The University of Essex has recently developed a Sustainability Sub-Strategy to provide strategic direction to the University’s environmental values and performance. The strategy was approved by our governing Council in December 2016, and includes sustainability objectives covering carbon and energy management, waste management, transport, biodiversity, IT services, procurement, water, food, and stakeholder engagement.
Here, our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty, tells us more about the details.
The University has a comprehensive and varied sustainability programme encompassing students and staff at all three campuses, and seeks to contribute to excellence in our research, education and professional services. The sub-strategy provided an opportunity to review this work and benchmark progress against peer institutions. The strategy reveals that carbon dioxide emissions are down to 15,571 tonnes of CO2 per year from a peak of 18,850 tonnes CO2 in 2012-13. Emissions per square metre are now down to 0.065 tonnes of CO2 per m2, putting the University among the top 30 in the country. Other advances have been made in natural habitat protection, in waste recycling, and in water consumption.
Sustainability is important to all the University’s stakeholders: our staff, students, visitors, neighbours and business partners. It also has financial outcomes. In 2015-16 the University’s energy bills were 10% lower than in 2014-15. This allows us to divert valued resources back to the University’s core mission of education and research. The sustainability agenda also supports the University’s other strategies. As part of the development of the strategy work was undertaken with colleagues in food, transport and occupational health to assess how the benefits of eating healthily, making use of the University’s estate in Colchester, Loughton and Southend, and engaging in active transport contribute to our well-being as well as improving the University’s environmental performance. This has created close links with the new Healthy University Sub-Strategy.
Students leading on sustainability
Across our three campuses students have been leading the way on sustainability. Our Student Switch Off programme, sees students in University Accommodation compete to cut carbon in halls. This year, students have cut their electricity use by more than 10%, Accommodation have continued to work with students on its No Waste Graduation with the British Heart Foundation. Over 16 tonnes of goods were donated, raising more than £34,000 for BHF. Student enthusiasm for sustainability continues to be substantial, with many receiving our Green Impact training, enabling them to assist staff with sustainability with departments. It is encouraging to see how students are leading the way on activities so important to the University.
The Sustainability Sub-Strategy is reported on annually to USG and Council, and reviewed termly by the Sustainability Engagement Group. To have a look at the University’s objectives on Sustainability, visit our strategies webpage.