Social Responsibility and Sustainability

Living Lab projects database

This database allows you to view and search for new Living Lab project ideas, and information on past projects, related to different social responsibility and sustainability themes.

If you're a researcher looking for inspiration for a new research project, have a look at the 'proposed projects'. Email addresses for lead contacts can be found under each project.

The summaries of findings and recommendations from past projects may be useful for defining new projects that build on previous ones. If you're University staff and you have an idea for a new research project to help make the University more socially responsible and sustainable, get in touch with us.

The University has committed to become zero carbon by 2040. The University's Climate Strategy 2016 lays out a comprehensive whole institution approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation in order to achieve its ambitious targets. To meet these new obligations, we will take action on research, learning and teaching, operations, responsible investment, and will investigate renewables opportunities. A key part of developing future implementation plans for the Climate Strategy will be to consider opportunities to engage students through a range of academic and extra-curricular opportunities.

Lead contact Matt Lawson
Subject areas Climate change

The University is undertaking a review of its current Social Responsibility and Sustainability Strategy (SRS) 2010-20 with the intention to publish a new strategy in Spring 2018. As part of the review it is important to undertake a materiality review to ensure the strategy reflects the key environmental, economic, social and governance issues that are considered to be the most critical to the University.

Lead contact Matt Lawson
Subject areas General SRS approach, Strategy and reporting

The University's responsible investment policy has committed to not investing in tobacco, controversial armaments, coal and tar sands, and work is ongoing regarding investment in renewables and social finance. This project examines how students could form a club to gain hands on experience of different aproaches responsible investment, supported by the University's SRS and Finance Departments, and the Business School.

Lead contact Liz Cooper
Project dates April 2017
Project brief SRI club project brief.pdf
Subject areas Communications and Engagement, Responsible investment
Academic research

Make ICT Fair

The Department for SRS and School of Social and Political Science have collaborated with ten civil society organisations across Europe to secure multi-million euro funding for a project to research and raise awareness on workers' rights issues in global Information and Communication Technology supply chains, including a focus on procurement professionals and policy makers. A three-year research element of the project will be run from the University between October 2017 and October 2020. This builds on our existing affiliation to Electronics Watch, one of the project partners.

Lead contact Liz Cooper
Project dates August 2017 - October 2020
Subject areas Supply chains

In 2015 the United Nations adopted a set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda.This project aims to research and identify the opportunities for the University of Edinburgh to contribute towards the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. This would inform the University’s Social Responsibility and Sustainability Strategy Review Project.

Lead contact Matt Lawson
Subject areas General SRS approach, Education for Sustainable Development, Strategy and reporting

There are numerous devastating effects of deforestation for the environment, biodiversity and communities worldwide. There has been an increase of focus in recent years on how to tackle deforestation in supply chains and investment portfolios, with numerous initiatives, events and guidance in existence. This project is designed to help the University better understand the risks and in particular the initiatives related to combating deforestation.

Lead contact Liz Cooper
Project dates March 2017
Project brief Deforestation project brief.pdf
Subject areas Supply chains, Responsible investment

There are many challenges related to SRS in the travel industry, such as carbon emissions, use of single-use items for on-board catering, and potential for disputes around working conditions. Given that many thousands of trips by train, plane or other public transport are taken by University staff in the UK and globally each year, this project aims to better understand the risks and what good practice looks like.

Lead contact Liz Cooper
Project dates March 2017
Project brief SRS in travel industry project brief.pdf
Subject areas Supply chains, Sustainable travel, Climate change

The University published its Conflict Minerals Policy in 2016, making commitments to embed consideration of the issue in procurement practices, and encourage research and teaching. The most commonly known cases are concerning tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold in the Democratic Republic of Congo but less is known about other instances. This project aims to uncover cases of other minerals and resources linked to conflict, and best practice to tackle the issue.

