It is a special time to start a new assignment when society is in crisis, and the university is converting most of its activities to remote working from home. What will actually happen with the University’s sustainability work in the next few years remains for the new Advisor to the President to discuss with management, however one thing Johan Kuylenstierna clearly sees ahead – sustainability is not a separate issue.
“It is important not to regard sustainable development as a separate project, nor to regard it as only an environmental issue. Higher education and research are the pillars of a sustainable society. I would like to see that everyone understands that what every person does at the University is very important and part of a sustainable development of the society,” comments Kuylenstierna.

Johan Kuylenstierna has been the rector's council for sustainability since February. Photo: Niklas Björling.

Johan Kuylenstierna regards making sustainability an integral part of the University’s activities as the challenge for the coming years. His hope is that Stockholm University will work even more clearly with the major changes in the society we are facing, such as Sweden’s climate policy goals or Food Strategy. Or the many issues that arise after the coronavirus pandemic crisis, which impact, for example, the society’s vulnerability, globalisation, or changes in behaviour.
“I know this is not entirely uncontroversial. Many people think that research should distance itself from politics. And I agree that there should be basic research should be free from political influence. However on the other hand, Stockholm University it can be said that we see the social challenges, and that we will actively work on the issues and education and training for the skills that are required.”
Sustainability Forum - spring 2021
The newly appointed Advisor to the President already has some specific projects already underway. Johan Kuylenstierna will continue to be responsible for the Sustainability Forum; the next one being scheduled for spring 2021. If the Swedish Government’s plans for an international high-level meeting in 2022, Stockholm plus 50, proceeds as planned, he hopes that Stockholm University can also participate. In addition, he wants to see an even closer working relationship with other educational institutions in Stockholm, and perhaps a research school with doctoral students coming from various different places and disciplines.
Although it sounds like a huge task to integrate sustainability into the activities in their entirety, Johan Kuylenstierna thinks it may sound more complicated than it really is.
“Perhaps it may not be that immense, it is more about creating an understanding that what one is doing is still an important part of a sustainable society. Stockholm University’s role is to educate tomorrow’s workforce and conduct qualitative research. There is a fantastic momentum at the University to tackle these issues. And for me, it is a privilege and a pleasure to have such a role for a period,” concludes Johan Kuylenstierna.