Quarter 1 highlights: investing for impact

Head of SRS Programmes Michelle Brown reflects on the first quarter of academic year 2016/17 with long term University strategies and targets shaping further development of our programmes.

SRS Q1 2016/17 highlights Infographic


The University recently launched its exciting Strategic Vision for achieving a vision to make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to the world. The Climate Strategy was also launched, articulating the University’s long term target of net-zero by 2040.

Part of the mission of our department is to deliver and facilitate programmes to catalyse action and collaboration across campus.  We organize, plan, manage and deliver programmes in line with the publicly expressed ambitions of the University. It is the involvement, engagement and participation of students and staff from around the University that makes change possible.

Through Switch, our Energy Engagement and Communications programme, our goal is for all staff and students to have access to information and tools to reduce their energy impact at the University.  This brings both carbon and cost savings and will contribute towards the University’s goal of an overall reduction in energy spend of 10 percent from business as usual over a 2 year period. Based on a bottom up compilation, opportunities which could save close to £1.1M have been identified by a working group made up of Estates, our department, Accommodation Services and ISG staff for implementation in the next 2 years. This includes a range of projects being developed for the Sustainable Campus Fund as well as well as other activities and initiatives. 

During the first quarter of the academic year, 13 projects were proposed to the Sustainable Campus Fund, 10 of which were approved. 
These had a combined payback period of 2.5 years and a combined Return on Investment of 629% and predicted annual saving of over £100,000.  We recognize this may represent some of the easy wins and low hanging fruit but we are excited to see how the fund is bringing forth ideas, projects and also engagement from people wanting to be part of the solution.

We have had some new staff sign up as Energy Coordinators working to take practical action within their areas of work and help identify Energy Savings.  Our communications team has worked on refreshing the winter shutdown materials and we were delighted with the turnout at the Energy Coordinator workshop.     

One way all staff can help to reduce the carbon footprint of the University is to use a lower carbon alternative when travelling for work. Last year, the Procurement Office negotiated a 20 percent discount on first class trains tickets to London, making train travel and even better option.  Around Edinburgh, train company marketing campaigns have also encouraged train travel.  While looking at our Scope 3 Travel related emissions for carbon reporting, we were delighted to see that from April to July 2016 there was an 8 percent drop in Edinburgh to London flights.

WarpIt, the Waste and Reuse Portal continues to gain momentum avoiding nearly 20,000 kg of waste with cash savings of close to £200,000.  The PC reuse project has resulted in over 400 PCs reused internally and nearly 100 items donated to local social enterprises.   It was great to see local organization Changeworks onsite near the Library with their campaign to encourage staff and students to use a reuseable cup.

SRS supported the University’s development of a Modern Slavery Statement which will include next steps and actions we will take to further transparency in supply chains and respect for and protection of human rights.  Work on supply chain SRS risks and opportunities with summary documents online.  Through our membership in Electronics Watch we are provided with factory and country assessments to help inform actions and next steps.

Last but not least, the Sustainability Awards have been in full swing with 30 offices and 7 laboratories participating this year as well as student residences and societies.  This is a fantastic programme to get involved in and to help make a real difference in your area of work or study.  Applications for the Special Awards have launched and we are inspired by some of the projects that have been put forth. 

We look forward to working with you in the months ahead!

Michelle Brown

Head of SRS Programmes

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  • 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).