PUTTING PEOPLE AND THE WORLD WE LIVE IN AT THE HEART OF WHAT WE DO
We are assessed annually for People and Planet’s University League which is a comprehensive and independent league table of UK universities, ranked according to their environmental and ethical performance.
We have been improving people’s lives for over a century, and remain dedicated to that same ethos of making the world a better place by putting people and the world we live in at the heart of our approach. We are a world leading university on climate change, and sustainability is a core principle of the University’s overarching strategy, demonstrating our commitment to making improvements in this area. We are also working to actively embed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into what we do. We have a number of policies, strategies and reports which set out our commitments and progress against these.
The University’s summary results are published by People and Planet and we are proud to have been rated ‘first class’ for the last four years, and in 2022 ranked 4th out of 153 universities. We have provided below some of the detail which underpins our current position across each of the 14 areas assessed. If there is something you would like to know about our sustainability which you cannot find below, further information is available within the pages of our sustainability website. The latest on our sustainability projects and activities can be found on our news page.
POLICY AND STRATEGY
The University’s Environmental and Energy Policy sets out our sustainability and environmental commitments, and is signed off by the Vice-Chancellor, Robert Van De Noort. We also operate an externally accredited Environmental and Energy Management System (EEMS).
Our policy is reviewed annually and environmental performance is reported on against our sustainability objectives/strategy to the Environmental Sustainability Committee (ESC), and to the University Executive Board (via ESC), through our annual Environmental Sustainability Report. The Management Review for our EEMS is also reported to both groups. The ESC and UEB both have senior management representation.
We have developed a responsible procurement policy, and the staff of suppliers working on behalf of the University must ensure they are aware of this policy and comply with our EEMS. This is supported by our ‘Code of Conduct’ for suppliers, produced by our procurement department.
Sustainability is one of the core principles of the University’s overall strategy. Our Environmental and Sustainability Strategy revolves around 6 key themes. To support delivery against this, we have developed strategies/plans for the following key environmental impact areas:
- Net Zero Carbon
- Waste and resource use
- Construction and refurbishment
- Emissions and discharges (2022-2023 and 2023-2026)
- Community Involvement
- Responsible procurement (see also our focus areas and SMART targets)
As part of our EEMS we also set objectives/targets against our key environmental impacts.
ENVIRONMENTAL AUDITING AND MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
Certificate Number: 21871-EMS-001 ISO 14001: 2015 Whiteknights
Certificate Number: 21871-EnMS-001 ISO 50001: 2018 Energy Management Whiteknights
Certificate Number: 21871-EMS-002 ISO 14001: 2015 Greenlands
Certificate Number: 21871-EnMS-002 ISO 50001: 2018 Energy Management Greenlands
Certificate Number: 21871-EMS-003 ISO 14001: 2015 London Road
Certificate Number: 21871-EnMS-003 ISO 50001: 2018 Energy Management London Road
The University has implemented and maintains an integrated Environmental and Energy Management System (EEMS) to drive continuous improvement in minimising our environmental impacts. This is externally accredited to ISO 14001 (Whiteknights, Greenlands and London Road) and ISO 50001 (Whiteknights, Greenlands and London Road).
We have developed and published a carbon management plan setting out our commitment to reach Net Zero Carbon by 2030. This details the 2008-2009 baseline (Appendices 16.1 and 16.2) and milestone carbon reduction targets between now and 2030 (Section 3.2), as well as setting out the projected expenditure/budget for achieving this target (Appendix 16.3). An annual budget is produced to support the projects for the upcoming year which are required to deliver against the plan (this is included as Appendix 5 in our Environmental Sustainability Report). As referenced in section 15, the Net Zero Carbon Plan has been signed off by the University Executive Board (UEB) and will be managed on a day-to-day basis by Sustainability Services, overseen, monitored and directed by the Environmental Sustainability Committee (ESC). Performance against the plan is monitored and reported on to the ESC, as well as to UEB (via ESC), through our annual Environmental Sustainability report. This report is also made publicly available via our website. ESC and UEB both have senior management representation. The committees list provides details of the roles/representatives that sit on our committees.
