Social Responsibility
and Sustainability

Report 2018-19

Welcome to our annual report



Dave Gorman, Director of Social Responsibility and Sustainability

We recognise that students and staff want to make Edinburgh a more socially responsible and sustainable university, and over the last year a lot of progress has been made.


The last year has demonstrated the importance of climate change, sustainability and social responsibility issues to staff and students. Our survey of staff and students in 2019 found high levels of interest in these areas. This was further highlighted by the involvement of staff and students in the global climate strikes.

The enthusiasm, dedication and actions carried out by staff and students were recognised at the national Green Gown Awards, with the University winning awards in three categories. We were delighted that the hard work to embed sustainability throughout our institution: from investment, to reporting, to the issues surrounding food and drink at the University were celebrated.

As part of its commitment to become carbon neutral, the University has returned its carbon emissions to 2007-08 baseline year levels. We recognise that this is not enough and we will be setting out further plans to support the University become carbon neutral by 2040.

By the end of the year, energy efficiency projects valued at £7.2 million had been approved, delivering annual savings of over £1.1 million and 3,400 tonnes of carbon emissions.

In response to the climate crisis, the University established an international network of global institutions in a bid to address the growing emissions from business travel within higher education. The network of 85 institutions will share knowledge and practice, and will infour approach to climate conscious travel.

We have also made changes to the way we use resources and to our purchasing practices. The introduction of a levy on single-use coffee cups has been very effective, leading to an average reduction in disposable cup usage of 37 per cent in University-owned cafes over the past year. The University passed a Palm Oil Policy, which will support opportunities to remove non-certified palm oil from our food and cleaning products, and to find ways to reduce demand for these oils.

As part of our ongoing commitment to the local community, the University has awarded £180,000 to more than 40 projects across the city since its inception in October 2017. Through the University’s Social Impact Pledges, the Centre for Homeless and Inclusion Health was launched in 2018 and we have committed to invest up to £8 million in social investments.

Recognising that staff and students want to learn more about climate change, social responsibility and sustainability, we have developed professional development courses over the last year and have started to improve our understanding of how students can engage with the Sustainable Development Goals in the academic curriculum and wider student experience.

The University has continued to address social and global challenges, including the climate crisis, through its research. Academics from Edinburgh contributed to the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Sixth Assessment Report. The Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation hosted the Global Grand Final of Climate Launchpad 2018, the world’s biggest clean tech competition and continues to support climate start-ups and innovation.

In the coming year, we will be publishing a Social and Civic Responsibility Plan in response to the University’s new Strategy 2030. It will set out how the University’s actions will further deliver positive change locally and across the world. We will set out further plans to support the University become carbon neutral by 2040. We will support circular economy innovation and encourage more

reuse on campus. We will continue to support local communities and social enterprises. The efforts of staff and students will be critical to delivering these priorities. On behalf of the University, we would like to thank staff and students for their efforts.

Get in touch if you would like to know more.


Dave Gorman signature



Hide Dave Gorman's full foreword


Dave Gorman, Director of Social Responsibility and Sustainability
Professor Sandy Tudhope, University Lead on Climate Responsibility and Sustainability

Being a student, or being twenty-something-year-old in this time, the climate crisis has become a fact of life that we grew up with, something that now impacts on every part of society.



Students are not only thinking about their own carbon footprint, about daily actions, and their choices about the future and working. They are also looking to the University they are a part of to be acting, to take concerns about the climate seriously, and to use its position as a global institution to contribute to a better future.

It is fantastic to see the Global Challenges for Business course being integrated as core teaching for students in the business school. This means that students starting out on their studies in business are learning about topics like globalisation and environmental disruption as things that are not separate from business, but are intrinsically linked to it. Incorporating social responsibility into core teaching across all subjects is an essential step in the future of how this University operates, and is something that seems set to come about as more students and academics are making the links between their subject and the future of our planet.

Another great achievement this year has been the Digital Ambassadors project, where student volunteers have delivered training to adult learners to help them become more digitally literate. Though in the scale of the University numbers are small, this project is a great example of how small community projects can have a massive impact on the lives of people in Edinburgh.

The University has also met its target of SIMD20 student admissions 3 years ahead of target with 195 student entries from these areas this academic year. This is a great testament to the progress made on breaking down the barriers to higher education in an institution that is historically elitist. However this success also raises the bigger question of equal access for students not just from Scotland, but from the rest of the UK and from overseas as well, and it’s clear that this is an area where so much work is still to be done.

