

    Zero Waste Zuidas 2030
    VU Amsterdam and about 25 other parties at Zuidas have signed the Zero Waste Zuidas 2030 ambition document. The goal is to work towards a future where Zuidas no longer produces any waste. From now to zero in 2030.

  • 13. Climate action

    Green-blue retention roofs VU buildings
    Retaining or delaying the water drainage on our urban campus is incredibly important due to drainage issues and heat. Water helps keep the city cool. The polder roofs (green-blue retention roofs) on the Main Building, the New University Building, the O|2 Lab Building and the yet to be built Research Building contribute to this.

  • 14. Life below water

    MSC certificate for fish
    To obtain the MSC certificate, fisheries have to comply with the MSC standard for sustainably-caught fish. VU catering and banqueting only serves MSC-certified fish.

    Renovation of toilet facilities
    During renovations to toilet and shower facilities, VU Amsterdam always selects safe, water-saving fittings. During renovations, pipes that are no longer used (dead pipes) are also removed.

  • 15. Life on land

    Green campus
    VU Amsterdam plans to make the campus greener. We are researching which measures could be taken to improve biodiversity. The study reviews measures to improve biodiversity (bats, bees, worms, butterflies, etc) and make the campus greener in relation to the environment.

  • 16. Peace, justice and strong institutions

    Endowed chair ‘Religion and Sustainable Development’
    Since 2015, worldwide challenges such as poverty and climate change are being tackled in the context of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Until now, little attention has been paid to the role religion plays in achieving the SDGs, which is striking considering the fact that religion plays an important role in the lives of the majority of the world’s population. VU Amsterdam’s Faculty of Religion and Theology joined forces with development organizations ICCO and ACT Alliance as of 1 January 2019 to establish the endowed chair ‘Religion and Sustainable Development’

    VU Amsterdam contributions to SDGs
    For this reason, in all of its annual reports, VU Amsterdam will continue to report on the development of the environmental performance on the themes energy and CO2, waste water and waste, procurement, transportation and mobility and its contribution to the 17 SDGs. VU Amsterdam is an open institution. 

  • 17. Partnerships for the goals

    The Sustainability Group of the Aurora universities focuses on three objectives: 1) Create sustainable universities based on the four pillars of sustainability: governance, environmental management, learning, research and social policy. 2) Create a learning and working environment in which sustainability is appreciated and measured. 3) Use the opportunities available to employ creative solutions from various perspectives in education and practice.

    VU Green Office
    VU Green Office is our meeting place for students and employees with an interest in sustainability. The Green Office carries out campaigns to increase sustainability awareness. The Green Office also assists in developing VU policy for sustainability.

    Amsterdam Climate Neutral Programme
    The Amsterdam Climate Neutral Programme 2050 is working on reducing CO2 emissions in Amsterdam. By 2050, the CO2 emissions should be 95% less than the emissions in 1990. All buildings in Amsterdam will be completely carbon neutral by 2050 and gas-free by 2040. VU Amsterdam has outlined a much more ambitious objective in the Energy Master Plan.

    Green Business Club Zuidas
    The Green Business Club Zuidas also promotes involvement: this is where local businesses, local authorities and social organizations meet in order to initiate and carry out sustainable projects in the Zuidas area.