On 12-14 June, the prestigious University of Cologne hosted an impactful staff week as part of the BRIGHTS project, a training tailored to elevate the competencies and effectiveness of Sustainability Offices within BRIGHTS partner universities, namely the University of Cologne, the University of Pavia and the University of Cyprus. Over three days, participants engaged in a series of sessions that addressed a wide array of topics and perspectives concerning sustainability.

The staff week was opened by a welcome speech of Prof. Kirk Junker, vice-rector for sustainability at the University of Cologne, who emphasised the importance of HEIs leading students into sustainable habits. He was then followed by Pamela Kilian, from the Sustainability Office of the University of Cologne, who showcased the university’s sustainability strategy and the pivotal role of the Office in driving these initiatives.

The following session, featuring an overview of the BRIGHTS project and the program for the week, was jointly presented by Martina Altea Bellinzona, BRIGHTS Project Coordinator from the University of Pavia, and Thilo Zimmermann, Head of Academic Networks & SDGS Projects at the University of Cologne. They outlined the project’s goals, the structure of the staff week, and the key outcomes aimed to achieve.

The final session of the day was held by Tobias Bartman, of the Green Office Movement, who presented the organization and set up a workshop by applying the Green Office Movement’s toolkit to establish green offices. He then proceeded to present the work of Students Oganising for Sustainability International, which supports student and youth groups globally to lead on sustainability and social justice.

The second day started off with Martina Altea Bellinzona presenting the work of the Office for Sustainable Actions (OSA) of the University of Pavia. She was then followed by Thilo Zimmerman who introduced UoC Global, which implements international projects at the University of Cologne, and was and was then joined by Dr. Ali Al-Bayati to present the DAAD LegalLead Projects which seeks to build up law clinics on female empowerment and good governance at Al-Nahrain University in Iraq and Cartage University in Tunis and is a promising example for an international projects adressed to SDG 5 (Gender Equality) and 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions)

The third session of the day saw Ilaria Corazza of the University of Turin, and editor of the Sustainability Report, presenting the Rete delle Università per lo Sviluppo Sostenibile (RUS) and delving into the importance of reporting. Prof. Drew Nelson of the University of Cologne then showcased his ongoing course concerning the SDGs and the new teaching methodologies that it involves.

The second day ended with Michela Cobelli and Chantal Ricciardi, from the International Mobility Unit of the University of Pavia, who showcased best practices of internationalisation, sustainability and networking in HEIs, and the Coimbra Group. 

The third and last day saw the participants learning about the Fair Trade Competence Center of the University of Cologne by Dr. Katharina Groene, and were taught about sustainability rankings by Luciana Sacchetti of the University of Bologna.

The staff week concluded with a visit to the UN Campus in Bonn, where participants had the opportunity to learn in depth about the importance of SDGs.