We recognise the importance of our wider impact outside of scope 1 and 2 emissions and have therefore reported on our scope 3 emissions within the carbon plan (Appendices 16.1 and 16.2). A number of scope 3 emissions are included within the scope of our carbon reduction target, with other areas identified for further investigation and potential future action (Figure 2).
Our scope 3 emissions are reported to the Higher Education Statistic Agency (HESA). This information is publicly available on the HESA website under Estates Management Records (EMR). We also report scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions attributed to residential accommodation both within the carbon plan (see Appendix 16.2) and within the Environmental Sustainability report, Appendix 4.
Our carbon plan includes baseline emissions for the following areas (Appendices 16.1 and 16.2):
- Staff and student business travel
- Staff and students commuting to the University on a daily basis
- Carbon emissions associated with the travel between students’ homes and the University at the start and end of term
Emissions associated with water, waste, business travel and on campus halls of residence are included within the scope of the Net Zero Carbon target as detailed in the report (Section 3.3).
Sustainable Travel Policy
The University has agreed a new Travel Policy in June 2023 which includes measures to reduce business flights and asks staff to consider the carbon impact of all their travel decisions. The policy contains the following:
- a requirement for staff to follow the business travel hierarchy which considers a digital first policy to remove the need to travel unless necessary.
- the business travel hierarchy encourages staff to prioritise lower carbon modes of travel wherever possible.
- air travel will not be permitted in mainland UK or for those destinations that can be reached within 8 hours from London St Pancras.
- any flights that are taken must be economy class.
- the policy includes plans to introduce an internal carbon levy on flights.
The University has extensive activity within food and drink and we have developed a sustainable food policy.
Our policy requires that sustainability standards are supported by our suppliers and embedded in tenders & contracts with external contractors/suppliers (see ‘How is the University working to achieve this?’ and Sections 2.1.4, 2.1.5, 2.1.10, 3.1.25 and Section 6).
All our physical outlets have been independently audited and certified through the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s Food Made Good scheme. We have been awarded the maximum rating of three stars, as detailed in our policy (see ‘How is the University working to achieve this?’). Please note the Food Made Good accreditation is is valid for two years before reassessment is required.
We have a number of sustainable food projects including:
ETHICAL INVESTMENT AND BANKING
The University’s investment policy document includes our policy on ethical/responsible investment (Section 5) and has been approved by the Investments Committee, which includes senior personnel as detailed on the committees list. There are clear opportunities for the student body and staff community to engage with the investment policy - Reading Students Union have an ex officio right of attendance to the Investment Committee and the Committee reports annually to the wider University community about its responsible investment approach, including requesting feedback.
Within our investment policy, we have a number of explicit exclusionary screens:
- weaponry, armaments and fossil fuels (Section 5).
- all corporations complicit in the violation of international law.
- all fossil fuels. Any future investments in energy assets will be in renewable energy, low carbon energy, community renewable energy, or renewable energy projects on campus.
Information on the University’s accounts page provides the following investment information:
ETHICAL CAREERS AND RECRUITMENT
Information about our careers services can be found on our careers webpage. This page confirms the University careers services is not part of any combined careers services, and does not work with any third-party careers services. This page also provides a link to a directory of our careers team including their roles and contact details.
Our Careers Terms and Conditions detail the key exclusions / restrictions for advertising roles with us, for example we do not advertise roles that do not pay in accordance with the National Minimum Wage and Living Wage requirements. The Terms and Conditions are reviewed annually and the next review is scheduled for April 2024.
STAFF AND HR
Sustainability is a core principle of the University’s overall strategy and as such is driven from the top. Our webpage on key sustainability staff details our senior management and committees that hold sustainability responsibilities.
This webpage also provides details of our dedicated sustainability services team including their name, contact details and their role/area of sustainability. Contact details for members of our team can also be found on the University’s staff directory.
The sustainability team is supported with a financial budget to enable the implementation of projects to support delivery of our strategy. An updated budget for planned projects is produced as part of the annual Environmental Sustainability Report. This can be found in Appendix 5 of the latest report. We recognise the important role that communication and engagement plays in supporting our strategy and driving behaviour/culture change. Consequently, additional budget is allocated to this as detailed in our annual communications plan.
