An impact on a better world

The 'sense of urgency' of sustainable development is present in every public debate. Based on its humanistic values, VUB has to lead by example and wants to be the catalyst of solutions that are democratically, ecologically, socially and economically responsible.

Sustainability approach

Sustainability is one of the four transversal policy axes in the third strategic plan of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, ASP2030. The sustainability approach is transversal with priorities on four axes, with actions in education, research, operations & outreach reinforcing each other. An integrated, holistic approach and maximum involvement of the VUB community are crucial in this respect.

Therefore, the VUB puts forward the Whole Community Approach. All actors from different domains join forces, ad hoc or structurally as in the VUB Sustainability Council, Core Group or one of the Working Groups.

VUB priorities for the next decade

  • VUB draws up a climate plan based on its baseline measurement of the carbon footprint in 2016 and becomes climate neutral.
  • VUB reduces CO2 emissions through rational energy use - in terms of infrastructure, procurement, mobility, etc.
  • VUB is committed to Socially Responsible Investing, circular processes and the transition to renewable energy in smart grid applications.
  • The new campus master plan is an excellent opportunity to design the sustainable campus of the future.
  • Students acquire competences on and for sustainability in the curriculum, characterised by interdisciplinarity, the acquisition of broad professional competences and the stimulation of commitment.
  • A research platform maps out the available expertise and makes it visible both inside and outside the VUB. The network stimulates multidisciplinary cross-fertilisation at the VUB so that sustainability issues are properly addressed.
  • Outreach, stakeholder participation and awareness-raising are essential throughout the sustainability policy. In addition, there is active cooperation with various external actors and networks, from the government to civil society and the private sector.

Overall Strategic Plan 2018-2021 (in Dutch)

Radically Sustainable

Vision on sustainable development (in Dutch)

Our vision

Strategic goals for sustainable development (in Dutch)

23 goals

Annual report on sustainable development (in Dutch)

Sustainability Report 2018

Sustainability in education

By teaching students to reflect on and work towards a viable world - now and in the future, for themselves and others, here and elsewhere on the planet - the Vrije Universiteit Brussel is committed to generate the critical global citizens of tomorrow.

Current policy

VUB strives to maximally integrate sustainability in its curricula and learning results. Courses focus on sustainability from their own expertise and build bridges to other disciplines. Students acquire the necessary competences, for instance through activating forms of work and evaluation. In addition, both the university's campuses and cosmopolitan Brussels are an excellent learning environment and an experimental area for sustainability.

The Core Group Sustainability and a working group with professors from various faculties, together with the office of the Vice rector Educational and Student Affairs, are setting up all kinds of awareness-raising and supporting initiatives, e.g. on lecturer professionalisation. To this end, VUB works together with external partners such as Ecocampus, OVAM and the Foundation for Future Generations.

Which courses can you follow?

  • In most programmes at the VUB you will find courses on sustainability. There is a lot of teaching material on sustainability available for lecturers. Contact us for more information!
  • The Sustainability Bootcamp at the VUB combines state of the art lectures from both academic and operational experts. It is a condensed lecture series during the second week of the Spring holidays (9 – 12th of April 2018). It consists of an introductory session, followed by four thematic modules spread out over the four days and a closing activity. Because of the interdisciplinarity, the Sustainability Bootcamp appeals to a wide and divers range of potential participants with different backgrounds, from CEO’s, sustainability officers to students!
  • Redelijk Eigenzinnig. Nadenken over Mens en Maatschappij is an institution-wide and interdisciplinary optional course for students and a lecture cycle for the general public with a focus on current social issues.

Sustainability in education (in Dutch)

Our vision
Contact Sustainable education
Lisa Wouters


Vision on education (in Dutch)

5 pillars

Sustainability in VUB research

Vrije Universiteit Brussel has an extensive problem-driven and solution-oriented socially relevant research portfolio. Sustainability issues are properly addressed through multidisciplinary collaboration. These researchers below are certainly working towards a better world.

If you want your research group to be included on this list, please send your details via this online form or by email (duurzaamheid@vub.be) to the VUB Sustainability Team.

