Strategy and performance

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

A full list of commitments, policies and plans appears at the bottom of this page.

Strategies, plans and policies

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 fulfil the University's social and civic responsibilities:

  1. We will become a net 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.


Climate Strategy Community Plan

Performance and governance

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.


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

Ethical compliance

Oversight on ethical matters across the institution is shared across several University departments covering academic research, learning and teaching, operations and investments.

Priorities for the Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability

1. Transition to a zero-carbon and circular economy university

SRS department priority 1 - wind turbines illustration

2. Empower sustainability leadership and collaboration

SRS department priority 2 - hands holding star illustration

3. Contribute to a sustainable, thriving and inclusive Edinburgh City Region

SRS department priority 3 - Edinburgh skyline illustration

4. Contribute to socially responsible and sustainable supply chains and investments

SRS department priority 4 - hands holding coins illustation

5. Support world-class research, teaching, learning and enterprise

SRS department priority 5 - lab illustration

6. Develop our own people and ensuring best practice systems and policies

SRS department priority 6 - hand holding seedling illustration

University 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
Forest and Peatlands Learning, Teaching and Research Strategy 2023 This strategy will embed the Forests and Peatland Project within the University’s curriculum, research and experiential learning offer.
Biodiversity Plan 2022 We are committed to actively enhancing conditions for and promoting biodiversity on our grounds. We support biodiversity in our local neighbourhoods and region, to improve the health and well-being of staff, students and the wider community.
Anti-Slavery Policy 2021 The purpose of this document is to set out our commitments and responsibilities in relation to modern slavery.
Community Plan 2020

Our Community Plan 2020-2025 sets out 32 practical commitments the University of Edinburgh is making to our local communities. This plan supersedes the Community Engagement Strategy published in 2017. 

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

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, and was last updated in 2020.

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.