Less promising are the emissions from business travel, which have risen again this year and have tended to follow a general trend of increased flights and increased emissions each year. In such a critical time where we know the reality of the climate crisis and the changes that need to happen, this institution needs to ensure that trend is reversed and that air travel emissions are brought right down in the following years. 2040 still feels far away for some people, and there is a risk that we don't act quickly enough before then, which means the time for big change is already here, not in 2038.

This said, I’m very proud to be part of an institution that is doing so much work on social responsibility and sustainability, and this year’s report highlights that there are so many people across all levels of the organisation that are committed to the changes needed. We are already in a climate crisis and there is always more to be done, so I hope that next year there will be even more to report that the University of Edinburgh can be proud of




Hide Rosheen Wallace's full foreword


Rosheen Wallace, Vice President Community, Edinburgh University Students’ Association


Navigating our report


Use the menu at the top of the screen to jump to the area you are most interested in. Scroll down to see the whole report. Tap the expand button on each section to reveal each part of the report.



Follow Social Responsibility and Sustainability at the University of Edinburgh on social media

Follow on Twitter Follow on Facebook Follow on Instagram Follow on LinkedIn


Climate change icon: wind turbine

Climate change


The climate crisis is one of the most pressing issues facing humanity, and the University is committed to continuing to play a leading role in creating a more sustainable world through its research, teaching and operations.

7: Affordable and clean energy Industry, innovation and infrastructure Climate action

The University's commitment is reflected in the University’s Climate Strategy, which sets out the University’s pledge to become carbon neutral by 2040. This is 10 years earlier than recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C.


University of Edinburgh research: Drone captured image of a permafrost thaw slump on Qikiqtaruk- Herschel Island in the Canadian Arctic. Image © Jeffrey Kerby, National Geographic Society


Progress this year


The interim targets set out in the 2016 Climate Strategy have been met this year in advance of the 2025 timeline. The University has returned its carbon emissions to 2007-08 baseline year levels. It has also halved its carbon emissions, relative to expenditure, compared with 2007-08 baseline year levels.

The decrease in overall carbon emissions from last year can be largely attributed to a 29 per cent fall in carbon emissions from electricity. This is due to a drop in the carbon intensity of the national grid and reductions from the University’s low carbon initiatives, such as the Sustainable Campus Fund.

There has been an increase in carbon emissions associated with business travel, due to the increase in journeys. This has specifically been in carbon intensive journeys taken by flights, which has substantially increased by 39 per cent since last year. The quality of carbon emissions data for business travel is improving, which will result in more detailed analyses of changes in the coming years.

Carbon emission figures have been revised for 2017-18, specifically for business travel, following an issue with the calculation, which has now been resolved.

In June 2019, the senior leaders of the University held an away day discussing the climate crisis and the Sustainable Development Goals with the intention to update plans to reflect the emergency we face.

Find out more about what the University is doing about climate change

Energy Efficiency

The University leads the sector in its commitment to deliver continuous improvement in the energy efficiency of our estate. The Estates Department and the Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability have collectively driven the delivery of ninety-two energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. At the end of 2018/19, projects valued at £7.3m have been approved delivering £1.1m in annual cost savings and 3,400 TCO2e of GHG emissions. A further £20M in pipeline projects have been identified within our Energy Strategy.

Funding of £4.75m has been made available through our internal Sustainable Campus Fund (SCF) to support energy efficiency projects. Additionally, £5.2m has been secured through the Scottish Funding Council University Carbon Reduction Fund (SFC UCRF) to support our energy efficiency and carbon reduction initiatives. Project proposals are scrutinised by the Utilities Working Group and approved by Director of Estates and Director of Social Responsibility and Sustainability.

Further information on the Energy Strategy is available on the University website



Solar panels

Sustainable Campus Fund and Energy Masterplan

The Sustainable Campus Fund was launched in 2016 as an internal investment vehicle to finance carbon reduction and energy efficiency projects. A total of £2.3 million has been allocated since 2016, generating 1,600 tonnes of CO₂e savings and over £520,000 of financial savings.

Funding was secured from the Scottish Funding Council to install a solar farm at the University’s Easter Bush campus, which is home to the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Science and Roslin Institute. The overall project involves ground mounted solar panels and roof mounted installations on four buildings. The solar farm have a capacity of around 1.5 MW capacity.

For two decades the university has derived operating efficiencies and lower GHG emissions by investing in district heating networks, private wire power networks and gas fired combined heat and power engines to generate and distribute electricity and heat. Our challenge is that fossil fuel driven electricity generation is now becoming ‘high carbon’ relative to alternate options under a decarbonising national electricity grid.

