University plots path to a sustainable future with new strategy

The University of Manchester has launched a new Environmental Sustainability Strategy which will provide guidance on the actions the University will take as it works towards its zero carbon 2038 target.

The new strategy builds on the University’s core goals of Teaching & Learning, Research & Discovery and Social Responsibility and stresses the need for all decisions to be taken in the light of its existing carbon commitments.

The strategy highlights six priority operational areas, all linking back to the United Nations Sustainability Goals:

  • Construction and Refurbishment
  • Risk and Climate Resilience
  • Responsible Procurement
  • Resource Management
  • Valuing Nature
  • Travel and Transport

The strategy has been approved by the University’s Board of Governors and is endorsed at the highest level of the University. It was developed following extensive consultation with colleagues and students, who shared their views on the actions the University needed to prioritise and where it needed to improve.

The University’s operational carbon footprint has fallen by 35% since 2007, from approximately 81,000 tonnes CO2e to under 53,000 tonnes in 2022, but more needs to be done across all areas of activity to reach zero carbon by 2038, while cutting emissions as sharply as possible in the run-up to this date.

Professor Nalin Thakkar, Vice-President for Social Responsibility, wants the new strategy to act as a guide for everyone who is part of the University’s community. “Achieving this strategy is a challenge which we must all work towards,” he said. “The University will be allocating significant funds to this, but we must all contribute through the things we do every day at work and by talking to students and colleagues about the things we are doing to make a difference.”

"Some of the measures to achieve this are going to be hard, but everyone in the leadership of the University is committed to making the necessary changes."

Professor Nalin Thakkar, Vice-President for Social Responsibility

Action already taken by The University of Manchester includes ending investments in fossil fuel companies and reducing the carbon intensity of other investment holdings. The campus runs on 100% renewable electricity and 94% of the University’s waste is diverted from landfill. The University has also recently committed to limiting its business travel emissions to no more than half of pre-COVID levels and so far is on track with this.

Action planned for the future includes proposals to increase energy efficiency, make changes to the Old Quad that promote biodiversity and to shift more of its buildings away from gas boilers to heat pumps.

The strategy also contains commitments to further embed sustainability in the curriculum and take advantage of the world-class expertise of its researchers. Training will be developed for all colleagues including leaders to give them the tools to make changes.

Professor Thakkar added: “The future that this strategy lays out is one where we have a campus that is rich in nature, with cleaner air and a lighter footprint on the planet. Some of the measures to achieve this are going to be hard, but everyone in the leadership of the University is committed to making the necessary changes and if we all contribute, we have the ability to be far greater than the sum of our individual parts.”

You can read the full list of commitments in the strategy which has now been published as a document online.

The Environmental Sustainability Team at The University of Manchester has been shortlisted for a Green Gown Award in the 2030 Climate Action category. The awards ceremony will take place in November.

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