Environment and Sustainability

Our commitment to environmental sustainability

As a University we are aware of the environmental impact we have locally, nationally and globally and are committed to making environmental sustainability a key focus of the University across areas including teaching and research, as well as operational and international activities.

In this section, we look at how the University addressed environmental sustainability during the 2019/20 academic year, and how it has set plans in place to build on this important work moving forward.

Solar panels and wind turbine

Making a positive impact

Throughout the year we worked to increase biodiversity at our University sites, took steps to become a hedgehog friendly campus, continued our high levels of recycling and the reduction of our emissions, and received recertification in key areas of environmental sustainability.

Carl Longworth, Director of Estates, said: "Our large and varied estate portfolio means we need to work together to reduce our carbon footprint. Because of this, sustainability is a key area of focus and we work to lessen our impact year on year.

"During 2019/20, we achieved recertification of our ISO 14001 environmental management system; the internationally recognised standard to demonstrate organisation-wide commitment to environmental performance.

"To improve on-site conservation and wildlife habitats, we have increased the number of long grass 'no mow' areas and developed biodiversity action plans for each of our sites. We have also achieved 40% recycling rates with all of our general waste diverted from landfill to produce energy at waste incineration plants."

iconNew biodiversity action plans
iconAll general waste diverted from landfill
iconNew measures to become a hedgehog friendly campus


"The variety of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat, a high level of which is considered to be important and desirable." (Oxford Dictionary)

As an organisation we have implemented a number of measures to help the species in our local area. These include biodiversity action plans for each of our sites to encourage wildlife to thrive, including:

The 'no mow areas' were born out of the coronavirus pandemic, when our grounds team were working at a reduced capacity. After seeing the increased presence of wildlife in these areas, we have taken the decision to turn them into permanent fixture.

Within the next year, we intend to turn them into wildflower meadows, providing species with a protected habitat and increased signage to raise awareness among students, staff and visitors.

Hedgehog friendly campus

We have also taken steps to become a Hedgehog Friendly Campus to help combat the declining numbers of hedgehogs across the country. In the UK, the population of hedgehogs has been on the decline for over a decade, and has fallen by up to 30% and 50% in urban and rural areas respectively (latest State of Britain's Hedgehogs Report).

Hedgehog Friendly Campus is a national scheme involving a team of staff and students, which aims to improve awareness of hedgehogs for university staff and students and increase hedgehog numbers on and around university campuses.

Second-year Zoology student Elanore Crookes, who is involved in the project at the University, said: "As a team, our main aim is to make our campus hedgehog friendly and a place where hedgehogs can thrive. As well as on-campus activities, we have set up seminars and welcome talks to help as much as we could virtually - not letting the current circumstances stop us!

"I've personally loved getting involved with the team, gaining more knowledge on these vulnerable animals while also growing my confidence, as I've learnt how to effectively communicate to others about something I'm passionate about. This is an important skill with the critical environmental issues that need to be discussed in today's climate."

Emissions and waste

As an organisation we have remained committed to reducing our carbon emissions and waste.

During 2019/2020, we reached a long-term goal of reducing our scope one and scope two carbon emissions by 25%, which we set in 2005.

Scope one emissions are direct carbon emissions, for example from the consumption of gas and the combustion of fuel in University owned and controlled vehicles. Whereas scope two emissions are indirect carbon emissions from electricity consumption, such as lighting buildings.

We also matched our 2018/19 levels in terms of recycling, ensuring 40% of our waste was recycled, and we aim to improve this by a further 10% by 2025. In addition, 100% of our general waste was sent to incineration plants to be converted into energy.

Long-term commitment

During 2019/20 we received recertification of our Environmental Management Systems and implemented new aspects of our Responsible Futures Programme, demonstrating our continued commitment to environmental preservation and sustainability.

Environmental Management Systems ISO 14001

In June, we received a recertification of our Environmental Management Systems to ISO 14001, an accreditation that acknowledges the work we are doing and that we understand and manage our environmental objectives and comply with legislation.

This followed work undertaken to implement various procedures across all our sites, which included workshops, and ensuring staff received training on environmental awareness, spill kits and waste management.

Responsible Futures

Over the past year, the University has continued its Students Organising for Sustainability scheme called Responsible Futures. This is something the University signed up to in 2017, with the main aim of the Responsible Futures Steering Group being to raise awareness and provide resources to academics on how sustainability can be incorporated into a variety of subject matters.

Throughout the year, the team, comprising both staff and students, worked hard to promote the Global Goals Teach-In across the University, which calls for education organisations to add sustainable development goals to their teaching, learning and assessments.

The group was also involved in implementing Education for Sustainable Development as a key theme at the 2020 Festival of Learning in July, which became the first keynote of the three-day event.

Chris Ribchester, Chair of the Responsible Futures Group at the University, said: "Engagement with the Responsible Futures initiative is an important indicator of the University's commitment to providing learning experiences which encourage our students to promote a more sustainable future through actions in both their graduate careers and personal lives."