Through 2018/19 the University developed an Energy Masterplan to 2040. The Energy Masterplan scoped out techno-economic options capable of delivering ‘zero carbon’ heat and electricity, ‘smart’ energy infrastructure and campus integrated teaching and research opportunities aligned to the University Strategic Plan. The Energy Masterplan progressed in six stages: analysis of baseline energy performance; external impacts and drivers review; identification of heat and power network constraints and opportunities; scoping of building improvement pathways; and renewable technology integration pathways.

A range of low carbon heat strategies have been reviewed including the introduction of hydrogen and biogas, use of biomass, high and low temperature heat pumps and solar PV. Heat pump technology has emerged as the lowest risk ‘low carbon heat’ strategy. A key challenge is that efficient heat pump led ‘low carbon heat’ requires our heat networks to transition to lower operating temperatures.

To understand the cost benefit of ‘futureproofing’ our buildings we have undertaken an assessment of ‘light’ and ‘deep’ refurbishments across a pilot group of twelve buildings. For each refurbishment we have evaluated the capital cost resulting energy and GHG reductions. A light retrofit includes the minimum level of intervention required to operate a heat pump led district heating network. Light interventions focus on measures such as lighting upgrades, pipework insulation, pump and fan motor upgrades and controls interventions. A ‘deep retrofit’ includes the building interventions required to transition our heat network to lower ‘next generation’ flow temperatures. This significantly increases the efficiency of our energy systems. Deep refurbishments are estimated to achieve a 40-60 per cent reduction in heat demand. Our programme of work through 2019/20 will set out a more detailed energy strategy for each campus.

Central campus

New Adaptation Framework launched for a more resilient, 'climate-ready' estate

A new Adaptation Framework was launched by the University in 2019, with the intention to become more climate resilient. The Framework outlines a whole institution approach that can result in a more resilient, 'climate-ready' estate and acknowledges embeddedness in the city of Edinburgh. It has been developed over the last year through the involvement of the University community, including academics, students and support groups, and with support from Adaptation Scotland.

Read more about the Adapatation Framework

Someone sitting in a train

85 institutions across the globe joined the Roundtable of Sustainable Academic Travel, established by the University of Edinburgh

Academia often necessitates travel: in order to conduct research, share knowledge, and to network with other academics and organisations across the world. As the University is a world-leading, research-intensive University, many of our academics travel both throughout the UK and across the world to address tomorrow’s greatest challenges such as the changing climate, population health and inequality. Increasingly, our students also travel for international experiences that improve their academic performance and career prospects.

This means that emissions from “business” travel make up a sizeable proportion of our carbon emissions. In 2018, during term time staff and students at the University travelled over 66 million business travel miles, emitting over 18,000 tonnes CO₂e. This is about approximately 20 per cent of our carbon emissions, and our third highest source after emissions from the electric and gas we use to heat and power our campuses.

As with many other sectors, academia needs to find ways to maintain the benefits that travel brings, whilst recognising the need to reduce emissions, and to re-examine previous assumptions and ways of working.

In 2018, the University therefore established a Roundtable of Sustainable Academic Travel to examine business travel emissions within the global higher education sector. The network brings together over 85 other institutions across the globe that are looking to address both their own business travel emissions and also to learn lessons from each other and inspire change.

The aim of the network is to share knowledge and data to better understand the scale of the challenge, and to establish projects that reduce travel emissions and also increase learning, teaching, and research at our institutions. The network has held a number of online workshops, sharing good practice within the network and building collaborations across the sector.

The network has also informed the early work we are undertaking to understand what global best practice looks like and to identify new tools, policies and guidance that can assist our goal to be ‘climate conscious’ in all our travel.

Read more about the Roundtable of Sustainable Academic Travel

Security electric vehicle

30 per cent of the Estates vehicle fleet now electric

To support the University's ambition to become carbon neutral by 2040, we are making the transition to electric vehicles. In 2018, the University’s Estates department replaced 10 operational vehicles used by the Maintenance Teams with like for like electric alternatives, meaning 30 per cent of the Estates fleet now have zero emissions. Funding was secured to fund leases on electric vehicles for the University's Accommodation, Catering and Events Department and Central Bio-Research Services.

