Miles and More

By Jutta Allmendinger

What can the WZB do to boost sustainability? How can we use valuable resources in a more efficient way? These are key questions for the WZB. An internal commission is currently working to collect information on the WZB’s use of energy and material. This will lay the ground for an institute-wide discussion on how and where we can make our work more sustainable.

Mädchen auf Skateboards versuchen zu fliegen

One figure is already clear: the air miles totted up by WZB staff on work trips. In 2018, these amounted to 882,872 air miles on 426 flights, emitting 204,947kg of CO2. Are these figures high or low for 400 members of staff? Other institutes have not yet published figures for comparison. So let’s focus on ourselves: Is every single flight necessary? Every single conference? Every single meeting? What are the alternatives? What would those alternatives entail?

At the end of the year, we will commit to personal target figures on an anonymous basis. The goal here is not naming and shaming, but to launch an informed discussion that encourages behavioral change. The first steps have already been taken: These include improving the technical facilities for video conferences and reducing the number of Academic Council meetings, using written reports to take up the slack – this measure alone will save 20 transatlantic flights a year.

Of course, it has to be about more than just air miles. We need to engage in a scientific discussion of how to measure the success of research into the future. What are our targets for presentations, guests, and conferences? How can we measure international visibility and networking beyond personal contacts? How can we continue to provide a quality service to our scientific peers? What about the numerous reviews and appointments committees? How can we endow the next generation of researchers with the necessary experience on the international stage, with all the encounters, partnerships, and enrichments that go with it? Finding answers to these questions will be a long but important process for the WZB.

Prof. Dr. h.c. Jutta Allmendinger
David Ausserhofer

This piece is a slightly shortened version of Jutta Allmendinger’s editorial, featured in the latest edition of the WZB-Mitteillungen (in German).

Berlin, 18.9.2019