Quarter 4 highlights: measuring what matters

It was a wee bit quieter in the summer months but that does not mean that we were at rest!

Q4 Highlights
Our department highlights for Q4 of 2016.


Over the last quarter, the Department has continued to progress work against 7 priorities: carbon and energy savings; resource efficiency; supply chain SRS; responsible investment; localised advice and projects; community / public engagement and links to learning and teaching. We facilitate and manage programmes to catalyse action across the University and undertake work to support assessment and management of risks and opportunities. Staff and student champions across the University are working to bring about real change and we seek to support those efforts.

We review our outcomes, outputs and inputs on a quarterly basis with monthly internal updates. The University measures performance in relation to carbon; energy; waste and recycling and other material sustainability issues which we report on publicly in our annual SRS Reporting (see 14/15 here). The purpose of this reporting is to be transparent and accountable on how the programmes of work facilitated and managed by our team are performing.

On Energy and Carbon work continued in the 4th quarter to support the update to the University climate strategy. We were lucky to have a fantastic intern join us who made a series of case studies for the ‘Action for the Climate’ campaign.

The Sustainable Campus Fund was approved by Estates Committee at the end of the last quarter. This 2.75M internal investment vehicle will provide financing to parties within the University for implementing energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other sustainability projects that generate cost savings. By August nearly 20 expressions of Interest had been received and 9 projects were put forth for approval with an overall portfolio Return on Investment of 486%. The team has worked hard to develop the business case for this fund and we are now keen to ensure it achieves its objectives.

115 Energy Coordinators, 77% of whom are active, took practical action within their work units to identify savings opportunities. 15 new coordinators joined in 15/16 with 9 of those in the last quarter. This did not reach our target of 30 new coordinators over the 12 months and we will review lessons learned and also optimistic that Campus Fund will draw further engagement.

15 of the 17 locations prioritised with the Energy Office underwent location reviews and energy audits in the last half of the year. Opportunities for savings through controls, lighting, ventilation, behaviour change and equipment were identified. Next steps being discussed with Energy Office and work-plan for 16/17 locations developing.

48 teams are now signed up for the Edinburgh Sustainability Awards. The ‘Be Sustainable Guidance’ was updated in 15/16. Workshops offered had limited uptake of staff. An online module was developed which had a wider reach with 117 students and 58 staff participating. A project with Learning for Sustainability Scotland (LFSS) reviewed opportunities for staff learning and development and is making recommendations for online learning (MOOC for staff and alumni) building on the new SRS student module. A staff ‘small grants’ scheme was piloted in 15/16 with £2700 in grants for small projects such as Roslin Institute apiary; H2O Primary School Project; KB apiary expansion; and low carbon food growing project.

A successful pilot of PC reuse was undertaken with Information Services, Waste and Recycling and Records Management and funding from Zero Waste Scotland. A carbon study with ECCI demonstrated benefits of PC reuse were significant: extending the lifetime of a single computer and monitor from four to six years avoids an estimated 190 kg of CO2e. The six month project resulted in a total of 174 PCs being reused internally, along with 257 other IT items such as monitors, keyboards and mice. This has saved the University an estimated £63,086 and 39,382kg of CO2e, and diverted 2,657kg of waste. Usable equipment which was not reused in the University was donated to the social enterprise Remade in Edinburgh. The Waste and Reuse (Warp-it) portal has brought an estimated cumulative savings of £146,831 with over 600 staff now signed up (increase of close to 100 over the last year).

Recognising reporting requirements in relation to the UK Modern Slavery Act, we have carried out a preliminary risk review and research and are working with other departments on this critical global human rights issue. This links to our work with procurement over the last year to review risks and opportunities across prioritised categories including ICT, Food, lab equipment. Summaries of that research will be available in the coming months. We are keen to work with researchers on this.

We encourage interested students to get in touch. Opportunities include the SRS Student Forum, small grant funding for student projects and opportunities for linking in with practical projects on campus and to audit university SRS practices. Dissertations on SRS were recognised with the recent dissertation prizes for undergrads and we will soon be finalising the Masters level awards. We continue to develop our approach to support Living Labs on campus and work with academics and students in this area.

Working with Accommodation, Catering and Events (ACE), Procurement and others we are soon to launch the Good Food Policy and with others a more systematic approach to food growing on campus.

Through the programmes that we run we seek to catalyse action and collaboration across campus. It is through the efforts and hard work of staff and students around the University that makes change possible. Get in touch. Get involved. We look forward to working with you in 16/17.

Michelle Brown

Head of SRS Programmes

Contact details


  • Michelle joined the University of Edinburgh in 2014 bringing nearly 20 years of international experience. Michelle is responsible for the organisation, planning, management and delivery of SRS programmes to deliver our strategies and commitments on climate change, circular economy, supply chains and community engagement. Prior to joining the department, Michelle was a Director in CSR Asia and worked as a consultant for the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and for the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and has consulted for numerous international companies and development organisations in China, Vietnam, India parts of Africa, the UK and Canada. She has served as a Director for VSO in China and previously taught on courses at the University of Hong Kong and at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT).