Social Responsibility and Sustainability

Key policy principles

Find out more detail around the main policy principles

Passport and headphones on table
Travellers will be asked to complete a standardised booking process for national and international travel.

The main purpose of the Sustainable Travel Policy is to better manage our carbon emissions and the associated environmental impacts, improve staff and student safety and wellbeing when traveling and reduce overall travel expenditure. In order to achieve this, the policy includes three key principles:

1. Promoting alternatives to travel

The Sustainable Travel Policy aims to reduce the overall number of journeys in favour of alternatives such as virtual collaboration tools (e.g. Zoom or Microsoft Teams). Where journeys cannot be replaced, low-carbon options should be considered in the order outlined below. This  structure is known as the Travel Hierarchy.

List of modes of transport suitable for business travel arranged by least to most carbon intensive
Travel hierarchy for local travel - video conference, cycling, public transport, shared taxi, taxi alone. Travel hierarchy for national travel - video conference, public transport, car share, car alone, air transport (in limited exceptions). Travel hierarchy for international travel - video conferencing, public transport, air transport

To support the travel hierarchy, the Sustainable Travel Policy includes the following principles:

  • Avoidance of air travel for travel within Great Britain, with a limited number of exceptions
  • Where air travel is required, flight class is restricted to economy class, unless for health reasons or disability. First class air travel is not allowed for any reason.
  • Supporting uptake of first class and sleeper rail or coach services where practical

 Exceptions for allowing air travel within Great Britain:

  • For journeys to locations out with mainland Great Britain, including to islands such as Shetland or the Outer Hebrides, as well as to Northern Ireland
  • To connect with an onward flight to a location out with mainland Britain. For example, flying from Edinburgh to London Heathrow to connect to a flight to Dubai
  • For disability or other health-related reasons
  • Where childcare or other caring responsibilities mean that flights are the only viable option to ensure the wellbeing of travellers and those they care for.

2. Standardising the travel booking process

To ensure your safety and wellbeing, the Sustainable Travel Policy states that a specific travel booking process that must be adhered to when booking business travel. An overview of this process is set out below for local, national and international travel. The aim of this process is to bring together a number of existing systems – including authorisation, risk assessments and insurance – and requires booking of all national and international travel to be completed via a single travel supplier.

Local Travel

Arrows showing process for booking local transport.
Process for booking local travel. Ensure travel is necessary, ensure it is safe to travel, undertake travel

National and International Travel

Arrows showing process for booking national and international travel.
Process for booking national and international travel. Establish objectives for trip, ensure travel is neccessary, ensure it is safe to travel, gain approval for travel, book travel via approved supplier, arrange insurance, undertake travel, evaluate travel.. Approval for travel not required for travel within the UK or the specific trip has already been accounted for in the terms of receiving a restricted research grant.

Please note: we are awaiting the completion of a new tender for a single travel management company supplier before announcing further details of this booking process.

3. Sequestering remaining carbon

Where emissions from travel cannot be removed, we have committed to sequestering this carbon in order to reach our Zero by 2040 target. Work is currently underway to establish the most appropriate ways of sequestering our carbon.

In the short term, this means that individual travellers should not offset their emissions through alternative schemes. For further details on this work, please visit:




How will this policy affect me?

Travellers: If you travel on behalf of the University, you will need to have considered whether alternatives for travel are possible to achieve the set outcome. If travel is required, then you must clearly show that the lowest-carbon mode of transport has been selected, in accordance with the Travel Hierarchy set out above, taking into account of relevant exceptions.

Travel bookers: If you book travel for yourself or others, you will be required to follow a new travel booking process. Further details of this process, including information on training and suppoting resources, will be announced once a new travel management supplier has been embedded at the University. 

Host: If you invite guests or visitors to the University, you will be required to ensure that guests and visitors follow the Sustainable Travel Policy. This may mean supporting guests and visitors to understand whether travel must take place, establishing their travel options in accordance with the Sustainable Travel Policy and booking travel on their behalf.

Leadership Teams: You will be asked to support embedding of the Sustainable Travel Policy through ensuring staff attend relevant training and are aware of relevant resources. In addition, Leadership Teams across the University will be provided with regular reports to support compliance with the policy.