Dialogue Session 'Transition to a fossil free society'

Before the summer recess of 2023, UM published a statement that it will sharpen the rules on partner agreements. One of our goals is to stop cooperating with parties that obstruct the transition to a fossil-free, climate-neutral society - while at the same time encouraging cooperation with parties working on solutions. In this UM-wide dialogue, we would like to start the conversation about our collective role as an institution and a community. We will reflect on our partnerships and our own activities at all levels, keeping the three objectives mentioned in the statement in mind.

Kick Off Session

dialoogsessie fossielvrij

The Kick-Off Session 'Transition towards a fossil free society was held on December 11th, 2023. This session was interactive in nature, gathering as much input from the audience as possible. The audience consisted of a staff and students.

The session began with a short lecture by Cyrus Mody. In it he talked about the historical ties our society and scientific research has with fossil fuel companies. He said, "And these companies have shown, for several decades now, that they will disregard academic freedom and trample academic science when it could possibly imply a lower rate of return."

Through interactive voting, the audience chose the following dialogue topics:
- How will we approach collaborations with the fossil industry?  
- How can we prevent academics and UM from being used for fossil industry greenwashing?
- How can UM ensure compliance with the terms of collaborations with fossil industry?

During the session, an artist created sketches about the dialogue. See below in images what was discussed.

Drawings of dialogue event

Transition towards a fossil free society

Ties with the fossil industry

This drawing shows that the ties with fossil industry go way back in time. When you are giving lectures or doing research, you don’t know what to do with these ties. You feel tied up. There is also a level of being tied up as an organisation. And even the people who are part of the organisation are tied up. So in the end we are tied up on different levels. 

Ties with Fossil Industry

Collaborations with conditions

If we collaborate under what conditions will we do that? We were talking about the credible story. If a party has a credible story, can they route with you towards a sustainable future? There are many routes to follow. Can they join us? Can we believe them? 
One guy is looking at the back of the story: What is the intention of these companies? Is it to still make money? Or is it for the better cause?

Collaborations with conditions

How to deal with greenwashing

If you have a research proposal to really save the world and there is somebody handing over a bag of money of fossil fuel funding, and has intentions of making more money: how do you respond to that? And could you come up with a strategy how to deal with these situations? One guy in the picture is happy, the other not so happy and the girl says ‘let’s not do that’.

How to deal with greenwashing


What does transparency look like? There are different layers of transparency: the outer shell is UM, then the faculties and departments and the people have to be transparent as well. We also talked about decarbonise, decolonise and democratise.


Open dialogue

The open dialogue that we had during the kick-off session showed that the urgency really matters to UM. We want to open up the dialogue more and also let more students be present. Our academic integrity is something very valuable  and it’s something we all want to contribute to in a safe place. On the right side, there are people looking at us, seeing us as their example.

open dialogue

Follow up steps

At this moment different faculties are holding dialogue session within their faculty community. 

The School of Business and Economics (SBE) and the Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE) are holding their session on 25th of April. Follow the internal announcements to sign up for these sessions.

These dialogues will be the basis of a shared vision towards a fossil free society. Based on all input from these sessions, the Sustainability Supervisory Board will draft a recommendation to the Executive Board regarding conditions with collaborations with external partners.