Quarter 2 highlights: measuring what matters

Head of SRS Programmes Michelle Brown reflects on Quarter 2 of academic year 2015/16: a busy time for the department with progress in areas such as the Climate strategy and responsible investment.

SRS 2015-16 Q2 infographic


The University is developing a Climate Strategy to update the current Climate Action Plan.  Our team has been working to support this.  With funding support from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) a high level carbon prediction tool has been developed, a review of good practice across higher education institutions carried out and business cases to support renewables developed.  Carbon reporting continues to develop and further work was carried out to develop the scope and boundaries. 

The 2014/15 SRS Report is now available online and a short summary document available from the department.  This is a great resource if you are interested in progress across a range of topics linked to SRS.  We seek to ensure our department programmes connect directly with the University’s goals, objectives and targets – but the achievements involve many departments. 

Practically speaking, we are working with staff around the University to achieve a 10 percent reduction in utilities from business as usual over 2015-17. In the lead up to the December break shut-down there was a workshop with energy coordinators and materials were developed to support engagement.  The engagement team have been working closely with the energy office to get the ground work in place for energy audits planned in 17 locations.  There are great opportunities around the University and through the Labs specific programme over £3M of potential savings have been identified.  We have also been meeting with senior management in specific schools to better understand opportunities and barriers for energy savings.

The labs work won the EAUC Green Gown Award and has now been shortlisted for a Guardian University Awards.  Congratulations to all involved. 

Do you have a vision of a circular economy?   The University continues to make great strides in resource efficiency whether through operational choices or within learning, teaching and research.  With support from Zero Waste Scotland we are in the midst of a PC reuse project and have warmly welcomed a new intern to our team who is supporting this.  The waste and reuse portal (Warp-it) continues to support reuse with an estimated financial savings of £64,000 since its start up on campus.  We hope to see many of our readers in Edinburgh at the ‘Reuse Hoose’ on 15 March.

We are in the midst of Fair Trade Fortnight and enthused by the great activities happening around the campus and the city.  We had 4 very talented speakers join us for a panel discussion on modern slavery and complicity and have been working to develop our conflict minerals engagement in line with the new policy.  As a founding member of Electronics Watch we recognise that addressing complex human rights issues within our supply chains requires cross-institutional and cross-sectoral partnerships, and keen to continue to support the development of work in this area. 

Over recent months we have been delighted to have an intern working with us on a project linked to social enterprise and social finance. 

Achieving change requires concerted effort by staff and students around the University.  We want to support and recognise this effort through the Edinburgh Sustainability Awards.   The updated toolkits and resources were launched at the start of February. At this year’s ceremony in April we will be celebrating the achievements and innovations of staff and students across the University.  In collaboration with different academic Schools, The Be Sustainable toolkit and training is also a great place to start and Dissertation Prizes highlight and recognise student research in this area.  

We are keen to hear from staff or students who are interested in the evaluation of social responsibility and sustainability programmes.  As Einstein once said “not everything that matters can be measured and not everything that can be measured matters” so we are trying to find a balance between qualitative story-telling and measurable key performance indicators. 

Michelle Brown

Head of SRS Programmes

Contact details


  • 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).