Social Responsibility and Sustainability

Commitments and reporting

The University has made a wide range of progressive commitments to improve social responsibility and sustainability in our operations, teaching and research. Find out what they are and how progress is monitored and reported.

A full list of commitments appears at the bottom of this page.

Social and Civic Responsibility Plan

Social and civic responsibility is a key focus for the University as described in Strategy 2030.

Approved in April 2020, the University's Social and Civic Responsibility Plan sets out three objectives and one cross-cutting theme in order to fulfill the University's social and civic responsibilities:

  1. We will become a zero carbon and zero waste university
  2. We will widen participation in higher education and support inclusion
  3. We will work together with local communities
  • Cross-cutting theme: In our operations, research and teaching we will engage critically with, and contribute to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainability (and Social Responsibility) Policy

Approved in April 2020, the Sustainability (and Social Responsibility) Policy sets the University's commitment to sustainability (and social responsibility), the expectations for staff and students around the University, and actions that the whole University community can take to be more sustainable and socially responsible.

Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability Strategy

June 2020: The Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability is currently updating its strategy for 2020 - 2024. More information coming soon.

Annual reports

Stack of Social Responsibility and Sustainability reports
We have published annual reports since 2009/10, detailing our social responsibility and sustainability achievements and progress.

Quarterly reports

19-20 Quarter 3 Social Responsibility and Sustainability highlights
Michelle Brown, Head of SRS Programmes, shares quarterly updates in the form of an infographic and written summary of quarterly highlights.


The University's Social Responsibility and Sustainability committees meet regularly to help deliver our commitments and policies.

Other commitments

University activities are governed by a number of social responsibility and sustainability policies, strategies and frameworks. These are listed by the year they were first published.

Policy Date More information
Anti-Slavery Policy 2021 The purpose of this document is to set out our commitments and responsibilities in relation to modern slavery.
Sustainable IT: Personal Computing Devices 2020

The purpose of this policy is to reduce the number of unnecessary personal computing devices. This will contribute positively to the University’s Zero by 2040 carbon ambition and reduce damage to the environment caused by the mining, manufacturing, transport and energy cost of additional devices; and minimise the disposal impact of old devices that cannot be recycled.

Palm Oil Policy 2019 The University of Edinburgh is working to ensure it buys products that contain certified sustainable palm oil.
Social Enterprise and Social Investment Strategy: Investing for Good 2019

This strategy sets out the University's vision to be recognised as the leading UK university for social enterprise and investments by academic year 2023-24. The University will do this by taking a rigorous approach to investments that deliver an acceptable return, whilst also delivering multiple benefits for society, the economy and the environment.

Adaptation Framework 2019 Our vision: The University will become more climate-resilient, creating a sense of place on campuses and promoting well-being and biodiversity, as an integral part of the wider context of the city of Edinburgh.
Waste Strategy 2018

The Strategy sets out how The University of Edinburgh will achieve its vision to becoming a zero waste University by embedding Circular Economy thinking, and putting waste prevention, reuse and recycling at the forefront of our relationship with resources. 

Cold storage policy and guidance 2018 This paper includes design principles for new ultra cold storage facilities and proposes best practice guidance in cold storage facility management.
Lab ventilation policy and guidance 2018 This paper set outs a standardised design and management principles for lab ventilation management.
Transport and Travel Planning 2017

This Plan sets out how the University of Edinburgh will achieve its vision that by 2021 our students, staff and visitors will be able to access our Estate by the mode of transport best suited to their needs.

Community Engagement Strategy 2017

What community means to us and why it matters.

  • Read more
Modern Slavery statement


(updated annually)

The University is committed to protecting and respecting human rights and have a zero tolerance approach to slavery and human trafficking in all its forms. This statement is made pursuant to Section 54, Part 6 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and sets out the steps the University has taken and will take in relation to slavery and human trafficking.

Climate Strategy 2016 The University of Edinburgh 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.
Conflict Minerals policy 2016 The University of Edinburgh has become the first higher education institution in the UK adopt a formal conflict minerals policy.
Good Food Policy


(updated annually)

Guided by our Good Food Policy, the University takes a whole institution approach to food and its connection to health and sustainability.

Fair Trade Policy 2013

Our  Fair Trade Policy was endorsed by Court in June 2013. 

Biodiversity 2012

We are committed to actively enhancing and promoting biodiversity on our grounds.

Drinking water


(updated 2017)

The University has adopted a more sustainable and economic policy on drinking water and is dispensing with freestanding bottled water coolers and bottled water.

Accommodation, Catering and Events


(updated 2013)

Accommodation, Catering and Events has identified sustainable development that 'meets the needs of current customers and staff without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'.

Responsible Investment policy 2005 (updated 2016)

The University of Edinburgh was the first university in Europe to sign the UN Principles for Responsible Investment. Following a consultation in Spring 2014, a working group is considering a number of changes to our investment policy.

Reuse and recycling of computers and other electronic equipment (WEEE)


(updated 2005)

This document provides guidance on University Policy relating to the reuse & recycling of IT and other electrical and electronic equipment but focuses mainly on IT equipment.

Estates development sustainability strategy 2003 Sustainability is a constant requirement for the University from the inception of a building project.  Key objectives include BREEAM Excellent, Whole Life Costing, the CEC Edinburgh Standards for Sustainable Building Supplementary Planning Guidance with minimum 10% of energy demand provided by on-site renewable energy sources and a minimum 5% reduction in energy consumption.
Energy 2003

The University seeks to maintain its position as an environmentally sustainable institution, and to ensure that the needs of the academic community for a high quality estate are met in the most cost effective manner.