Q3 highlights for 2019/20

The Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability (SRS) facilitates programmes to catalyse action and collaboration across campus for impact.

Our infographic summarises some of the highlights over the year and provides our third-quarter report for the 2019/20 academic year.

19-20 Quarter 3 Social Responsibility and Sustainability highlights

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For a screen-reader friendly, and easier to view version of the infographic, please download the file below.


In late March, along with so many locally and globally, our Unit stopped working from our offices in Edinburgh and pivoted to work from our homes. Over the quarter, most of our services have been able to continue to be delivered remotely. A few projects have had to pause and the way in which we engage with staff, students and the wider community in recent weeks has of course changed to virtual.

Community Engagement

Our team contributed to the community response of the University in relation to Covid-19, responding to community requests for support and helping to develop a strategic approach. Via our PC reuse project, work pivoted to support local high schools. A light touch review of the Community Grants and award process was undertaken. We launched the second call for grants and 13 projects were supported and additional funds (£25k) have been raised for Covid-19 support. Online internal networks were developed for sharing information and supporting more rapid response as well as consultations on a new Community Plan. Before the move to work from home, the Community Access to Rooms project was finalised which has now been put on hold. We are working on next steps for the Digital Ambassadors project to share skills.

Sustainable Travel

This quarter was heavily focused on the launch of the Climate Conscious Travel Consultation to all staff & students. A total of 1,086 responses were received and analysed and findings will be fed into the final proposals from Travel and Aviation Working Group (TAWG) to the University Executive. We have collaborated with others in the sector through the EAUC (Environmental Association of Universities and Colleges) and continue to provide facilitation for a Roundtable on Sustainable Academic Travel.

Energy Engagement & Communications

Working with Estates we undertook a light touch review of the Sustainable Campus Fund for reporting to Estates Committee. Projects supported by this fund are estimated to bring annual savings of over £500k and 1400tCO2e (updated figures). A pipeline of opportunities has been in development although delayed by Covid-19. Lab awards teams and Champions cover 76% of laboratories across the University. A planned energy behaviour change engagement project in the Ashworth lab was delayed due to Covid19 and of course a planned summer ‘shut down’ campaign was not applicable in the current context. With Estates we contributed to a newly formed group to look at the implementation of design standards for low carbon buildings and worked with departments across the University on their zero carbon ambitions. Next steps for staff engagement and communications on zero carbon and zero waste planned.

Resource Efficiency & Circular Economy

Practical projects such as Warp It (Waste and Reuse Portal) were of course impacted to a move to work from home. Despite this, there was an estimated £50k in savings during the quarter had the items reused been bought new. Our hope to reach £1million savings by the summer is getting closer with cumulative savings for the site now sitting at £871k. A significant project for us in this area is the PC Reuse Project with a focus for internal reuse in the University as well as supporting external reuse with community groups. 634 PCs reused (25% internally and 75% externally) in the quarter. A pilot is underway in one part of the University is looking at reducing lab plastic consumption.

Fairness in Trade, Sustainable Procurement and Responsible Investment

Over the last quarter we continued to work progressing several sustainable procurement projects and we are working with others to prioritise next steps. We published our updated Good Food Policy 2020, 2019/20 Implementation Plan and 2018/19 Highlights Infographic. Make ICT Fair continues to be a significant research project for us. A review of our approach to Modern Slavery mitigation is underway. Research conducted on Scope 3 emissions and procurement.

As part of our commitments to the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) we completed annual PRI Reporting involving a significant review of progress made.

Student Engagement

We shifted many student engagement projects to be delivered online. We have had a good level of interest from students on a range of projects. Understandably, many of the planned sustainability audits for Student Residence Sustainability Awards were cancelled and many of the students who had planned to complete their Edinburgh Awards were unable to. Work was completed on developing and testing an approach to map the SDGs and we worked with our Steering Group to develop further ideas and recommendations on integrating sustainability. Due to the cancellation of the Edinburgh Festivals Fringe, the work plan for our Sustainability and Festivals Project has had to change with a focus on a review of previous practices and recommendations for community engagement.

Sustainability Awards and Champions

The Sustainability Awards Ceremony at the end of March was postponed due to Covid-19 and we pivoted to celebrate actions from around the University online through social media channels. For the 19/20 academic year 40 offices and 19 labs were ‘accredited’ for their sustainability actions and plans (CSE: 12; CMVM: 11; CAHSS: 6; and CSG / ISG/ USG /other: 16). Training continued to be developed. 318 staff and 269 students completed the online ‘Be Sustainable’ induction (in year to date) with around 4,302 pledges for sustainable behaviours made to help achieve wider targets. The third cohort of staff completed Be Sustainable Advanced delivered with Learning for Sustainability Scotland and further training in development. Various presentations/workshops for different parts of the University were supported on climate emergency and SDGs.

With the help of a group of staff and students, we finalised the Social & Civic Responsibility Plan for the University’s Strategy 2030. This work included a series of workshops and discussions on how the SDGs could be integrated in our decision making plans. This has helped develop next steps for integration. We finalised the University’s SRS Report and other SDGs reporting. We continue to work with local and international networks on relevant partnerships.

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Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability
The Boilerhouse
High School Yards

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