UTServicesCFMSustainabilityNewsSustainability Dialogue #2: Research, partnerships & divestment

Sustainability Dialogue #2: Research, partnerships & divestment

The second in-depth session of the Sustainability Dialogue took place on April 25 in the DesignLab. The subject was research, partnerships & divestment, the last of which proved to be the most contentious.

About the Sustainability Dialogues

Since sustainability and the climate crisis are evidently important topics for us all, the Executive Board, together with DesignLab, University Innovation Fellows and Green Hub Twente organizes the Sustainability Dialogue. Through these dialogues, UT wants to achieve sincere, participative, and proactive conversation about sustainability at UT and how to move forward with this topic. For more information, visit the website.

Planetary boundaries and cutting the ties

The session opened with Professor Michel Bourban, Assistant Professor in Environmental Ethics, presenting the Planetary Boundaries and their ethical considerations considering global climate justice. He shared the updated science from the team who conceived of the Planetary Boundaries framework; that 6 out of these 10 boundaries have already exceeded beyond limit. We risk destruction of overarching planetary systems, taking us out of a stable, safe and habitable operating space. We also heard from Sebastian Husein and Caroline Beurs from Strategic Business Development, who presented an overview of the UT’s current partnerships and shared some perspectives on sustainability in UT research.

Finally, Guus Dix, Assistant Professor and XR activist, presented the arguments for cutting the ties with four shared commitments for our academic community to end its liaisons with the fossil industry. He rounded off with some first movers for divestment and cutting the ties, including VU deciding that they would end all future partnerships that are not in line with the Paris agreement.


In the fishbowls, it became clear that there was contention on cutting the ties, somewhat eclipsing other topics that could have arisen. Both researchers who work together with fossil fuel companies and climate activists presented their arguments in detail. The UT’s Research Ethics were quoted: “[UT] does not want to be involved in activities that affect the dignity of people... In light of its pursuit of a sustainable development of prosperity and well-being, [it] values the careful interaction with nature and the living environment..” and “only works with suppliers and parties that act in accordance [with it].” Any renewed partnership policy might reflect on this after these Dialogues.

Ultimately, despite holding very different views, this is a process that requires everyone’s patience, understanding and empathy. The difficult discussion on this topic proves the necessity of these Sustainability Dialogues, even if we cannot come to a resolution just yet. After all, it is worth remembering that we all share the goal of a sustainable future, even if we may not agree on how to get there.

Register for the next session of the Sustainability Dialogue: The Campus Metabolism here!
Go to the event page