Q1 highlights for 2018/19

The Department for Social Responsibility & Sustainability (SRS) delivers and facilitates programmes to catalyse action and collaboration across campus. We launched the new academic year with a focus on supporting staff and students to get involved and take practical action.

SRS Q1 highlights infographic 2018/19


Awards and Be Sustainable

Be Sustainable provides an easy and fun induction to learn about climate change, energy, waste, travel, and other topics, why the issues are important for the University and what actions we can take.  In Q1, 651 staff and students participated and made  2,684 sustainable behaviour pledges. Feedback received on this new platform was overwhelmingly positive.

 What an innovative way to educate students and get people engaged! I loved the action steps. Would definitely recommend this course to others because it is quick, accessible, and informative.

In addition, Be Sustainable Advanced was launched for staff with Learning for Sustainability Scotland. 30 staff signed up for this blended learning course. 

Our office and labs accreditation scheme was in full force with 36 offices and labs signed up for the Sustainability Awards. We fell short of our target of 45 and are reviewing this. However, more and more departments have committed to including SRS in staff inductions.

Sustainability Awards Be Sustainable

Student engagement

We know that sustainability is important for students. Student interest in these issues – such as plastic pollution and ethical supply chains – is rising, as is student involvement. Annual surveys carried out by the National Union of Students (NUS) demonstrates an increased demand for sustainability-related knowledge and skills, both of which are seen to be valuable to future employers.

Last year approximately 350 students volunteered or undertook coursework connected with the department and thousands more connected with us to learn about SRS at the University through our events and communication channels. In the first quarter of this new academic year, we have continued to build on this.

The first quarter saw the launch of our new pathways for students to volunteer and work towards their Edinburgh Award. 59 students joined the Climate Leadership and Sustainable Development Goals co-curricular pathways.

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1737 individuals attended our events programme during the first quarter of 2019-19 academic year, with a focus on Our Changing World and support for the Global Environment and Society Academy (GESA). 

We are looking at how we can support other events in relation to sustainability and during the first quarter hosted an intern who has been carrying out great work reviewing sustainability at the Fringe Festival and making recommendations for next steps.

View our event calendar Sign up to our newsletter and read previous issues

Energy engagement

The Energy Engagement programme and the Sustainable Campus Fund is helping to bring real savings. 158 (staff) Energy Coordinators supported to identify savings in their areas. A summer energy saving campaign reached 9,581 via social media and 237 staff and students pledged to save energy around the University in Q1. Seven new projects were approved for the Sustainable Campus Fund in the quarter bringing this to a total of 59 projects approved estimated to bring annual savings of over £380k and 1350tCO2e. 

Zero by 2040

Resource efficiency and circular economy

The University approved the new Waste Strategy which sets out how we will achieve a vision of becoming a zero waste University by embedding Circular Economy thinking, and putting waste prevention, reuse and recycling at the forefront of our relationship with resources. We joined others in the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment vision of a circular economy for plastic in which it never becomes waste. Warp It, the Waste and Reuse Portal continues to gain momentum avoiding over 6,000 kg of waste in the quarter with cash savings of over £65,000. Over 400 PCs were reused during the quarter both internally and externally with our community partner, the Remakery on Leith Walk. 

The arrival of new students in September was also matched with the arrival of a large supply of KeepCups and the implementation of a 25p charge for disposable cups in cafes. The efforts of the Students’ Association and Accommodation Catering and Events (ACE) resulted in a 40% drop is disposable cup use in September 2018 compared to September 2017.

Circular economy

Supply chains and investments

Fairness and Trade and Sustainable Procurement continues to contribute to ethical supply chains. This included work on ‘Sustain’ a supply chain sustainability monitoring tool developed and administered by the Advanced Procurement for Universities and Colleges (APUC). We updated the Modern Slavery Statement supporting transparency on this critical human rights issue. 24 staff completed the online Modern Slavery training and corresponding student training was launched. Further research on ‘Make ICT Fair’ and our own responsibilities in relation to palm oil was carried out. 

Proactive work on Responsible Investment continued with partnerships such as Big Issue Invest. We also organized a roundtable event with PRI on human rights in supply chains and modern slavery due diligence and shared our approach with others.

Supply chains Responsible investment

Community Engagement

Community Engagement is a key priority. Together with others around the University we supported a range of work. Stories were shared on the Edinburgh Local website and the number of enquiries continues to grow. Over 1,300 people attended Edinburgh Local events. A range of projects continue to develop including Digital Ambassadors with 11 student volunteers working with four community partners in the quarter. A new round of community grants was launched supporting community efforts. Follow up is taking place on the design for well-being student – community projects in Hunter and Nicolson Square. In the coming months, we will be engaging with staff, students and others to update the Community Engagement strategy. Please get in touch to find out more. 

Edinburgh Local

Sustainability Institution of the Year

Last but not least, we were delighted that the efforts of staff and students were recognised when the University of Edinburgh was awarded the ‘Sustainability Institution of the Year’ in the 2018 Green Gown Awards, administered by the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC). Significant progress is being made but we have a lot to do. We look forward to working with all of you. 

Read more about the award


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).