Lead contact Liz Cooper
Project dates March 2017
Project brief Conflict minerals beyond 3TG project brief .pdf
Subject areas Supply chains

The University is committed to increasing the number of courses that teach SRS related topics, and continuing to increase the number of research outputs on SRS topics, but it is difficult to keep track of what relevant teaching and research is taking place. This project aims to propose new ways of tracking SRS in courses and SRS-related research outputs.

Lead contact Liz Cooper
Project dates March 2017
Project brief Tracking srs research and teaching project brief.pdf
Subject areas General SRS approach, Education for Sustainable Development

This project aims to investigate different/innovative sustainable solutions to packaging, which the University could then draw on when engaging with suppliers about their sustainability efforts.

Lead contact Liz Cooper
Project dates May 2017
Project brief Bioplastics and packaging Living Lab project brief.pdf
Subject areas Food, Supply chains, Resource efficiency and circular economy

Many University staff travel on business, for example for research trips, or to attend conferences, and so use services such as hotels. This project aims to identify SRS risks and best practices in the hospitality industry, which could inform discussions with suppliers and with staff who book travel.

Lead contact Liz Cooper
Project dates March 2017
Project brief SRS in hospitality industry project brief.pdf
Subject areas Supply chains, Sustainable travel

Most campaigns and corporate social responsibility efforts on conflict minerals currently focus on IT equipment. The University buys a wide range of goods, so we would like to gain more insights into what other products are at risk of containing conflict minerals, and what efforts exist to combat this risk.

Lead contact Liz Cooper
Project dates March 2017
Project brief Conflict minerals beyond IT project brief.pdf
Subject areas Supply chains

This project aims to identify and assess initiatives that are working towards ensuring a Living Wage in different parts of the world, and their successes and challenges to date, which could help inform the University's engagement with its suppliers.

Lead contact Liz Cooper
Project dates March 2017
Project brief Living wage global project brief.pdf
Subject areas Supply chains

This project aims to identify initiatives taking place to develop more socially responsible and sustainable computing equipment, and make recommendations regarding how the University could contribute to such developments.

Lead contact Liz Cooper
Project dates March 2017
Project brief Fair PC project brief.pdf
Subject areas Supply chains, Resource efficiency and circular economy

This project aims to identify how the University could encourage the local community to make use of University spaces and University public events/activities.

Lead contact Sarah Anderson
Project dates March 2017
Project brief Community use of university spaces project brief.pdf
Subject areas Community

This project proposes assessing publicly available CSR reports and other web sources from companies that supply goods to the University, and identifying where there is good practice regarding conflict minerals, and where future effort should be focused.

Lead contact Liz Cooper
Project dates July 2017
Project brief University supplier conflict minerals approaches project brief.pdf
Subject areas Supply chains

Single-use plasticware in labs contributes in an obvious way to our waste production, but also consumes energy for sterilisation prior to disposal. It is thought that under the right circumstances (number of uses, etc) re-usable glassware which is cleaned/sterilised between uses could have a lower overall impact.

Lead contact Andrew Arnott
Project brief Living Lab project brief for website Glass Plastic Lab.docx
Subject areas Sustainable labs, Resource efficiency and circular economy

In summer 2016, Laurie King completed his dissertation in collaboration with the SRS Department on palm oil in supply chains and the different sustainability options available today, making recommendations for University policy and practice.

Lead contact Alexis Heeren
Subject areas Food, Supply chains

In early 2016, Pierre Badiuzzaman undertook a placement in SRS in collaboration with EUSA to look at interest in and opportunities for developing work on social finance and social enteprise at the University.

Lead contact Liz Cooper
Subject areas Community, Responsible investment

With the development of the new strategy, the University requested MSc Carbon Finance students to undertake the development of Marginal Abatement Cost Curves (MACC) to review carbon reduction best practice in the University. The overarching aim of the project was to make evidence-based recommendations for improving carbon management within the University. Consequently, they found that amongst these three categories, the university should mainly focus on energy abatement projects, which are most cost efficient as well as having the largest CO2 savings.