We launched Our Future First in 2023 - this is the University's sustainable behaviours programme which will embed sustainability into our culture. We want everyone to play their part to create collective, positive change for our community and planet. A key part of the programme has been the development of our network of Lead Sustainability Champions, who are passionate about making a difference to influence collective change.
We support staff engagement to involve staff in improving the environmental performance of the University through a number of initiatives:
The University is committed to supporting workers rights and ensures that outsourced staff receive the same or equivalent pay and benefits as directly employed staff.
The University is committed to supporting, promoting and improving understanding of Fairtrade to provide a positive impact. We have recently been awarded Fairtrade University Two Star Status, which underlines our commitment. Our Fairtrade webpage has a link to our policy and further information on all the work we are completing in this area.
Electronics Watch brings together public sector buyers and civil society organisations in electronics production regions with experts in human rights and global supply chains. It guides public procurement demand for decent working conditions in electronics supply chains. The University is affiliated with Electronics Watch as detailed on our responsible procurement webpage and through our membership of the Southern Universities Purchasing Consortium. The University of Reading is a full member of SUPC.
We have signed onto the ‘Can’t Buy My Silence’ pledge to stop using Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) for complaints about sexual harassment, bullying and other forms of misconduct. Further information can be found in this blog by the Vice Chancellor and more about the University's #NeverOK campaign.
We report data on staff records to the Higher Education Statistic Agency (HESA) which includes information on proportion of staff on fixed term contracts. This information is publicly available on the HESA website under staff records.
STAFF AND STUDENT ENGAGEMENT
We recognise that the engagement of staff and students in sustainable development is a critical aspect of delivering against our strategy. As such we have developed a sustainability communications and engagement strategy, which is supported by an annual communications and engagement plan.
University sustainability strategy and policies are included within the student induction process, which covers a range of engagement mediums to ensure maximum awareness. This includes: sustainability strategy and advice featuring in every Student Life newsletter, the Sustainability team are present during Welcome Week to engage with our student community, printed sustainability material is available during Enrolment for all new students, our Doing UoR Bit app is listed in the 'apps to download' for all new students and we have a training video for all students living in halls.
Our engagement programme includes an annual green festival and the annual staff celebration, engagement and sustainable action event 'Show Your Stripes' day based on the Climate Stripes developed by the University’s Professor Ed Hawkins. Both this year's and the 2022 Show Your Stripes day were great successes, with over 600 staff attending each one. We also host monthly sustainability awareness sessions in the library foyer 'Sustainability Listens at UoR'. The most recent sessions involved a mastermind event and celebrating Clean Air Day 2023.
It is our aim to get everyone involved in supporting sustainability, both at the University, and in their wider lives. As well as the events that we run, the University provides funding for initiatives to further embed sustainable behaviours among staff and students, for example:
- Student led sustainability initiatives, such as the new flavour garden project.
- Student and staff University of Reading Hedgehog Society.
- Teaching enhancement funding, with opportunities for students to get involved as part of our Education for Sustainable Development objectives.
- The University offers a bursary which students can apply for, for The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP) which includes sustainability related research projects, as detailed on our Education for Sustainable Development webpage (see section: ‘ESD for the Real World - Students Applying Their Knowledge’).
Students can also get involved by participating in our RED Sustainable Action award which helps them to learn more about sustainability and participate in sustainability volunteering initiatives, and staff can get involved in our Climate Ambassador initiative which entails engaging with UK schools and colleges to develop knowledge and skills around climate change.
Our online sustainability training is a mandatory requirement for all new staff as part of induction, and this is required to be repeated every 3 years at a minimum. Further information on what is included on the training module is detailed on our sustainability training webpage. Sustainability staff also deliver a 15 minute in person presentation at central induction sessions which are run monthly for new staff, allowing for engagement and an opportunity for new staff to ask questions.
Our committees list details the members of each our committees. Student representation is included on some committees concerned with strategic planning, finance and resource allocation including the Estates Committee and Environmental Sustainability Committee.
