Dr David Prout: Environmental Sustainability Strategy

Dear Colleagues,

The theme of my blog today is the Environmental Sustainability Strategy that we have been working on for the last year. I thought I’d start with some words from the Vice-Chancellor’s foreword to the consultation that we are launching next week:


‘We are living in extraordinary times. We are experiencing what happens when we all ignore warning signs and fail to act to avert adverse consequences. There had been numerous indications that we were vulnerable to a global pandemic, we ignored them and are paying the price. We cannot do so again. 

Today there are innumerable warnings of the impending dangers of climate change and biodiversity loss. We must heed them. Doing so will entail real changes to how we live and work. Just as we have had to challenge all aspects of business as usual in order to be resilient during the pandemic, dealing with the consequences of climate change will require significant, often unwelcome, changes in our daily lives.’ 

The Vice-Chancellor put down a challenge to the University in her Oration last October. To address the challenge we set up a working group of leading academics from across the University which has worked hard over the last year to develop our draft Strategy. The Working Group carried out a first consultation with staff and students in March which stimulated around 1,000 responses. These responses – which more or less said we had to be more ambitious – have fed into the draft strategy we are publishing for further consultation next week.

Our direction of travel was discussed at the Council’s annual awayday, and the Planning and Resource Allocation Committee agreed last week that the draft strategy was a suitable basis for a further staff and student consultation.

Where can we see the draft Strategy?

Details of the Environmental Sustainability Strategy: Are we doing enough are available on the Sustainability website. You can also answer our survey on the targets and priorities and read the full proposed strategy. 

And are we doing enough?

For the last decade all the University’s electricity has come from renewable sources. We have an award-winning carbon reduction programme, which aims to invest £1 million per year on projects across the estate. All new buildings must be designed using our Sustainability Design Guide, based on the Passivhaus methodology, minimising their carbon emissions. We have promoted sustainable transport for the last decade, using funds raised through parking charges to support walking, cycling and public transport.

Hundreds of Green Impact partners, staff and students have been advocating for more sustainable practice in their departments through the years. The work they have done has resulted in local, but accumulating, positive change.  

Our research, as highlighted through the True Planet campaign, has a massive impact, contributes to understanding the challenges and solves real-world sustainability problems.

We have done a lot, but we have not done enough, and we need to do more. Hence our new draft strategy with targets, a plan for implementation and a willingness to embrace change.

What is the target?

The draft strategy proposes dual targets to achieve biodiversity net gain and net-zero carbon by 2035. This is ambitious, but sitting behind the strategy is a business case which shows that it is affordable and that there are clear actions we can take to achieve the goals. However, delivering the strategy will require input from across the University and will mean we have to change how we do things.

Given that the strategy will affect the way we all work, we are very keen to have input from staff and students. The consultation will run for six weeks, and will include discussion by divisional boards and University committees as well as the online questionnaire.

We welcome comments from everyone.