Amphibian Evolution Lab

Sciences and Bio-engineering Sciences

The Amphibian Evolution Lab studies multiple aspects of amphibian diversity on land and in freshwater ecosystems. In our non-profit organization Climateproject.be, we use our expertise to create more nature, fight climate change and educate all stakeholders about the underlying causes.

With our research we want to contribute to SDG 3, 4, 13 and 15.

Prof. Franky Bossuyt (+32 2 629 3648)

Applied Physics & Photonics Department

Engineering Sciences

The department of Applied Physics & Photonics participates in research on sustainable and innovative light sources that promote visual comfort and respect human and their environment.

With our research we want to contribute to SGD 7, 9, 11 and 13.

Prof. Valéry Ann Jacobs (+32 2 629 2800)

Architectural Engineering Department

Engineering Sciences

VUB Architectural Engineering focusses on the use of engineering tools to create sustainable architecture. This approach is based on an interdisciplinary collaboration on overarching themes, including Built heritage assessment, Digital design and fabrication, Lightweight structural design and Life cycle design and circularity.

With our research we want to contribute to SGD 9, 11, 12 and 15.

Prof. Lars De Laet (+32 2 629 2830)
Prof. Ine Wouters (+32 2 629 3796)
Prof. Niels De Temmerman (+32 2 629 3675)


Engineering Sciences

Research in the BCLIMATE group focuses on global-scale modelling of the interactions between water resources and the atmosphere in a changing climate.

With our research we want to contribute to SDG 13.

Prof. Wim Thiery (+32 2 629 3029)

BURN Research Group

Engineering Sciences

Energy is synonymous with change. BURN's research contributes to the development of flexible, energy-efficient and non-polluting energy conversion technologies. We study the use of electro-fuels, biomass and waste to produce heat and power, while reducing our environmental impacts.

With our research we want to contribute to SDG 7, 11 and 13.

Prof. Julien Blondeau
Prof. Francesco Contino

Cartography and GIS Research Group

Science and Bio-engineering Sciences

Research activities of the Cartography and GIS Research Group focuses on mapping, monitoring and modelling urban ecosystems. By developing remote sensing and GIS-based modelling methods we contribute to a better understanding of human-environment interactions in urban environments.

With our research we want to contribute to SGD 3, 10, 11 and 13.

Prof. Frank Canters (+32 2 629 3381)

Centre for Ethics and Humanism

Arts and Philosophy

The Centre for Ethics and Humanism studies contemporary and historical debates in philosophy and ethics on (inter)subjectivity, existence, technology and media, humanism, Enlightenment and politics.

With our research we want to contribute to SGD 3, 5, 10, 11 and 16.

Prof. Karl Verstrynge (+32 2 629 2596)

Chemical Engineering Department

Science and Bio-engineering Sciences

Research at Department of Chemical Engineering is dedicated to the development of sustainable chemical processes, via process intensification, energy efficient recovery of renewable chemicals and CO2 capture processes.

With our research we want to contribute to SGD 7, 9 and 13.

Prof. Joeri Denayer (+32 2 629 1798)

Cluster on Environment and Sustainable Development

Economic and Social Sciences and Solvay Business School

The Cluster on Environment and Sustainable Development focuses, in line with the overarching Institute for European Studies research strategy, on the international and European governance of the climate and energy transition as its overarching theme.

With our research we want to contribute to SGD 7, 9, 12 and 13.

Prof. Sebastian Oberthür

Community Ecology Lab

Science and Bio-engineering Sciences

The  Community Ecology Lab studies drivers of biodiversity and ecosystem services in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and contribute to capacity building and sustainable management of resources in the global South.

With our research we want to contribute to SGD 2, 3, 4, 6, 12, 13, 14 and 15.

Prof. Bram Vanschoenwinkel (+32 2 629 3057)

Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research

Sciences and Bio-engineering Sciences

The Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research is dedicated to research and teaching in urban geography, spatial planning and urban design. Committed to pursuing both academic and practice relevant research, Cosmopolis actively engages policy makers, governments and citizen to transform knowledge into action.

With our research we want to contribute to SDG 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13.

Prof. Kobe Boussauw (+32 2 629 3511)

Prof. Bas van Heur (+32 2 629 3377)

Ecology & Biodiversity Research Group

Sciences and Bio-engineering Sciences

Ecosystem and biodiversity demand research and rational conservation action simultaneously: we do both, focused on mangroves and marine biodiversity which are of global importance in provisioning life supporting ecosystem services.

