The story behind the Gunnerus Award

Inspired by Gro Harlem Brundtland

The term “sustainable development” is forever linked to the name of Gro Harlem Brundtland worldwide. It places a special responsibility on Norway to be a driving force in the environmental field. The challenge is to find new scientific insights and to take the necessary political steps to steer the development in an environmentally sustainable direction, both locally and internationally.

Since 1984, Norway has had a special place in the world’s environmental awareness thanks to Gro Harlem Brundtland’s role as head of the UN World Commission on Environment and Development. Their mandate was to submit proposals for long-term strategies for environmentally-friendly development and cooperation between various industrial communities, and between developed countries and developing countries, taking into account man-made environmental impacts. The report “Our Common Future” was presented in 1987. In addition to the reports of the UN Climate Panel, the work of the Brundtland Commission can be characterized as the most important document created in the global struggle for a safe environment.

The world’s first environmental protection minister

Norway has in many ways been a pioneer in taking environmental challenges seriously. As early as in 1972, professor Olav Gjærevoll was appointed as Norway’s – and the world’s – first environmental minister. But long before this, ecology became an important topic in Norwegian political debate. At the same time as the environment was put on the political agenda, Norway became a major polluter, due to its oil-producing activities. This imposed special responsibility on Norway. Environmental awareness has further intensified, and strengthened research on sustainable development. Today, environmental responsibility and environmental challenges are high on the agenda of Norwegian companies, and companies integrate sustainable energy solutions into their strategy.

Environmental tradition in Trondheim

Trondheim has a strong tradition in nature conservation, originally associated with nature and nature management studies in the city. These traditions are closely related to the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters (DKNVS), founded in 1760, and to the NTNU University Museum, which the Society originally founded. The Museum later became one of the cornerstones of the establishment of a university in Trondheim, now the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

In 1965, the Directorate for Nature Management (DVF) was created and placed in Trondheim. Nature conservation management research at the NTNU University Museum eventually led to the establishment of the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) in 1989. The Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre merged with the NTNU University Museum in 2003. Conservation and nature management based on science has a very strong tradition of origin and anchoring in the DKNVS and the NTNU University Museum.

The Gunnerus Award symbol is based on a meadow buttercup from 1767 in Johan Ernst Gunnerus’ herbarium.

Gunnerus Award in brief

The Gunnerus Award in Sustainability Science was established by the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters (DKNVS) and awarded for the first time in 2012. From 2016, DKNVS and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) have collaborated on the Gunnerus Award, which was awarded for the second time in 2017. The Gunnerus Award will be awarded every second year, next time in June 2019.

The award honours outstanding scientific work for sustainable development globally, and aims to promote research and strengthen the scientific basis of sustainability.

The prize consists of 1 million NOK, a gold medal plus a diploma.