To meet the growing demand for electric vehicles the University has increased the number of electric charging points. The University has 21 points across various locations, including 10 at King's Buildings campus, with further installations planned at the BioQuarter and Easter Bush. Funding was also secured from the Energy Saving Trust to support the installation of 18 electric charging points at Pollock Halls, which includes the University's main student residences for undergraduate students, Salisbury Green Hotel and the John McIntyre Conference Centre.

Visit the University's Transport website



Carbon emissions


Scope 1


Direct emissions from activities owned or controlled by the University.

Included in target
  • University controlled energy (gas used for the CHP and gas boilers)
  • University vehicles and the fuel they use

Scope 2


Indirect emissions from electricity consumed by the University that we do not own or control.

Included in target
  • Electricity (excluding University owned electricity generation)

Scope 3


Other indirect emissions that occur upstream and downstream, associated with the University’s activities.

Included in target
  • Waste
  • Water
  • Business travel
Measured but not used in target setting
  • Staff/student commuting
  • Procurement (particularly capital goods and ICT)

Looking forward


Recognising the importance of the climate crisis, the University will be reviewing its Climate Strategy activity over the coming year. The will include identifying opportunities to further strengthen its contribution to creating a more sustainable world through its research, teaching and operations.

The University will be reviewing options over the next year for low carbon heating, opportunities to increase renewable energy capacity on campus and the implementation of energy efficiency measures through the Sustainable Campus Fund.

We are in the process of reviewing options to reduce emissions from business travel. The University is in the early stages of reviewing our approach and expect to recommend a package of measures for agreement in 2020. Our goal is to identify what needs to happen to make our vision of ‘climate conscious travel’ a reality.

We will also work with the City of Edinburgh Council, through the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, to help generate an action plan for the city in response to the climate emergency.





Hide climate change section



Estates icon: spanner

Sustainable estates


The University is committed to ensuring its estate is fit for purpose, sustainable and accessible. Over the last year, changes have been made to improve the University community’s use of resources, encourage active travel and support positive behaviours on sustainable issues.

Clean water and sanitationAffordable and clean energyIndustry, innovation and infrastructureClimate actionLife on land

To support the transition to a Circular Economy, the University has a commitment to become a Zero Waste University by 2030. This vision is included within the University’s new Waste Strategy, which puts waste prevention, reuse and recycling at the forefront of our relationship with resources.

By 2021, the University aims to ensure that all students, staff and visitors will be able to access the University by the mode of transport best suited to their needs.


Image: Green walls at the Roslin Innovation Centre - Easter Bush Campus. © Andrew Smith - SG Photography Ltd.


Progress this year


The volume of waste produced by the University has increased this year, specifically from increases in the University’s managed student accommodation and catering at Pollock Halls. The landfill diversion rate has been maintained this year across the University’s estate at 99 per cent. Waste arising in the academic estate have reduced this year to 65 kilograms per capita.

The proportion of staff walking to University is 25 per cent, with this number rising to 57 per cent for students. Cycling is the regular mode of travel for 13 per cent of staff and students to the University. The number of staff and students travelling by car is very low at 9 per cent, with 50 per cent of car journeys to the University Easter Bush campus in Midlothain.

The Sustainability Awards continue to engage with more staff and students, supporting social responsible and sustainable behaviours in offices, laboratories and student accommodation. More than a third of staff have been reached through the Sustainability Awards. Over 1,200 staff and students have completed the University’s Be Sustainable Online training.



Keepcup

37 per cent drop in disposable cups after introduction of charge

In a bid to encourage students and staff to use reusable cups, the University and Students’ Association introduced a charge for disposable cups in their cafes and announced that they would accept all reusable cups.

Campus cafés first implemented a 25p charge for the purchase of disposable cups in August and September 2018, replacing the previous pricing structure where customers were given a 20p discount for using a reusable cup. The disposable cup charge was first implemented this year and has led to an average reduction in disposable cup usage of 37 per cent in University-owned cafés.

Known in popular culture as a 'latte levy', charging for disposable cups has proven to be more effective in encouraging customers to use reusable cups than discounting hot drinks purchased in reusables. Income from the charge is used to improve services operated by the University's Accommodation, Catering & Events department and the Students' Association.

Find out more about the cup charge

Easter Bush campus

26 tonnes of coffee grounds repurposed, 1137 PCs reused and 16 tonnes waste saved with Warp It

Significant efforts have been made over the last year to enable staff and students to reuse University-owned resources. 1137 PCs have been reused through both internal and community reuse. This year, the online Waste Action Reuse Portal (Warp It) has saved £289,000 and 16 tonnes of avoided waste. A further 120 tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment was collected by the University’s licensed contractor, with 24 per cent being reused. Coffee grounds continue to be collected from across the University managed catering to be made into a soil conditioner. This year 26 tonnes of coffee grounds were collected.