With our research we want to contribute to SDG 13, 14 and 15.

Prof. Nico Koedam (+32 2 629 3413)

Mobility, Logistics and Automotive Technology Research Centre MOBI

Economic and Social Sciences and Solvay Business School
Engineering Sciences

The Mobility, Logistics and Automotive Technology Research Centre (MOBI) is leader in defining the state-of-the-art in Electromobility and Socio-Economic Evaluations for sustainable mobility and logistics. Its strength resides in a unique combination of competencies and tools specifically developed for the sustainable transport sector.

With our research we want to contribute to SDG 3, 7, 9, 11, 12 and 13.

Prof. Cathy Macharis (+32 2 629 8303)
Prof. Joeri Van Mierlo (+32 2 629 2804)

Physical Chemistry and Polymer Science Research Group

Engineering Sciences

The Physical Chemistry and Polymer Science Research Group investigates the physical properties, including phase separation, thermal stability and thermal transitions, of materials used for sustainable innovation. Recent examples include active layers for organic photovoltaics and reversible polymer networks for self-healing materials.

With our research we want to contribute to SDG 7, 9, 11 and 12.

Prof. Niko Van den Brande (+32 2 629 3277)
Prof. Hubert Rahier 

Sustainable operations

Sustainable development is a core aspect of all activities at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. The VUB takes into account the ecological, social and economic impact of all its decisions, in the short and long term, locally and globally.

Based on the baseline measurement of the carbon footprint, an ambitious vision and climate plan will be drawn up including the monitoring of the real impact of measures. VUB reduces CO2 emissions through rational energy use - in terms of infrastructure, procurement, mobility, etc. - through sustainable investments, circular processes, a new campus master plan and the transition to renewable energy in smart grid application.

Sustainable partnerships

VUB is embedded in local, national and international learning networks to strengthen the transition to a sustainable university, society and world. In addition, there is active cooperation with various external actors, from the government to civil society and the private sector, in order to share knowledge and exchange best practices. Our main partners:

UNICA is the network of 46 universities from 35 European capitals and represents more than 150,000 staff members and 1,800,000 students. From 21 to 23 March 2018, VUB organised the UNICA GREEN conference, an annual workshop on the implementation of environmental sustainability strategies at universities.

VUB is a member of The Shift, the Belgian network for sustainability with focus on the transition to a better society and economy. VUB has committed to map out its social ambitions and has signed the Green Deal Shared Mobility and Circular Procurement.

Ecocampus is a programme that is committed to SUSTAINABLE HIGHER EDUCATION. Ecocampus focuses on lecturers, researchers and students, to use sustainable development as a compass in their daily activities, now and in the future. Within Ecocampus, best practices in the higher education landscape are exchanged and joint projects are developed.

VUB works together with the Public Waste Agency of Flanders (OVAM), OVAM makes daily efforts to ensure high-quality and efficient waste, materials and soil management in Flanders.

Boeren & Buren is a weekly market with quality products from local farms. The purpose of this short chain is to restore the taste of the region, tackle climate change and strengthen links between consumers and producers.

The Brussels Studies Institute acts as a contact and coordination platform for academic research on Brussels, with a special focus on the human sciences.

The University Centre for Development Cooperation (UCOS) is an educational NGO affiliated with the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the Erasmushogeschool Brussel. The centre wants to invite students to think critically on possibilities for a sustainable and solidary future.

The BRUTUS project is a tutoring project in which higher education students support pupils from secondary education institutions in their learning process.

The Brussels Academy is the place to be for everyone who is interested in Brussels and wants to learn more about the city. Various professors and experts share their knowledge about Brussels with civil society, Brussels citizens and Brussels lovers.

HumanaTerre is a project in which a group of people without legal residence maintain and develop a collective and educational vegetable garden in the Hoogstamboomgaard on the Jette campus.

Ademruimte. VUB-bootcamp air quality

On 19 September 2018, Crosstalks and the VUB Sustainability Core Group organised the bootcamp "Ademruimte", which took place in a packed U-residence. Discover here the presentations on air quality in Brussels of the following speakers: Sarah Hollander (Leefmilieu Brussel), Nils Hooftman (VUB), Svend Bram (VUB), Bas de Geus (VUB), Tim Cassiers (BRAL) en Annekatrien Verdickt (FilterCaféFiltré).

