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Sustainable and socially responsible university in maribor, slovenia, european union


In 2011, University of Maribor decided to become ‘sustainable and socially responsible university’. We summarize here its related efforts and the basic reasons for them.

Key words: Sustainability, social responsibility, University of Maribor.

UDC 378.1

Matjaz Mulej,

Emer. Prof., Dr.,

Professor of systems and innovation theory,

Faculty of Economics and Business,

University of Maribor e-mail: matjaz.mulej AT um.si Maribor, Slovenia, EU

Iztok Slatinek,

Expert in quality and social responsibility,

University of Maribor Maribor, Slovenia, EU

Branka Cagran,

Prof., Dr.,

Professor of Pedagogical Methodology,

Faculty of Education,

University of Maribor Maribor, Slovenia, EU

The selected topic and viewpoint of consideration

The University of Maribor, Slovenia, European Union, is officially called the Sustainable and Socially Responsible University of Maribor. It took four years to adopt and adapt official documents. Now the making the concept the usual reality is in process, which crucially changes the values, culture, ethics and norms that have caused the current global socio-economic crisis. The alternative to Sustainable and Socially Responsible life is the Third World War and end of the modern society due to prevailing neoliberal monopolies and rebelling against them rather than mutual reliability of partners, which all humans are to each other, indirectly at least. See: [EU, 2001] [EU, 2011] [ Mulej, Dyck, editors, 2014] [Mulej, guest editor, 2013] [Lebe, Mulej, guest editors, 2014].

The basic steps in 2011-2014

In 2011 initiative for Sustainable UM (2007) was revived and extended to include social responsibility: SSRUM. In 2012 a group of us wrote the following abstract for a paper: „In times of crisis, society needs a university capable of providing innovative solutions and opening up new horizons. As Einstein put it, “problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them”. Therefore, effective solutions must be sought at a higher level. Universities play a key role in raising awareness of social responsibility and sustainable development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. By setting a positive example, the University of Maribor strives to create an innovative environment and an effective organisation contributing to balanced, sustainable and socially responsible development of the University, the city of Maribor and the entire country through discovery and transfer of new knowledge . Since the University does not yet implement all of these principles, both a Council and a Committee for Sustainability and Social Responsibility have been established. The Council has formulated various proposals for development. When transforming our University into a sustainable and socially responsible institution, all four dimensions of sustainable development (environmental, economic, social and ethic), all seven principles and core subjects of social responsibility (organizational management, human rights, labour practices, environment, consumer issues, fair operating practices, community involvement and development) as well as both related terms (interdependence and holistic approach) addressed in ISO 26000 will be taken into account. This new model of a sustainable and socially responsible university will contribute to a deeper understanding of the interaction between the environmental, economic, social and ethical dimension of sustainable development. We sincerely hope that the University of Maribor will be able to convince other public, private, governmental, non-governmental and industrial organizations to follow its lead. [ Slatinek, http://www.Univerza v Mariboru.si] [Hrast et al., editors, 2015].

Policy about ssrum

The most important task of SSRUM is to make sure that co-workers and students gain knowledge, skills and values that they need to make decisions able to create and maintain the world for people of the current and future generations to wish to live and work in.

Tasks are grouped as follows:

  1. Governance and management of all processes in UM;
  2. Teaching, learning, research and artistic work;
  3. Partnership on the local, national and international levels.

Program about ssrum for 2013-2020 period

For every task the following data are provided: area, goals, activities, doers, deadlines.

Tasks are grouped as follows:

  1. Society: areas in ISO 26000 - education consumers
  2. Creation of new necessary knowledge: quality of education work, life style, health and safety, research, environmental law, corruption, ethics and justice, ISO 26000 application
  3. Economy: revenues, self-supply, links with employers, courses and seminars, publishing
  4. Environment: energy, waste, noise, transportation, air, water

Green infrastructure: waste water, food, equipment, raw material, urban architecture, EMAS.

