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International SymposiumEuropean approaches towards a Sustainable Digitalization

Datum: 6. Mai 2021, 15:00–18:00 Uhr



Einstein Center Digital Future/ TU Berlin, Department for Socio-Ecological Transformation and Sustainable Digitalization; 
Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW); 
Leuphana University Lüneburg, Institute for Sustainable Development and Learning


Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research within the funding program “Junior research groups in Social-ecological research” (SÖF) and the Robert Bosch Foundation

>>Register now for the International Symposium<<

In December 2020, the EU Council has approved conclusions how to shape ‘Digitalization for the benefit of the environment’. In the same month, the European Commission has proposed the ‘Digital Services Act package’, which will now be further developed in a two-year process and may pave the way for a truly ‘European Way’ for governing the digital economy. This Symposium wants to provide a forum for debate amongst civil society organizations, science, and policy-makers how to join forces to address the question: How can digitalization be shaped in a way that nurtures common goods and respects planetary boundaries? 

Existing analyses show that current forms of digitalization increase resource demand and aggravate social inequalities. Therefore, there is an urgent need for concerted action from civl society, science and politics, including strong regulatory frameworks to reap the sustainability benefits of digitalization and to include such demands into ongoing policy processes at national and EU levels. The event is a joint initiative by the Einstein Center Digital Future/ TU Berlin, the Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW) and Leuphana University. The Opening Panel will introduce the issue and the scope of the Symposium and three parallel breakout groups will discuss the European approach for a sustainable digitalization from different perspectives: 

  • With a view to policy-makers, the Symposium will discuss which enablers are needed at a social, organizational, and individual level for a sustainable digital transformation;
  • With a view to the science-policy interface and scientists from all disciplines, the Symposium will bring together researchers from European academia and think tanks on the nexus of digitalization and sustainability and discuss potential cooperation;
  • With a view to representatives from civil society organizations, the Symposium would like to provide a forum to discuss how collaborative action between green and digital advocacy groups as experienced within the German “Bits & Bäume” movement can be internationalized in order to join forces for shaping the ongoing policy processes at the EU level.

The Closing Panel consists of a concluding discussion, with a focus on required initiatives, collaborations and key levers on the way to implement elements of a sustainable digitalization within current political frameworks at the EU-Level.

The main topic of the International Symposium is also discussed in a Special Issue of the journal OekologischesWirtschaften (Ecological Economy). Several articles of the open access issue explore the nexus of digitalization and sustainability.

Opening Panel A European Way for a Sustainable Digitalization – introduction to the topic and the scope of the Symposium


  • Tilman Santarius, TU Berlin
  • Daniel Lang, Leuphana University Lüneburg
  • Friederike Rohde, Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW)
Parallel Workshops

The European approach for a sustainable digitalization from three perspectives

 Workshop I: A three-level approach for a sustainable digital transformation

To promote increased, ongoing cooperation between digitalization and sustainability stakeholders at a social, organizational, and individual level is the goal of the Leuphana University project, “Sustainability and Digitalization - A European Perspective”. Various topics in the broader context of digitalization and sustainability were discussed with selected experts in six online Roundtables. Necessary political and administrative framework conditions were collected across all levels. In this workshop, we would like to briefly present these, discuss them with you and bring them together: What enablers do we need at a social, organizational, and individual level? What do our findings mean for policy frameworks and administrative processes across all levels? What is needed to promote individuals, organizations and society for design of political frameworks and administrative processes for the 21st century? For this purpose, we invite political actors to discuss with us.


  • Eva Maydell, Member of the European Parliament (tbc)

(further speakers are currently being requested)

 Workshop II: Forging a European interdisciplinary science network on digitalization and sustainability

Research on digitalization and its manifold impacts on social justice and environmental integrity has been gaining momentum in recent years and the need for societal and political action is becoming increasingly clear. Yet, there is a lack of knowledge exchange between the various disciplines and epistemic communities, and the development of comprehensive analyses and integrated policy solutions for a sustainable digitalization is deeply needed.

The recently launched European dialogue project “Digitalization for Sustainability - Science in Dialogue” (D4S) aims to systematically connect expert researchers from European academia and think tanks in order to co-create interdisciplinary approaches towards a sustainable global future in the face of the rapid development of digital technologies and applications. At its core, the project will bring together researchers reflecting different disciplines, thematic strains, and national backgrounds in order to synthesize an integrated, comprehensive analysis of prospects, risks, governance options and policy solutions for a sustainable digitalization.

This workshop will 1) introduce the thematic approach of the dialogue, and 2) offer discussions with participants on mutual findings and blind spots on the road towards a deep sustainability transition and 3) reflect on the ongoing policy processes at EU and global level. 


