Quarter 3 highlights

Head of Social Responsibility and Sustainability Programmes, Michelle Brown, reflects on the third quarter of academic year 2016/17, sharing a mixture of milestones reached and the exciting potential of projects that are currently in their early stages.

SRS Q3 Highlights infographic 2017


Working with staff and students across the University, the Department for Social Responsibility & Sustainability continued to progress work against priorities: carbon and energy savings; resource efficiency; supply chain social responsibility and sustainability; responsible investment; community engagement and links to learning and teaching. We review our outcomes, outputs and inputs on a quarterly basis. Our Q3 Highlights Infographic provides a snapshot of where we are across a range of topics.

30 offices, 12 laboratories, 9 student residences and 5 student groups were recognised for their achievements across a range of sustainability topics at the annual awards ceremony in April. 

On Energy, our team has worked closely with Estates colleagues to deliver 10 percent savings. £1.6 million of potential energy savings opportunities have been identified. Through the Sustainable Campus Fund, 20 projects have now been approved, with an average return on investment of over 400 percent. A network of Energy Coordinators are driving practical action across the University in support of the Zero by 2040 Climate Strategy and working in their work units to identify savings opportunities. As of the end of April, there were 144 Energy Coordinators (70 percent active). With the support of Mairi Kemp (intern) over the last few months, we have reviewed the communications and support that is provided to Energy Coordinators in order to further develop this. 

In relation to Sustainable Laboratories, we hosted a meeting with a funding body who were keen to learn more about great practices at the University of Edinburgh. We have had new interest from contacts in Geosciences, Bio Engineering and Chemical Engineering to potentially get involved in the lab awards. Lab audits were conducted at Geosciences (Drummond Street) and Bio Engineering. A ‘Student Scientist Social’ was held on the 16th March with points raised around lab consumables, cold storage, and awareness raising suggestions. Projects for the Sustainable Campus Fund continue to come through from laboratories around the University. With the support of our Sustainable Labs Steering Group, programme development work for the upcoming years has taken place.

On Resource Efficiency and a vision of a Circular Economy, working with Waste colleagues and through a network of over 100 coordinators across the University, we have continued to promote reuse. Through the Waste and Reuse Portal (Warp It), £235,039 has been saved and over 20,000kg of waste avoided. The PC reuse project continues with 460 PCs reused to date. We have helped to raise funds for a Business School research project into expanding PC reuse further and with the University as a test bed for sustainability.

On Sustainable Travel, a pilot Business Travel Communications Project has developed. While the energy and heat used on campus make up the largest proportion of our carbon emissions, the carbon from our business travel is not immaterial and currently accounts for about 10% of our footprint. Business travel is both a rising proportion of the University’s costs and could account for 20% of our emissions by 2025. Air travel is the most polluting way to travel, accounting for 94% of all the University’s travel emissions. As a proudly international University, we recognise the importance of international travel and collaboration. With this sensitivity in mind, our team has been asked to investigate business travel practices in a number of University schools and departments and to develop practical guidance based on feedback. A few departments have put up their hands to help us with this and we look forward to sharing the learning from this in the months ahead.

On Supply Chains, we continue to progress work understanding risks and opportunities in priority categories. A conflict minerals sector briefing was prepared. Fairtrade Fortnight provided an opportunity to engage with staff and students further on key issues and our Visions for Change public event on human rights abuses in supply chains was well attended. A working group at the University has involvement from some of our leading academics on these complex issues. We will be taking part in a pilot scheme to review university approaches to fair trade.

A highlight of the quarter was welcoming students from Porto and Kuanas to join students at the University of Edinburgh as part of the Erasmus funded project ‘European Students for Sustainability Auditing’ or ESSAVisiting Student Auditors provided useful recommendations on certain aspects of the University’s social responsibility performance. Short videos have been published on the ESSA Project Facebook Page. One of the students noted that this was ‘one of the best experiences of my life’.

We have been delighted to welcome in Dr Sarah Anderson as our new Community Engagement Programme Manager. More news to come shortly!

The Department continues to share its own learning about our work and about the University as a Living Laboratory for social responsibility and sustainability. Zero by 2040 and the ESSA Project were both shortlisted by the International Sustainable Campus Network Excellence Awards.

Our social responsibility and sustainability staff and student surveys have been circulated. Please make sure to complete this.

We look forward to working with you in the months ahead. Get in touch and find out more! 


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).