SRS Programme Highlights for 1 August - 31 October 2020/21 (quarter one)

In 2015 we started sharing our quarterly update to keep our student, staff and wider community informed about what we were up to, our highlights and lessons learned. As we set out our new SRS Department programme plans it is a tradition we want to continue and, as always, would welcome your thoughts and suggestions on things you would like to hear about.

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 zero carbon, zero waste and a positive social impact near and far. The purpose of this update is to share highlights from the work we are delivering on in the department and not the wider University action and outcomes.

To say that the following few months have been extraordinary seems like an understatement. Our team has continued to work to deliver high quality services, to catalyse action and collaboration.

Social and Civic Responsibility Plan

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 Q1 there were 285 Staff Sustainability Champions across the University and 12 staff completed the pilot Carbon Literacy Training. A new cohort of staff successfully completed the Be Sustainable Advanced course with Learning for Sustainability Scotland. The IT Reuse Project was back up and running after a short pause during lockdown and 99 computers were reused internally and with community partners since August. New carbon and cost savings projects were identified for the Sustainable Campus Fund and building standards were reviewed for integration of climate and sustainability commitments. Work progressed on Climate Conscious Travel and the team provided offset guidance for researchers to align with emerging requirements and standards.

We worked with senior leaders in one of the University groups to support their plans and actions in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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 SDGs.

At the end of Q1 there were 241 Student Sustainability Champions and 16 students had completed the pilot Carbon Literacy Training and 63 students completed the Be Sustainable Online induction. Our events saw a diverse range of students and speakers with 214 in attendance over the quarter. We are working with others across the University on next steps to integrate sustainability further.

It has made me think and has made me confident that I can make small, simple changes that will help and which I can hopefully encourage others to do as well.

Attendee of the Carbon Literacy Training

Sustainable business, fair trade and SRS in supply chains

For SRS in Supply Chains and Investments we aim to help make the University supply chains (and the businesses we buy from and invest in) more sustainable. Over the last few months we have collaborated on lab plastics and sustainability issues in gloves supply chains and provided support for the roll out of a tool to calculate the carbon footprint from catered food. We have continued to work with partners on a ‘Make ICT Fair’ research project addressing human rights in ICT Supply Chains and worked with colleagues across the University on the Modern Slavery Reporting and action plan. Finance efforts were recognised in being awarded an A in the Principles for Responsible Investment assessment.


The Biodiversity Programme supports action to protect and enhance conditions for biodiversity on our campuses aligned with the Climate Adaptation Framework. In recent months you may have noticed the action taking place for a Hedgehog Friendly Campus including surveys and litter picking. The Green Infrastructure Mapping App ‘How Green is your Campus’ is at an exciting phase in development and was nominated, along with Hedgehog Friendly Campus work, as a finalist in the Green Gown Awards. The University is part of the Future Parks Accelerator Partnership, contributing a green space mapping pilot project.

Community engagement

The Community Engagement programme 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. So far in this quarter, £29,871 invested in community projects through community grants scheme and the team and next steps for employee volunteering and digital inclusion are being developed. 224 staff members of the Edinburgh Community Engagement Forum sharing good practice and lessons learned. 

Did you notice that from the wee seed of the community grant back in 2018 our 180 service is still going strong (and more in demand than ever due to these challenging times!)

One of our first community grants recipients