  • Angelika Hilbeck, ETH Zurich
  • Mattias Höjer, KTH Stockholm
  • Éliane Ubalijoro, Sustainability in the Digital Age initiative
  • Tim Unwin, UNESCO Chair in ICT4D
 Workshop III: The ‚Bits & Bäume Movement’ goes Europe

In Germany, the ‘Bits & Bäume Movement’ provides a network in which civil society actors and organizations that either engage in sustainability politics or in tech and digitalization politics can get together, exchange information, learn from each other, and develop joint political demands and strategies. The movement gained momentum at a joint conference in 2018 and significantly shaped public and political debates at the nexus of digitalization and sustainability. Up to now, many actors from civil society and science engaged in various events, workshops, and talks to move the issue forward. Taking into account current developments at the European level, it is key to broaden the scope and deepen the exchange of European sustainability and tech actors. This workshop, therefore, aims at discussing ideas and prospects for collaborative action of civil society and science to call for a European policy for sustainable digitalization. How can civil society increase pressure on the EU and its member states to make digitalization more sustainable? How can an integrated agenda for sustainable digitalization carried by European civil society organizations look like? What could be joint activities?


  • Vivian Frick, Bits & Bäume and Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW)
  • Stephanie Hankey, Tactical Tech
  • Chloé Berthélémy, EDRI (tbc)
  • Gauthier Roussilhe, Designer and researcher, Design Research Center, ENS Saclay
Closing PanelFrom concept to action: How can elements of a sustainable digitalization be implemented?  

A number of proposals for how a sustainable digitalization can be designed are on the table, mostly driven by  actors outside the mainstream. In the closing panel discussion, next concrete initiatives, collaborations and key levers on the way to implementation will be discussed. Furthermore, it is discussed to what extent the Digital Services Act/EU Council Decision in their current forms are suitable as a blueprint for a deep sustainability transition?


  • Eva Maydell, Member of the European Parliament (tbc)
  • Michelle Thorne, Mozilla Foundation
  • David Jensen, UNEP Digital Transformation Task Force (tbc)

"Workshopseries: Sustainability and Digitalization - a European Perspective" 
Digital transformation provides the means to a better future, while sustainability guides us on why we want to achieve it. Neither can be accomplished in isolation. Despite the need for partnership between the two disciplines, there is currently a lack of interaction between leaders and stakeholders in the respective communities. The project, “Sustainability and Digitalization - A European Perspective” supported and promoted discussions between selected experts in the areas of digitalization and sustainability in six roundtables from a social, organizational, and individual learning perspective. These discussions will establish a common understanding and suggest practical ways forward to help sustainability and digitalization work in partnership.
The project aims to stimulate scientific, political, and civil discourse, both within the scope of the project and beyond and to share thinking, findings, and outcomes with the general public to increase awareness and engagement. More information on the project under 
"Digitalization for Sustainability - Science in Dialogue"
The European research network “Digitalization for Sustainability - Science in Dialogue” (D4S) is dedicated to develop a progressive vision for a digitalization that fosters environmental and social sustainability. At the very core of the research network stands a group of 15 renowned experts, consisting of European researchers as well as practitioners representing a variety of institutions and schools of thought. 
The project aims at enhancing the science-policy discourse by (i) delivering a comprehensive analysis of opportunities, risks and governance options regarding digitalization and sustainability; (ii) developing guidelines, design principles, policies, and new institutions to shape digitalization towards deep sustainability transformations; and (iii) outlining an inter- and transdisciplinary research agenda on ‘digitalization for sustainability’. More information on the project under

Research group "Digitalization and Sustainability"
Machines, products, and people are increasingly interconnected through information technology, but what are the consequences?  Will we see a “smart green world”, with technological advances benefitting everyone – including the environment? Alternatively, are we heading towards a digital growth economy where money and power are bundled in the hands of a few,  reaching the planetary boundaries even sooner? These questions are the starting point of the research group "Digitalization and Sustainability". It examines the opportunities and risks of digitalization for a reduction in energy and resource consumption and develops approaches for shaping digitalization politically and socially in a way that ensures its contribution to the necessary changes in society towards sustainability. More information on the project under

We use the digital event platform Zoom for the International Symposium. We recommend using Zoom in browser (Zoom Web-Client) and dialing into the event with the meeting ID and password to limit the transfer of data to third parties. We will send the login data to each registered participant three days before the event. 

Please note that we will record the event (video and sound) for publication and documentation purposes.

Data Protection Notice for the Use of Zoom at Leuphana University Lüneburg

More information about Zoom at the Leuphana University Lüneburg can be found here.