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
- 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.
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 expected costs 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 2 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).
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?’).
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 University Council. We have committed to list all investments annually.
Within our investment policy, we have a number of explicit exclusionary screens which includes weaponry and armaments and fossil fuels (Section 5).
An ethical banking policy has now been incorporated within our treasury policy (Section 13).
Information on the University’s accounts page provides the following investment information:
- Investment policy (inclusive of ethical/responsible investment policy in section 5)
- Annual list of investments
- List of committee members that oversee investments (via a link to the committees list)
- Ethical banking policy (within the treasury policy, section 13)
ETHICAL CAREERS AND RECRUITMENT
We are currently developing an ethical careers policy and expect this to be approved and published in 2022/23. This will set out criteria that third party employers must meet if they are to advertise roles and attend careers fairs via our careers services department.
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.
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 2 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 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, promoting and improving understanding of Fairtrade to provide a positive impact. We are currently working towards recertification after the new Fairtrade University and College Award was introduced. Our Fairtrade webpage has a link to our policy and further information on what we are doing to support this.
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 the Electronics Watch affiliates page.
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. Our news article has more information on this.
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 as have developed a sustainability communications and engagement strategy, which is supported by an annual communications and engagement plan.
Part of our engagement programme includes an annual green festival and this year we also held an additional staff engagement event themed around the Climate Stripes developed by the University’s Professor Ed Hawkins – ‘Show your stripes day’.
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.
- Teaching enhancement funding, with opportunities for students to get involved as part of our Education for Sustainable Development objectives.
Staff can also get involved in our Climate Ambassador initiative which entails engaging with UK schools and colleges to develop knowledge and skills around climate change.
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.
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 University Students’ Union (RUSU) 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 RUSU sustainability page including:
As a sign of its commitment to sustainability, RUSU was awarded ‘Very Good’ as part of the NUS Green Impact Awards 2021, and have recently completed the NUS Green Impact Audit for 2022. The results of this latest assessment are expected by the end of July 2022
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. We believe this can be done by underpinning approaches to ESD with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
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. 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 (this applies to our current contract and next contract), 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.