Alumnus Matthew Lawson is Programme Manager in the Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability. We find out how he plays a role in developing the University’s social conscience.
It was while studying for his Master’s degree in International Relations that Matthew discovered his interest in sustainable development and climate change issues. His dissertation research had focused on the role of local authorities in Scotland in delivering the Scottish Government’s Climate Change Act of 2009 and he became increasingly involved in local environmental organisations. It was then that he joined the University’s Transition Edinburgh University (TEU) project.
Edinburgh was the first university to establish a specific group in response to the challenges of climate change and peak oil. It operated at a community level to reduce carbon emissions, and worked with staff and students to find innovative ways to cut their emissions. We produced the Footprints and Handprints report, which revealed the carbon footprint of our community. From that baseline, TEU aimed to reduce carbon emissions by 10 per cent.
Initiatives included the Student Switch Off, encouraging good housekeeping practice to reduce energy consumption, and the Big Green Makeover, a series of energy-saving clinics held across the campus.
After TEU, Matthew had a stint in the Estates department before moving to his current role of Programme Manager in the Department of Social Responsibility and Sustainability.
I am responsible for a diverse range of programmes including sustainability reporting and benchmarking, public outreach and student engagement activities, allowing me to work with a variety of stakeholders.
The department is relatively new – established in 2014 – and was the first of its kind in the university and college sector. Matthew’s work spans multiple areas including learning and teaching, research, operational sustainability, engagement and strategy development, making for a vibrant and exciting workplace with ample opportunities. Matthew is buoyed by the passion of his team, too.
I’ve been very lucky to work alongside some brilliant colleagues who have played such a pivotal role in embedding social responsibility and sustainability into the grain of the University and the sector. Their determination and, in some cases, encyclopaedic knowledge has inspired generations of staff and students.
Matthew is looking forward to taking this work forward and ensuring that the University adopts and implements a new social responsibility and sustainability strategy. He also expects new challenges for himself and his colleagues in the coming year.
We’re a department full of active and determined individuals, and that comes across not only in our work but in how we live our lives. As a team we have reached the summit of Ben Nevis and have completed half marathons, so I am very much looking forward to what 2017 has in store for us. Challenging yourself definitely makes life more interesting!