EUR Sustainability Dialogues huge success: more than 500 participants

Dialogue Circle

During the fall and winter of 2023, a group of students and staff at Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) organized a series of 12 Sustainability Dialogues. Over 500 colleagues and students contributed their ideas to set new standards for sustainability at EUR. Their input will guide forthcoming sustainability strategies across the different EUR schools and the university as a whole.

In recent years, numerous students and employees at EUR passionately advocated for a more sustainable university. The EUR Sustainability Dialogues set out to and connect and enlarge this group within the university. Up for discussion: how to realise the goal of becoming an organisation with net positive impact on climate and ecosystems, to which the Executive Board committed last year. The dialogues created spaces to share experiences and ideas, spanning from research methodologies and educational approaches to our operational tactics, which were carefully collected by the dialogue organizers. Katharina Bauer, associate professor Erasmus School of Philosophy and one of the initiators, explains the drivers behind the dialogues in a recent interview with Erasmus Magazine stating that “We didn’t want sustainability policies to be imposed from the top”. 

Sustainability Dialogues at EUR 2023/2024: The wrap-up

Sustainability Dialogues took place at all schools of EUR  

Across EUR, 9 schools hosted dialogues tailored to school and discipline specific sustainability challenges. The school-specific set-up also ensured that the dialogues were linked to ongoing sustainability initiatives at the schools, ranging from established sustainability experts, existing workgroups, or even full sustainability programs. Emma Daanen, project manager of the Sustainability Dialogues, is happy with the engagement she has seen across the schools. “All schools, including the Erasmus Medical Centre (EMC), University College (EUC) and International Institute for Social Studies (ISS) set up a faculty organizing team and pulled together a great event with 40-80 participants at each dialogue. Many ideas were collected, and more so new connections have been made. Interesting discussions are taking place in the schools on how to keep the momentum after the dialogue.”, she says. 

Tangible ideas for EUR-wide sustainability policies 

Moreover, a multidisciplinary team hosted three cross-school dialogues revolving around sustainability topics that impact the entire university. On December 7th a dialogue was tailored around the central services that keep the EUR up and running. Real Estate & Facilities and the Sustainability Program co-hosted this event, which attracted the most participants out of all the dialogues. Participants were eager to discuss tangible ideas to stimulate and reward sustainable behaviour of the 35.000+ students and staff at EUR. Ann O’Brien, secretary of the Executive Board, also participated and stressed the importance of collective action: “The net value and impact of approx. 40,000 small steps is a real force to be contended with”.   

Dialogues uncover diversity of opinions, sometimes clashing  

Like in wider society, the topic of sustainability sparks diverse and sometimes conflicting opinions at EUR. This became evident in various dialogues, notably the cross-school dialogue on October 23rd, 2023, which delved into EUR's ties with the fossil fuel industry. Debates emerged on whether continued collaboration should be contingent on specific conditions. Views diverged, with some advocating for collaboration as a means to instigate industry reform, while others insisted on a complete severance of ties, citing the industry's history of environmental harm and unreliability.  


Embedding sustainability in education is considered a priority by the participants of the last Sustainability Dialogue 

The last Sustainability Dialogue of the series took place on February 5th, 2024. About eighty staff and students viewed posters that presented the action- and policy proposals from previous dialogues. By stickering the posters, they could indicate what initiatives they consider a priority for EUR. What stood out is that initiatives focused on education are considered very urgent. This includes embedding sustainability in current education programs and developing more transformative education that enables our students to work in a disruptively changing society. Furthermore, attendees found it important to place more limits on air travel, create a greener campus and structurally incorporate sustainability into all decisions and processes within the organization.  

Click here to view the posters that were designed for the last Sustainability Dialogue.  

Outcomes of the dialogues will inform sustainability strategies at EUR 

Each school's deans and the university Board have committed to integrating insights from these dialogues into sustainability strategies across individual schools and the university as a whole. These strategies will supersede the current Strategy 2024. In the last dialogue, Rector Magnificus Annelien Bredenoord announced that EUR leadership will review which proposals can be implemented within the current structure or which require allocation of new resources. For the fossil industry collaboration policy, the goal is to implement new guidelines in the next academic year. 

Universities must commit to making a net positive impact on climate and ecosystems 

In May 2024, the Sustainability Dialogues series will culminate in a public summit focusing on the role of universities amid climate and ecological crises. This two-day event will feature workshops empowering EUR students and staff to initiate sustainable projects, alongside sessions engaging representatives from other Dutch universities. “Universities have a responsibility to address complex and persistent societal challenges in their core activities”, says Derk Loorbach, Professor of Societal Transitions at EUR and one of the organizers of the summit. “Together, we'll exchange knowledge, share experiences, and collaboratively shape strategies to position Dutch academia as a catalyst for a more sustainable society.”  

Are you staff or student from a Dutch university or related organization and want to join the conversations how universities can tackle sustainability challenges? We are organizing a public Sustainability Summit on the 17th of May.

View the full program of the EUR Sustainability Summit 2024

About the Design Impact Transition (DIT) platform  

The Design Impact Transition (DIT) platform is a strategic initiative that creates infrastructures for transformative academic work at Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR). If you want to learn more about similar initiatives organised by the Design Impact Transition Platform, or if you would like to get involved in transforming education and academia, please send an email to  

More information

Questions? You can contact the EUR Sustainability Dialogues team via 
Read more about sustainability at EUR: Sustainability report 2022 ( 

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