Environment and Sustainability

Our commitment to environmental sustainability

Implementing measures to reduce the University’s carbon footprint and our wider commitment to environmental sustainability is something we take very seriously. The goal of achieving Net Zero Carbon is an important area of our academic research and informs what support we provide to businesses in the region that are working towards this goal.

Here, we look at how the University addressed environmental sustainability during the 2020/21 academic year, and the plans we have in place to build on this important work moving forward.

Kedleston Road site - view of main entrance and trees

On the road to net zero

The University continues to perform well through audits by the British Standards Institute assuring our compliance with requirements of ISO14001 environmental management standards. Furthermore, we continue to make progress in reducing our utility (gas and electric) carbon emissions. 

The University has reduced its carbon footprint by 25% since 2005, and we are currently developing a 'Roadmap to Net Zero Carbon'. Work to reduce our carbon emissions to date has included upgrades to LED lighting, installation of a combined heat and power system and installation of solar panels on six of our buildings.

Feasibility studies are currently underway for more renewable energy and low carbon projects. We have developed a sustainable travel plan for our students and staff, aimed at reducing harmful emissions by implementing and promoting more sustainable travel and transport initiatives.

We also continue to increase the biodiversity of our sites by maintaining 'no-mow' and wildflower areas and our Hedgehog Friendly Campus status.

iconNew business school building proposed to be net zero carbon in construction and operation
icon£13m plan to create the highly advanced workforce for Industry 4.0.
iconStudent Engagement, Research with Impact, Research with Impact – StudentGreen Gown Award winners 2020 and 2021.

Making pledges with impact

The UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Global Network of Learning Cities is an international policy-oriented network providing inspiration, know-how and best practice. The University has committed to collaborative work across the city to establish a UNESCO Learning City that will have education for environmental sustainability at its heart.

Through Derby Business School, the University is a signatory of the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), an organisation linking the UN with the management of education institutions. PRME provides a global network for academic institutions to advance corporate sustainability and social responsibility, and an engagement framework for the incorporation of universal values into curricula and research. 

In support of both these projects, the Education for Sustainable Development Group has been established at the University, which is exploring the embedding of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDGs) and PRME into the curriculum to assure that graduates of the future have the awareness of their environmental responsibilities and those of the sector in which they will work in the future. 

These priorities align to the National Union of Students' Responsible Futures work that aims to ensure all students have experiences and education that considers environmental sustainability and climate change. 

The University continues to make pledges to support sustainability as part of its pathway to Zero carbon.

Professor Chris Bussell, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the College of Science and Engineering, became the inaugural Chair of the Derby Climate Change Commission this year. The Commission aims to work across Derby to reduce the city’s carbon emissions, enhance the city’s green infrastructure and plot a pathway to net-zero by 2035. 

Earlier this year the University announced its vision to build a new, iconic business school in the centre of the city. The landmark building is proposed to be net zero carbon in construction and operation, aligning to the University’s sustainability strategies and its low carbon expertise and research agenda.

In addition, the University has committed to both the Buxton and Chesterfield zero-plastic strategies.

UK’s green and digital revolution

The University of Derby, Loughborough College, Loughborough University and the Derby College Group (DCG) are working together on a £13m plan to create the highly advanced workforce needed to lead the digital revolution – otherwise known as Industry 4.0.

The East Midlands Institute of Technology (IoT) would focus on levelling up the critical engineering, manufacturing and digital skills needed by employers to address the grand engineering challenges of clean growth by embracing the advanced skills required for AI and a data-driven economy.

The East Midlands IoT has been selected by the government to enter the final round of applications to become one of eight new UK IoTs. The successful applicants will be revealed later this year.

Graduates will be part of a net zero carbon workforce and support the UK’s journey to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and support its post-pandemic recovery.

The aims of the IoT are to:

Engaging and educating others

Our Further Education college, Buxton and Leek College, earned success in the 2020 Green Gown Awards’ ‘Student Engagement’ category for its work to embed sustainability into extra curricula activities and went on to be 'Highly Commended' in the 2021 International Green Gown Awards for Student Engagement.

Later in the academic year, our Nature Connectedness Research Group was shortlisted in the ‘Research with Impact (Institution)’ category for its work in transforming the way people interact with nature to improve wellbeing and promote pro-nature behaviour.

PhD student Lea Barbett was also shortlisted in the ‘Research with Impact (Student)’ category in recognition of a tool she developed – a Pro-nature Conversation Behaviour Scale - for measuring behaviours that specifically aim to support nature conversation and biodiversity, which has been rapidly adopted by researchers, conservation organisations and government.

Both pieces of research went on to win the awards in November.

Expertise, research, business support and effective partnership working are the key elements of our contribution towards reducing carbon use.

The DE-Carbonise project continues to support businesses and companies to reduce their carbon loading through a variety of means and enhancements to practices. Our management of Derbyshire County Council’s Green Entrepreneurship fund demonstrates our strength in supporting green economy innovation across the region. The Rail Research and Innovation Centre at Derby is also driving forward research which can help to decarbonise transport in close collaboration with our partners in the rail industry, by developing new technologies and techniques.

You can read more about our engagement with businesses in our Business Engagement section of this Impact Report.