In 2015 a new rector was elected: Prof. Dr. Igor Ticar, but the vice-rector covering SR and quality is the same as before: Prof. Dr. Lucka Lorber.

Thus, the activity on SR went on.

In August 2015 working groups were nominated:

  1. „Family-friendly UM, satisfaction on job, green jobs“;
  2. „Physical activity and sustainable mobility“;
  3. „Making the town and university green“;
  4. „Code of ethics“.

On 10 November 2015 priorities about SSRUM were passed. The document contains the same areas as in 2012, priorities are added for 2016 and 2017 after summaries of tasks in 2014 in 2015. The doers list is not still totally finalized, now tasks and doers are defined per faculties (16, mostly in Maribor, but also Ljubljana, Celje, Krsko, Brezice, Kranj, Velenje; 18.000 students) and other UM member organizations (student dorms, library, rector‘s office).

Survey about ssrum ( may - june 2015)

We prepared 3 on-line questionnaires for Students, Teaching staff, Supportive staff; there was no personal contact or selection of participants / respondents.

Insight into their opinions was looked for about:

  • How well they know UM as SSRUM;
  • How well they know SR;
  • How well they practice SR contents and principles of ISO26000:2010;
  • Including RS in graduation theses;
  • Suggestions, criticisms, opinions on practice of SR in UM.

Survey responses of students were received from 3 percent of them. The M.A. and Ph.D. students showed better knowledge on SR and more maturity than the undergraduate students.

Per parts of the questionnaire one can summarize the opinions of respondents as follows:

  • Poor knowledge of the SSRUM program and international measuring; devices, poor involvement in program of SSRUM;
  • Good knowledge and own practice of the essence of SR;
  • Rather poor involvement in school governance/management;
  • Good opinion on practice of students‘ rights;
  • Good practices of study involvement, poor about publication;
  • Good involvement in natural environment, less so in social environment;
  • SR should be a topic in graduation theses;
  • Very concrete suggestions and criticisms.


The 60 million8 refugees and displaced persons [public press data] in 2015 confirm that SR (with ethics and practice of interdependence and holism) is the way out of the current global socio-economic crisis. The too narrow and shortterm interests are deadly dangerous for existence of humankind of today and must be replaced as much as possible and as soon as possible. Universities create leaders and must be role models of SR and educate role models of SR for these reasons.

These 60 million are more than 56 million humans killed in World War II. One should also consider the data from before the current socio-economic crisis that only 15% of humankind of today have six dollars and more a day, while billionaires make less than one percent of humans of today.

What is causing the current terrible problems, because it lacks, and what universities, too, must cover for humans to survive? This is clearly said in ISO 26000:2010 and supported by European Union, United Nations and several more world-wide associations, etc.

It is the holistic approach based on interdependence.

They are well defined (lines 896 - 900 in ISO 26000) as follows:

«An organization should look at the core subjects holistically, that is, it should consider all core subjects and issues, in their interdependence, rather than concentrating on a single issue. Organizations should be aware that efforts to address one issue may involve a trade-off with other issues. Particular improvements targeted at a specific issue should not affect other issues adversely or create adverse impacts on the life cycle of its products or services, on its stakeholders or on the value chain»

The holistic approach and interdependence between process participants are also addressed indirectly in ISO 26000 by usage of terms such as: stakeholders; accountability; transparency; ethical behavior; respect for rule of law and other rules; honesty; human rights; dialogue; wider impact; no abuse; no discrimination; healthy environment; no exploitation. This means that interdependence is considered and leads to (requisite) holism attainable by their interaction, similar to informal systems/cybernetics thinking/behavior.

The human need to formulate documents of progressive enterprises, United Nations and European Union on SR a good decade ago and ISO 26000 in 2010 reflects the blind alley of the socio-economic model of neo-liberalism. Hence, SR could and should be perceived as a complex invention-innovation-diffusion process, which should include dialectical systems behavior [Mulej, 1979] [Mulej et al .,

. Complex processes can be managed only with interdisciplinary cooperation of many specialists (specialized scientific disciplines), who feel and practice ethics of interdependence because they are complementary with their mutual differences; this enables them to attain requisite holism (disagreement means looking at the same topic from different viewpoints!). The total holism that is addressed in ISO 26000, reaches beyond human capabilities; holism with limitation inside a single viewpoint and discipline is only very exceptionally sufficient [ Mulej et al., 2013].

International Standard ISO 26000 is a great guidance to SR, actually to systemic behavior. Though, ISO 26000 is guidance, not an international law, even less a supra-national law, but the market requires it [Repse, 2013] [www.horus.si]. Including the DST theory and methods [Mulej, 1979] [Mulej

et al., 2013] etc. helps the stakeholders to more easily accept, practice and demand SR globally. This can be attained on an informal basis, too, which we will suggest later. The point is not in SR as something self-sufficient, but in its role of the systemic/DST alternative to the neo-liberalistic blind alley.

It is also important that no certification for ISO 26000 is possible [ISO, 2010], but certification for management of ISO 26000 has become possible in 2011 [IQnet, 2011]. This may fortify systemic behavior, albeit in a (too) slow and rather late invention-innovation-diffusion process [Mulej et al., 2013] [ Hrast et al, 2015].


  • EU (2001): Green Paper on Promoting a European Framework for Corporate Social Responsibility. Brussels: European Union.
  • EU (2011): Communication from The Commission to The European Parliament, The Council, The European Economic and Social Committee and The Committee of the Regions: A Renewed EU Strategy 2011-14 for Corporate Social Responsibility. European Commission. Com(2011) 681 Final. Brussels, 25.10.2011.
  • Hrast, A., Lorbek, D., Mulej, M., editors (2015): Proceedings of the 10th international conference on social responsibility: Social responsibility and current challenges 2015 »Planning Reporting about Social Responsibility, Newest scientific and professional views with examples of good practices. IRDO Institute for the Development of Social Responsibility, Maribor.
  • IQnet (2011): Social Responsibility Management Systems. Requirements. IQNet Association, Bern
  • ISO, International Standards Organization. (2010). ISO 26000:2010 ISO [on line], [cited 10 May 2011]. Available from: http://www.iso.org/iso/social_responsibility/
  • Lebe, S. S. and Mulej, M., guest-editors and authors, with coauthors
  • : Social responsibility and holism in tourism. Kybernetes, vol. 43, issue 3-4.
  • Mulej, M. (1979): Ustvarjalno delo in dialekticna teorija sistemov. Celje, Razvojni center.
  • Mulej, M., R. Dyck, editors and coauthors, with coauthors (2014): Social responsibility beyond neoliberalism and charity. 4 volumes. Bentham Science, Shirjah, UAE.
  • Mulej, M., guest-editor and author, with coauthors (2014 and 2015): Social responsibility - a new socio-economic order. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, vol. 32.
  • Mulej, M., guest-editor and author, with coauthors (2013): Social Responsibility - measures and measurement. Systems Practice and Action Research, vol. 26, is. 6.
  • Mulej, M. and 16 coauthors (2013): Dialectical Systems Thinking and the Law of Requisite Holism Concerning Innovation. Emergent Publications’, Litchfield Park, AZ, USA.
  • Repse, A. (2013): Interni standard za poslovno odlicnost. In: Glavic, P., editor (2013): 38. Strokovno posvetovanje o dveh aktualnih temah: a) Strategija razvoja Slovenije in slovenska industrijska politika - kako zagotavljati pameten, vzdrzen in vkljucujoc razvoj drzave? b) Primeri najboljse prakse - s podjetnistvom in poslovnimi spremembami v vecjo konkurencnost in nova delovna mesta. ZES, Drustvo ekonomistov Maribor in Stajerska gospodarska zbornica. Maribor.
  • Slatinek, I. http://www.Univerza v Mariboru.si.
  • www.horus.si.