Lead contact Matt Lawson
Subject areas Climate change

In the midst of globalisation, internationalisation and growth, an increase in domestic and international business travel is being seen at the University. Through implementing sustainable business travel initiatives, the University can balance its growth and reduce its carbon reductions. Initiatives include discounted rail travel, improving video conference facilities and develop an internal offset scheme.

Lead contact Matt Lawson
Subject areas Sustainable travel

Although the University provides a wide range of pathways in which students can engage with issues of sustainability at the university in general, there is a lack of opportunities in the theme of energy. One possible solution recommended through the study was to create the role of Eco-Leaders where students would be hired to help promote energy saving behaviour in their residence.

Lead contact Matt Lawson
Subject areas Communications and Engagement, Energy

The University currently has a limited range of measures in place to intercept avoidable food waste, particularly with food brought onto campus.The study recommended that the University implements two effective and simple food sharing schemes as a means to reduce food waste in the University community:The Hearty Squirrel Drop Off and Food Sharing in Self-Catered Student Accommodation.

Lead contact Matt Lawson
Subject areas Food, Resource efficiency and circular economy

This dissertation critically considered how sustainability was implemented in higher education institutions, addressing recurring barriers, and analysing the themes of sustainability, social responsibility, systems, and participation. The dissertation fundings supported the proposal to having a core department focusing on these issues, working in both the academic and operational fields.

Lead contact Matt Lawson
Subject areas General SRS approach, Strategy and reporting

The dissertation analysed biodiversity policy objectives and implementation at the University. It argued that legislation acts as a primary driver for biodiversity policy objectives while other forms of both hard and soft governance drive implementation, including BREEAM design guidance.

Lead contact Matt Lawson
Subject areas Biodiversity

The University disposes of 3,500 to 4,000 computers every year. Since disposal and recycling processes cause greenhouse gas emissions, this is an equivalent of 700 to 800 tonnes of carbon emissions. To increase reuse the study recommended to utilise the reuse portal WARPit, appoint someone responsible for reuse in each department and collaborate with charities.

Lead contact Matt Lawson
Subject areas Resource efficiency and circular economy

The University currently sources all of its bananas fair trade from Panama for its accommodations, catering, cafes, and events. While a commendable action, sourcing from one country is a clear threat to the University's banana supply security, especially as external environmental factors emerge threatening global banana production. The study recommended that the University should procure its bananas from more than one country in the long-term, fixed price contracts. Sourcing from multiple countries and thus multiple producers would spread the benefits of fair trade to more people.

Lead contact Matt Lawson
Subject areas Food, Supply chains

In summer 2015, MS student Patrycja Graczyk undertook research into how the University could further develop its Living Lab approach.

Lead contact Liz Cooper
Project dates May 2015 - July 2015
Project report SRS LL at UoE FINAL REPORT 6th July 2015.pdf
Subject areas General SRS approach, Education for Sustainable Development

The SRS Academic Network provides an opportunity for researchers (from PhD to professor level) at Edinburgh working on or interested in SRS issues to link up, and for the SRS Department to share relevant initiatives with academics. There has been low involvement in the network among PhD students. This project aims to find out why, and recommends ways to increase engagement with PhD students around SRS related research and teaching.

Lead contact Liz Cooper
Project dates March 2016 - May 2016
Project report Investigating_PhD_participation_in_the_SRS_Academic_Network.pdf
Subject areas General SRS approach, Communications and Engagement
Academic research

Circular economy at UoE

Researchers and practitioners at the University of Edinburgh worked together to identify how principles of the Circular Economy can be embedded in Research, Learning & Teaching, and Operations at the University of Edinburgh. SRS, with support from Zero Waste Scotland, facilitated a project between January and April 2015. The Sustainable Business Initiative (SBI) in the Business School was recruited to carry out the main piece of research, and smaller teams from the Schools of Geosciences and Chemistry also looked at practices within their own areas.