Sustainability Bootcamp

From 9 to 12 April 2018, the Sustainability Bootcamp bundled academic VUB sustainability expertise with operational professionals from different disciplines into one condensed lecture series. This multidisciplinarity connects the different aspects of sustainability and inspires for innovation. The ideal environment to meet peers in an open atmosphere and become the state of the art in sustainability.

8th UNICA GREEN Workshop

On 21-23 March 2018, the Core Group Sustainability VUB hosted the 8th UNICA GREEN Workshop and welcomed 72 guests and contributors from 33 different institutions in 14 countries. This interactive three-day workshop focused on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Higher Education and allowed to exchange inspiring cases, share struggles and meet fellow sustainability colleagues.

Duurzame dinsdag #4

On Tuesday 28 November 2017, the 4th edition of Sustainable Tuesday took place at the VUB. The focus was on presenting the baseline measurement of the VUB carbon footprint and two debates with the VUB community on measures to reduce emissions from mobility. Read more about this lively discussion here.





02 629 22 77

Core Group Sustainability

The Core Group Sustainability is the forerunner of the sustainability policy. The members of the core group meet every two weeks, follow-up the sustainability process at VUB and oversee the whole of sustainable projects and thematic working groups.

Composition: Chair Prof. Dr. Cathy Macharis, Secretary Prof. Dr. Waldo Galle, General Administrator Nic Van Craen, Prof. Dr. Hubert Rahier, Rebecca Lefevere, Jeroen Willems, Maarten Ipers & Lisa Wouters.


The GreenTeam puts the VUB sustainability vision into practice for students and staff. These working students take initiatives to make the VUB a more sustainable place and focuse on interactive cooperation with, through and for the city of Brussels.

Sustainability Council

The VUB Sustainability Council determines and monitors the sustainability vision of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. As an advisory body for the Academic Council and the Board of Directors, the VUB Sustainability Council acts as a think- and do-tank to accelerate the transition towards a sustainable university.

With their finger on the pulse of what is happening inside and outside the VUB, the members of the VUB Sustainability Council steer the sustainability process of our university. In the idea of Whole Community Approach, the VUB Sustainability Council is a broad delegation of students, policy officers and lecturers, as well as internal and external stakeholders.


  • Alison Lahaye, Greenteam (Plvv. Nicky Van Kerrebroeck)
  • Ann Brusseel, Algemeen Directeur EhB (Plvv. Joeri Van den Brande)
  • Caroline Pauwels, Rector (Plvv. Patrick Stouthuysen)
  • Cathy Macharis (voorzitter), Docent
  • David Leyssens, The Shift
  • Ellen Vandenplas, Ecocampus
  • Fiona Mastragostino, Sociaal Ecologische Activisten (Plvv. Jonathan Bertholet)
  • Francis Geldof, Projectcoördinator Directie Infrastructuur
  • Francoise De Cupere, Vice-rectoraat Internationalisering
  • Goedele Nuyttens, Vice-rectoraat Innovatie en Valorisatiebeleid
  • Hubert Rahier, Docent
  • Inez Hoeijmakers, Vice-rectoraat Onderwijs- en Studentenbeleid
  • Jeroen Kessels, Studentenraad
  • Jeroen Willems, Campuscoördinator energie
  • Jozefien De Marree, Vice-rectoraat Onderzoeksbeleid
  • Lien Creuwels, Departement Mens & Organisatie
  • Lisa Wouters, Duurzaamheidscoördinator curriculum en gender
  • Maarten Ipers, Duurzaamheidscoördinator data en communicatie
  • Nadine Verheyen, Directie Financiën
  • Nic Van Craen, Algemeen Beheerder
  • Nick Devoogdt, Docent
  • Rebecca Lefevere, Duurzaamheidscoördinator campus en milieu
  • Sarah Hollander, Leefmilieu Brussel
  • Sarah Janssens, Marketing, Communicatie en Evenementen
  • Tom Bakkum, Directeur Climate-CIK, EIT, European Union
  • Waldo Galle (secretaris), Beleidsadviseur duurzaamheid