Wiese auf Gelände des UFZ in Leipzig. Foto: Sebastian Wiedling/UFZ

Sustainibility at UFZ

Corporate responsibility

It is our shared task to manage the many different environmental, social and economic future tasks. Sustainability – acting responsibly and in a forward-looking way, so that future generations can enjoy good opportunities in life – is one of our guiding principles. Science plays a key role in realising sustainability. The UFZ makes important contributions: Our research opens up ways to reconcile a healthy environment with social development.

The UFZ also applies the principle of sustainability to itself. As an employer, we are responsible for around 1,200 employees, for their ecological footprint and for their opportunities to influence society. We ask ourselves what sustainability means for our work. And for many years, we have been committed, with conviction and creativity, to implementing sustainability in practice at the UFZ.

Sustainability is a core task of research and the lived culture of all employees at the UFZ.

The work of our employees and the infrastructure in and with which they work, create negative environmental impacts. Not all of these can be avoided. But they can be continually reduced using consistent and ongoing operational environmental protection measures. At the UFZ, we have since 2005 used the externally certified, participatory environmental management system EMAS as a systematic control and management medium. With the help of EMAS, we examine and measure sustainability predominantly from an ecological perspective to ensure that resources are preserved and emissions are lowered.

As a member of the Helmholtz Association, we have developed the handout "Sustainability management in non-university research organizations" (LeNa) together with the Leibniz Association and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. Moreover, the UFZ is also an active member in the Helmholtz working group Sustainability Forum.

Together with 17 other Helmholtz centres, we want to find and exploit synergies in order to develop the Helmholtz Association and create a sustainable research association. To give an example, the network Helmholtz Climate-Neutral wants to promote sustainable development at all Helmholtz centres.

The three dimensions of sustainability

Sustainability comprises more than just the ecological dimension. Sustainability also means accepting responsibility for the economic and social dimensions of our research and corporate actions. Environmental protection, economic performance and social responsibility must therefore be combined in such a way that decisions are sound in relation to all three aspects in the long term.

The social dimension is particularly reflected in our company and personnel culture. When facing complex challenges and urgent social concerns, solutions require varied perspectives, experience, skills and knowledge. In turn, this variety can only arise and grow under framework conditions which do not discriminate against or exclude anyone. As a result, the UFZ considers freedom from discrimination, accessibility, internationalism, gender equality and the reconciliation of care and paid work, to be important values.

The economic dimension of our research and actions above all relates to our claim that we always use the tax funds that we as a publicly financed non-university research association receive from federal administration and from the federal states of Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, for the benefit of society. Our core business is research to ensure a sustainable treatment of our natural foundations of life – for the benefit of humans and the environment. In this, we research and work as sustainably as possible.

Lived sustainability culture

Regulations, tools and framework conditions are helpful and important for a sustainable corporate culture. But what matters even more is to ensure that the UFZ lives sustainability culture and continually develops it further – with positive examples of smaller and larger measures in the varied work and research areas.