Q2 highlights for 2018/19

Last week we celebrated the achievements of staff and students around the University who take action on social responsibility and sustainability. We are also celebrating the 5th year anniversary of our Department.

The Sustainability Awards recognise staff and students who make a difference and contribute to the University becoming more socially responsible and sustainable. 38 sections of the University from every campus, group and college are now involved, finding new ways to conserve resources, save energy, streamline scientific and research practices, fundraise for good causes and build links with the local community.

Annual reporting on the University’s Social Responsibility and Sustainability (SRS) commitments is available through the comprehensive reporting portal.

The Good Food Policy Reporting can also be found online.

We report quarterly on our programmes to catalyse action and collaboration on Social Responsibility and Sustainability. This update is for the period of November to end of January.


2019 Q2 Social Responsibility and Sustainability highlights


Energy Engagement and Communications

The University’s Zero by 2040 Climate Strategy sets out our key commitments. Carbon footprint measurement for 17/18 completed in October 2018 showing we are on track to meet 2025 targets.

Contributing to these targets are initiatives such as the Sustainable Campus Fund. This Fund is an internal investment vehicle that provides financing to parties within the University for implementing energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other sustainability projects that generate cost savings. At the start of Q3 (and since August 2016), 64 projects were approved (cumulative with 5 new in the quarter) £1.7M in total now allocated (including around £400k contribution from Scottish Funding Council). Approved projects are estimated to bring annual savings of over £450k and 1500tCO2e.

Learn more about Zero by 2040

Sustainable Travel (Business Travel)

Business travel is both a rising proportion of the University’s costs and now accounts for approx 20% of our emissions (with air travel most significant). We have carried out an in depth review of business travel and carbon with a student intern. We are establishing an international Roundtable of Sustainable Academic Travel, to work with other global institutions to understand the problem and investigate ways to collectively reduce our emissions whilst continuing to benefit from global collaborations. 

Learn more about travel at the University

Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy

Working with Waste and through a network of close to 200 champions across the University, we seek to promote reuse (as well as increasing recycling and reduce contamination of waste streams). Through the Waste and Reuse Portal (Warp It), £590,000 has been saved and approx. 50,000kg of waste avoided at the end of Quarter 2. 

The Keep Cup project continues to result in around 40% reduction in single use coffee cups per month (based on previous year). 

Learn more about the circular economy at the University

Social Responsibility and Sustainability in Supply Chains: Fairness in Trade and Sustainable Procurement

Working in collaboration with Procurement, we seek to ensure that all relevant Social Responsibility and Sustainability considerations are embedded as business as usual in all main procurement categories, informed by up to date research. A prioritised project for this year was to progress SUSTAIN (APUC supplier monitoring tool) which we are reviewing in Q3. We have undertaken a benchmarking against ISO20400 completed. Also in the last quarter a supplier engagement event was held with 31 suppliers. 

Learn more about supply chains at the University

Responsible Investment

As a signatory to the Principles for Responsible Investment, we report annually on how Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) are integrated into our investments and progress on the principles. In the last quarter we undertook our PRI reporting and progressed work on social investments with Big Issue Invest Power Up Scotland, working with Edinburgh Innovations. 

Learn more about responsible investment at the University

Community Engagement

In Q2 a range of community engagement projects continued to progress.

 Being able to share knowledge and support a diverse group of people and see them make progress in short periods of time. It’s been really interesting and eye opening to see the desire and keenness of -predominantly – older people to understand and use technology to enhance their lives. It’s been richly rewarding to be involved.

Student who participated in the Digital Ambassadors project

The Edinburgh Local community grants provided support of £67,520 in small scale grants to local organisations in the quarter. 

Find out more about Edinburgh Local

Social Responsibility and Sustainability links to Student Experience, Learning and Research

2287 individuals attended our events programme during the first half of year (550 in Q2) with a focus on Our Changing World and support for the Global Environment and Society Academy (GESA) with research mixer attracting over 120 students. 

Together with the College of Science and Engineering, we held a Social Responsibility and Sustainability Staff and Student engagement event in January.

Find out what students can do

Learning and Development: Be Sustainable

Since the start of the academic year, over 1000 Staff and Students participated in the new online ‘Be Sustainable’ induction with close to 5,000 sustainable behaviour pledges made.

The new ‘Be Sustainable Advanced’ training for staff was piloted in the last quarter with Learning for Sustainability Scotland (focus on carbon, energy, and waste as well as social sustainability). The evaluation found that there were many positive outcomes with some lessons learned to integrate into further iterations. 

It is estimated that around 70% of departments now including some level of ‘sustainability’ in their inductions. 

Over the last few years, we have looked at how we can quantitatively and qualitatively better understand the outcomes from our programmes – through measuring against indicators and through stakeholder stories and perceptions of change. We have some successes and lessons learned. In 2018, a comprehensive review of the Awards was undertaken with the support of a PhD intern in the Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability and we are keen to look at similar opportunities in the future. 

Find out more about research, learning and teaching

More to do

It’s true that the University is doing a lot to take a leadership role in creating a better planet where people and nature flourish and where human rights are protected and enhanced. But there is always more to do. Whether you are a student or a staff member here at the University we are keen to hear from you. In the upcoming weeks we will be launching a Social Responsibility and Sustainability survey to gather further insights and we hope you will take this opportunity to share your feedback with us. 

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