Joint project "Sustainability management for non-university research organisations" (LeNa)

The handout "Sustainability management for non-university research organisations" is the culmination of a joint project of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Helmholtz Association, and the Leibniz Association funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The aim of this research project was to develop a uniform understanding of the areas for action in which non-university research institutions can make their contribution towards sustainable development as organisations and employers.

Project structure

In three sub-projects on the topics of "Researching with social responsibility", "Human resources" and "Construction and operation", research-specific requirements and issues were identified as the bases for diverse areas for action. The project also incorporated current information on sustainability management and sustainability reporting based on the state of knowledge from relevant literature, standards, and guidelines.

The project ran from December 2013 to November 2016.


The project was a cross-organisational effort with a large number of participants, networks, and workgroups, totalling around 25 institutions and 90 participants from science, administration, and management. Special thanks go to the project's steering board and the external advisory board for supporting the project team with their expertise, and to the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for funding the project.

The project's participatory approach allowed the three research organisations to integrate the expertise of existing networks and workgroups, and to achieve a broad sensitisation to the topics of sustainable development already during the project.

Goals of the project

The overall goal of the joint project was to arrive at a general consensus on how non-university research institutions, as scientific organisations and employers, can integrate the concept of sustainable development.

The following sub-goals were derived from this:

  • To identify areas for action relevant to a research-specific sustainability management system at non-university research organisations – especially in the three functional areas of research, personnel, and construction and operation.
  • To develop options for action (management approaches) in the relevant areas for action: the focus here is on processes and organisational measures for integrating sustainability within non-university research organisations.
  • To collect best practices: and thus to make suitable practical examples from each participating research organisation available to all institutions.
  • To prepare and communicate the results in a targeted way for specific target groups.

The aim of the sub-project "Research" was to define "socially responsible research" and to develop a set of criteria for researching with social responsibility that supports scientists in their own reflection on the social responsibility of research.

The aim of the sub-project "Human resources" was to prepare a well-founded body of information on the topic of "sustainable human resources management", and to analyse the structural framework, assessments, strategies, and concepts of non-university research institutions with regard to sustainable HR management.

The aim of the sub-project "Construction and operation" was to develop a common understanding on the integration of sustainability aspects into real estate management, and to develop basic principles and tools for planning, construction, operation, and use following the principles of sustainable development.