Sustainable Development and Responsibility at VAMK in 2023

In 2023, our sustainability priorities were strongly linked to further developing social responsibility, maintaining economic viability, and ensuring the achievement of our carbon neutrality goal. Humanity, equality, and ethics are prominently visible as part of our everyday operations. Our key objective is to be a student- and customer-centric, agile operator, as well as an increasingly close partner to a thriving working life.

During the year 2023, we continued to develop our operations, taking into account both changes in our operating environment and the wishes and expectations of our staff and stakeholders. In guiding the development of our teaching activities, important stakeholders include the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Finnish Education Evaluation Centre (FINEEC), and the Rectors’ Conference of Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences (Arene).

One of our key objectives has been to raise awareness of our sustainability initiatives, particularly through communication. In 2023, we participated for the first time in the global SDG Flag Day campaign for sustainable development. We will continue celebrate this theme day annually in September, highlighting our support for sustainable development goals and a more sustainable future. We believe that visibility and open discussion are key to ensuring change and sustainability in the long term.

Practical Actions to Promote Sustainability and Responsibility in 2023

In the past year, we intensified collaboration with the working life, for example, by implementing our Key Partnership Program. VAMK’s Key Partnership Program provides businesses and organisations with the opportunity to develop their own business sustainably and responsibly in collaboration with the entire university community.

The goals for the development of our teaching activities and expertise come from our pedagogical program. In 2023, we began preparing for the Sustainability and Sustainable Development competence badge, aimed at further enhancing the expertise of our staff in this area.

VAMK offers a wide range of continuous learning courses, including carbon footprint and life cycle assessments, as well as climate work for businesses and organisations. On the other hand, the Top Athlete-friendly University audit process, implemented in 2023 and coordinated by the Finnish Olympic Committee, opened up areas for development for us, including our individualised approaches.

Sustainable Development

As an example of concrete actions towards environmental responsibility, during 2023, we provided our staff with access to both electric vehicles charging stations and the option to adopt company bicycles for commuting.

During 2023, we conducted a tender process for the restaurant services on our campuses. One of the key criteria in the tender process was the service provider’s commitment to sustainability. The Juvenes student and staff restaurant operating on our campus integrates sustainability into all aspects of its operations. Juvenes gently encourages the use of vegetarian meals and offers options to reduce food waste by allowing customers to purchase surplus food at a discounted price. Diners also have the opportunity to offset their carbon footprint by donating 5 cents towards reforestation efforts for every meal purchased.

Based on our own carbon footprint calculations at Vaasa University of Applied Sciences, procurement is identified as our largest source of emissions. In the future, we will further focus on reducing emissions from procurement to a greater extent.

Transparency in our Operations

A vital aspect of verifying our commitment to sustainability is the shared responsibility for continuous and systematic improvement. At VAMK, we have implemented a low threshold reporting channel called Feedy for reporting development ideas. Through Feedy, both customers and employees can report their observations and provide suggestions for improvement. The feedback received has been utilised to further develop our practices, including refining and updating guidelines.

Towards the end of 2023, we introduced an ethical reporting channel in compliance with legal requirements for reporting serious breaches and misconduct. Our ethical reporting channel contributes to transparency and responsibility in all our activities. In the coming year, we will expand the use of this channel by offering a systematic reporting platform for deviations, feedback, and observations. Additionally, we will provide supervisors and senior-level experts with an analytical tool for risk management and root cause analysis to support overall development efforts.

Key Sustainability Indicators for 2023

Social responsibility: In 2023 our staff’s average age was 48 years. The gender distribution of our staff was as follows: 46% men / 54% women.

Economic responsibility:

  • 2023 revenue: 21 150 496,02
  • 2022 revenue: 19 759 312,25
  • 2021 revenue: 18 850 161,84

Environmental responsibility: Our solar energy system produced 89 MWh of clean energy, resulting in a reduction of 18,500 kgCO2e emissions.

Katja Lakojoki-Karhu
Quality and Sustainability Manager