Lead contact Liz Cooper
Project dates January 2015 - May 2015
Project report ZWS UoE Circular Economy Report - FINAL May 2015.pdf
Subject areas Education for Sustainable Development, Resource efficiency and circular economy

A group of students from the Case Studies in Sustainable Development course examine the new Cocoa Life scheme from Cadbury's which is endorsed by Fairtrade International, in terms of the effects of such shifts for the fair trade movement and its impacts, and potential considerations for University policy. One of the students' final briefings is attached.

Lead contact Liz Cooper
Project dates March 2017 - May 2017
Project report FTMark_Robinson-B093920_Persuasive-Brief.pdf
Subject areas Food, Supply chains

Two students from the MSc Science Communication undertook a work placement as part of their course in the SRS Department, looking at how to engage more students and staff in the University's approach to conflict minerals - both in terms of general awareness raising, and behaviour change around purchasing.

Lead contact Liz Cooper
Project dates October 2016 - December 2016
Project report Conflict minerals engagement project summarydocx.pdf
Subject areas Supply chains

Two MSc students from the Business School and Geosciences worked with SRS and one of the University's food suppliers, Just Trading Scotland, to investigate the supply chain for fair trade lentils, used in University catering outlets. During fieldwork in Malawi, they carried out value chain analysis and assessed livelihood benefits of the fair trade approach for farmers.

Lead contact Liz Cooper
Project dates May 2015 - August 2015
Project report Malawi pigeon peas Findings and Recommendations summary.pdf
Subject areas Food, Supply chains

In summer 2015, Eilidh Morrison completed her dissertation through a work-based placement in SRS on University garment supply chains, looking at challenges and opportunities regarding how to ensure good working conditions in manufacturing.

Lead contact Liz Cooper
Project dates May 2015 - August 2015
Project report Garment supply chains dissertation 2015 summary.pdf
Subject areas Supply chains

Claudine Dalinghaus undertook a graduate placement in the SRS Department in early 2017 to look at risks of modern slavery in the food and construction sectors, and what steps University suppliers in those sectors had reported to have taken.

Lead contact Liz Cooper
Project dates February 2017 - April 2017
Project report Modern slavery approaches among University suppliers project summary.pdf
Subject areas Supply chains

Nudging Behaviour Change into Action: Can Nudge Theory Alter People’s Disposal Behaviour at the University of Edinburgh?

Lead contact Alan Peddie
Project dates August 2015
Project report Living Lab project summary Nudging Behaviour Change into Action Can Nudge Theory Alter People’s Disposal Behaviour at the University of Edinburgh.docx
Subject areas Resource efficiency and circular economy

SRS worked with the Horsfall lab (School of Biological Sciences) in Roger Land Building to monitor the energy consumption of the lab equipment before, during and after an energy awareness engagement campaign.

Lead contact Andrew Arnott
Project dates July 2016 - August 2017
Project report Horsfall labs monitoring report.docx
Subject areas Communications and Engagement, Sustainable labs, Energy

Researching business risk and communicating adaptation to feed into the University's adaptation strategy content and provide evidence for the approaches taken. Two students are devoting a day of desk-based research to this strategy development.

Lead contact Elizabeth Vander Meer
Project dates August 2017 - September 2017
Project report Living Lab project summary_climate_change_adaptation.docx
Subject areas Climate change

This project examines how public procurement can encourage new developments in the circular economy - reviewing innovative procurement mechanisms, examples of procuring for circular economy, and recommending next steps for the University of Edinburgh.

Lead contact Liz Cooper
Project dates May 2017 - August 2017
Project report Circular economy procurement Living Lab project summary.docx
Subject areas Supply chains, Resource efficiency and circular economy

Students on the Case Studies in Sustainable Development masters course have assessed different approaches to sustainable palm oil in depth, building on a dissertation on the same topic in the previous year.

Lead contact Alexis Heeren
Project dates March 2017 - May 2017
Subject areas Food, Supply chains