The Reading Students’ Union (RSU) works toward continual improvement for environmental sustainability by mapping, auditing and tracking annual progress of its impact areas. Further detail on the activities which support this are detailed on the RSU sustainability page including:
EDUCATION FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
We recognise the importance of education for sustainable development (ESD) and commit to integrating this into our approach. Our Executive Board has agreed that, as one of our priorities, we will embed environmental sustainability across both our curriculum and staff training programmes. The Steering Group set up to oversee this work reports to our main Teaching and Learning committee and is sponsored by one of our Pro-Vice-Chancellors (Education and Student Experience), Professor Peter Miskell.
Our ESD webpage sets out our framework for ESD. Our goal is to ensure that ESD is the business of all subjects at the University but experienced in a way that is authentic to the discipline. This will be done by underpinning approaches to ESD with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the overarching framework, though with special recognition of the University's expertise in Climate Action (SDG13) and environmental sustainability (where appropriate). All students can participate in the RED Sustainable Action award, to further their understanding of sustainability and sustainable development.
The University Board for Teaching and Learning and Student Experience (UBTLSE) has a sub-committee: Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), chaired by a senior academic, Dr Stuart Black.
Our Environmental and Sustainability Committee (which has senior representation) has responsibility for instigating the creation and delivery of an Education for Sustainable Development programme for the University, and monitoring the effectiveness of this programme (as detailed in our committees list and terms of reference). The ESD sub-committee therefore report progress on ESD to the ESC. ESD is included in our annual Environmental Sustainability Report which is reported to ESC and UEB (via ESC).
Supporting and training our academic staff to embed sustainable development into the curriculum is critical to the success of our objectives around ESD. We have a number of ways of supporting our staff in this regard, as detailed on our ESD webpage.
Our own campus provides opportunity to students to conduct real world research in sustainability, and a number of research dissertations make use of this opportunity, bringing our campus to life as a living lab.
We also support School, Faculty or Research team projects for Sustainable Development. This can be seen through our Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP), within which there are many recent examples of projects with a sustainable focus. In addition, some of our Teaching and Learning Enhancement Project funding has been awarded to staff for ESD projects.
Examples of UROP and living lab projects with a sustainable focus, and examples of funding awarded to staff for ESD projects, can all be found on our ESD webpage.
In collaboration with STEM Learning, we are leading a new Climate Ambassador scheme to support schools and colleges in the UK to develop knowledge and skills so that everyone involved is equipped to tackle the future in a changing climate. This gives our staff with knowledge of sustainability and climate change the opportunity to get involved and engage with wider educational communities on this important topic, and further embeds sustainable development into wider education curriculums.
We offer scholarships to eligible sanctuary seekers (people with refugee, humanitarian protected, or asylum seeker status) through our Sanctuary Scholarships scheme. The Sanctuary Scholarship Scheme is part of the University's wider commitment to supporting the City of Sanctuary initiative and in June 2023 we received the University of Sanctuary award. This is an important aspect of ESD as it supports access to higher education for these groups. The scheme has been running since 2018 and the awards offered to eligible applicants each year are summarised on our ESD webpage with more detail on the Sanctuary Scholarships webpage.
We are proud to source REGO (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin) certified electricity, as well generating some of our own electricity via solar panels installed across our campus.
We report information on renewable sourced/generated energy to the Higher Education Statistic Agency (HESA). This information is publicly available on the HESA website under Estates Management Records.
WASTE AND RECYCLING
We aim to be an efficient user of resources and prevent waste being created in the first place; and then to reduce, re-use, recycle and recover items and materials as detailed on our waste webpages.
We report information on our waste to the Higher Education Statistic Agency (HESA). This information is publicly available on the HESA website under Estates Management Records.
The University is committed to becoming Net Zero Carbon by 2030. We have completed and planned a number of carbon reduction projects to support our carbon reduction trajectory towards this target as detailed on our carbon management webpage.
We report information on our carbon emissions to the Higher Education Statistic Agency (HESA). This information is publicly available on the HESA website under Estates Management Records.
Water is a precious and limited resource and we are committed to managing its use effectively and reducing water use where possible as detailed on our water management webpage.
We report information on our water consumption to the Higher Education Statistic Agency (HESA). This information is publicly available on the HESA website under Estates Management Records.