SRS Programme Highlights for 1 November - 31 January 2020/21 (quarter two)

The Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability provides high quality support and advice and facilitates programmes to catalyse action and collaboration.

SRS Programmes Q2 Highlights 2020/21
Michelle Brown Social Responsibility and Sustainability
Michelle Brown, Deputy Director Social Responsibility & Sustainability (SRS) and Head of SRS Programmes, writes our quarterly updates

Social and civic responsibility

Our shared vision across our programme areas is that sustainability and social responsibility is fully integrated and embedded across the organisation. This supports the delivery of the University’s Social and Civic Responsibility Plan including our commitments to net zero carbon, zero waste and a positive social impact near and far.

The purpose of this update is to share quarterly highlights from our Department programmes. For an in-depth update on our whole University performance in relation to our commitments, see the recently published annual Sustainability, Social and Civic Responsibility Report.

Social and Civic Responsibility Plan

Sustainability, Social and Civic Responsibility Report.

Sustainability leadership and innovation

The Sustainability Leadership and Innovation Programme aims to support staff contributions to zero carbon and zero waste goals through impactful engagement projects. At the end of Q2 there were 290 Staff Sustainability Champions across the University. 65 staff completed the pilot Carbon Literacy Training, 41 completed Be Sustainable Online and 24 completed the in depth Be Sustainable Advanced with Learning for Sustainability Scotland.

The IT Reuse Project pivoted to support community reuse with Midlothian Council and Edinburgh Remakery to donate computers and laptops to local schools and community groups to help families and support home schooling during Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. The Waste and Reuse Portal (Warp It) helped avoid over 1,300kg waste and saved over £20k.

The team also delivers the laboratory and office ‘Sustainability Awards’ framework. No teams have been able to complete their Awards process in recent months due to difficulties and distraction caused by Covid-19 lockdown. We launched a Work from Home toolkit with some interest from the community. Work continued to progress on Climate Conscious Travel and a new Travel Policy was written with Finance which is being presented to University Executive in March. Two projects for the Sustainable Campus Fund were finalised for approval estimated to bring annual savings of £55k and 177tCO2e. 

The University joins forces with local organisations to expand IT distribution efforts

Join Warp It

Working from Home Awards

Sustainable Campus Fund

A great course – really interesting, well-structured and well-paced. Thanks to you all!

Attendee of the Carbon Literacy Training

Student leadership for sustainability

The Student Leadership for Sustainability programme is supporting efforts to ensure students have opportunities to develop knowledge, skills and actions to address the climate crisis and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Through a short term secondment the team supported the Students as Change Agents Programme, improving its coaching resources and strengthening its links to the climate crisis and the. A new process was rolled out to identify and support projects for the Case Studies in Sustainable Development Course.

The Student’s Guide events on ethical eats and greenwashing in the fashion industry were popular, and the theme of inclusion continued to be addressed in our Visions for Change series. Ten student-led projects have been shortlisted to receive support through the Student Project Grant. At the end of Q2 there were 249 Student Sustainability Champions and 47 students had completed the pilot Carbon Literacy Training and 63 students completed the Be Sustainable Online induction. 

Students as Change Agents Programme

View past events on Eventbrite

Sustainable business, fair trade and SRS in supply chains

Through our Sustainable Business, Fair Trade and SRS in Supply Chains work we aim to help make the University supply chains (and the businesses we buy from and invest in) more sustainable including embedding our climate commitments and addressing indirect emissions from purchasing. Some projects paused in Q2 due to staffing changes. We have been reviewing our commitments and actions in relation to the Principles for Responsible Investment as part of our annual reporting to the PRI and looking at next steps. A highlight in the quarter was the finalisation of the Make ICT Fair findings as part of our collaborative project with partners.

Human rights risks in the ICT supply chain - Make ICT Fair

Through working with others including businesses that we purchase from and invest in we can have a much wider impact on sustainability near and far.

University staff member


The Biodiversity Programme supports action to protect and enhance conditions for biodiversity on our campuses aligned with the Climate Adaptation Framework. Key projects are on target, with a silver award for Hedgehog Friendly Campuses and Green Campus Tours launched as well as final analysis of GI mapping in parks. Living lab projects have just begun for Semester 2 in the biodiversity space. Community partnership working continues with development of green space project proposals for funding. We also became a signatory to RISE UP to protect our oceans.

Creating a Hedgehog Friendly Campus

Community engagement

The Community Engagement team is working to deliver impactful projects and engagement with local communities and working on the development and roll out of the recently launched Community Plan. £9,779 was invested in community projects through Community Grants scheme in the quarter and a networking session brought partners together. Next steps to support employee volunteering and digital inclusion developed and a project with the Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security and with support from the DDI kicked off. 243 members of the Edinburgh Community Engagement Forum continued to share good practice and lessons learned.

Community grants

Celebrating efforts

It is through the efforts and innovation of students and staff around the University that makes change for our sustainability and community priorities possible. On 1 April we will celebrate these efforts at the Annual Sustainability Awards celebration. Please join us to celebrate and recognise the efforts of staff and students who have made a positive difference in the university community, in their local communities or globally in a socially responsible or sustainable way.

Sign up for the Sustainability Awards Celebration - Eventbrite