Sustainability and responsibility include several perspectives, of which ethics can easily be overlooked. However, ethical questions regarding sustainability and responsibility lay the foundation on which all other perspectives are built. It is about how universities of applied sciences take the environment, employees, students and partners into account.
In terms of ethics, the aim of the university of applied sciences is to promote the sustainability shift in society. An ethically sustainable university of applied sciences takes responsibility for its actions, which are aligned with its values, and especially for its ability to change society. In consumer behaviour and procurement issues, for example, we all have a lot to learn every day.
Universities of applied sciences are responsible for the world around them, which may sometimes seem unhinged. Every year, 30,000 students graduate from our university and go on to careers spanning up to 50 years. If we are able to tune our own thinking and, consequently, our actions towards a more sustainable, responsible and ethical world, this line of thought will pass on to a large number of people, who will in turn disseminate it in their jobs and among their loved ones. This is about a form of competence in which we have real expertise.
The ethical guidelines of universities of applied sciences describe ethical and legal procedures that guide our operations and expectations towards each other in all areas of higher education. The ethical operating principles describe how higher education institutions ensure ethical and responsible operation in all decisions made by the higher education institution. Everyone is responsible for knowing and following the ethical guidelines. The guidelines lay the foundation for RDI activities that renew society as well as education, which is guided by e.g. the recommendations published by The Rectors’ Conference of Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences Arene on an ethical thesis process in accordance with good scientific practice.
Our ethical principles ensure that each member of the higher education community has an equal and clear starting point for acting in situations where the community or its members are subject to specific ethical expectations. Ethical principles help us to make solutions that are in line with our values and that promote sustainable development. These are choices that will ensure better opportunities for life and development for future generations. Although the principles are based on legislation, national and international regulations and treaties, human rights and fundamental rights of employment, common sense will also take us far.
When considering the thematics of an ethically sustainable university of applied sciences, it is worth looking at the bigger picture. Sometimes it may be a good idea to think about what your own activities look like in other parts of the world. Does the content I teach look the same in Chile, for example? Does the new information we produce in RDI projects help companies in South Africa? How do we act fairly on a global level?
Competence in ethical sustainability is largely about reconciling values with everyday activities. We need competence, open discussion, interaction, systematic thinking, a broad understanding of sustainability and its challenges, and an understanding of the significance of our own choices. We need the ability to identify and resolve conflicts and, above all, the courage to make ethically sustainable choices even in difficult situations. As universities of applied sciences, we ensure that every graduate has the skills and ability to build a sustainable future that meets their values. We are making the future together.
Turo Kilpeläinen, President, LAB University of Applied Sciences