Visit the University's Waste website

Just Eat Cycles bikes

University plays active role in launch of first city wide cycle hire scheme in Edinburgh

The University played an active role in the launch of the Just Eat Cycles Scheme in 2018, the first city wide cycle hire scheme in Edinburgh. The fleet of bikes increased from 200 to 500 by the end of 2018, with cycle hire points installed in the University's George Square Campus and King's Buildings Campus.

In 2019, the University opened its largest cycle store at Bristo Square, which includes space for 400 bikes. Bristo Bike Store has 400 spaces using a two-tier system, there are also stands for bikes which can’t use the two-tier system such as bikes with child seats or trailers, adapted bikes and tandems. Over the last year, the number of bike maintenance sessions delivered by the Bike Station for staff and students has increased. The Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine at the University achieved the Cycle Friendly Employer Award in early 2019.

Find out more about the cycle hire scheme

View of Edinburgh

University engages with the City Council of Edinburgh mobility and transport proposals

Over the last year, the University has extensively engaged with the City Council of Edinburgh on a number of proposals to improve mobility and transport infrastructure in the city. This includes actively supporting proposals to improve walking, cycling and public spaces in some of Edinburgh's busiest streets. This includes the Meadows to George Street Project and plans to develop an active travel route from the City Centre to the BioQuarter.

The University has also started to engage with the City Council's consultations on the City Mobility Plan and Low Emissions Zones, both potentially providing opportunities to improve air quality and enhance active travel infrastructure and public transport in Edinburgh.

Find out more about the City Mobility Plan

Edinburgh Futures Institute visualisation

Sustainable design guidance updated to inform £1.4 billion improvements to buildings and wider infrastructure

To enhance the experience of students, staff and the general public, the University is investing £1.4 billion over the next decade to improve its buildings and wider infrastructure. To ensure, sustainability is integrated into new builds and refurbishments, the University has reviewed and updated its sustainable design guidance. The new guidance aligns with the University’s Climate Strategy, includes measures on climate adaptation, biodiversity and welfare. The guidance is being trialled across estates development projects.

Work on the Edinburgh Futures Institute is progressing, with the former Royal Infirmary Hospital, being restored and upgraded to form a major new interdisciplinary institute, the largest of its kind in the United Kingdom. Community access and industry engagement have been factored into the design of the building, ensuring the space is flexible and supports the aims of the institute.

More free drinking water points have been installed across the University estate to allow staff and students easier access to free water and to reduce the amount of single-use bottles used on campus. Over 200 drinking water points will have been installed or upgraded by the end of 2019.

Visit the University's Estates website

Hedgehog tracks

Hedgehog Friendly Campus campaign embraced as part of support for biodiversity

The University has been updating its Biodiversity Strategy and Policy. Over the last year a key area of interest for staff and students was in relation to our ‘Hedgehog friendly campus’ initiative.

An initiative to protect hedgehogs is entering its next stage at the Easter Bush campus. This follows a summer survey that found hedgehog footprints in temporary tunnels around campus, as well as hedgehog sightings on camera.

Efforts are continuing with plans for the creation of a conservation map of the Easter Bush campus, home to the Roslin Institute and Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, and information for students and staff about what to do on discovering a hedgehog.

The activity is part of a national Hedgehog Friendly Campus campaign, funded by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. It aims to raise awareness of the mammals’ plight and help safeguard their future.

Find out more about the Hedgehog Friendly Campus campaign



Business travel emissions




Tonnes of waste over time


Looking forward


The University is committed to become zero waste by 2030. Over the next year, the University will identify further opportunities to enable staff and students to reuse University-owned items, including equipment from laboratories. The disposable cup charge will increase from 25p to 30p to more students and staff to use reusable cups.

A better and more up-to-date understanding of how staff and students commute to the University will be gained through the publication of the next Travel Survey in 2020.

Work will be undertaken over the next year to roll out the new sustainable design guidance for new estates development projects, whilst understanding how to further integrate circular economy thinking and carbon neutral design.



Hide sustainable estates section



Procurement icon: world

Sustainable procurement


Since Edinburgh became the first Scottish university to attain FairTrade status in 2004, the University has continually strived to embed social responsibility and sustainability requirements into its procurement processes and engagement with suppliers.

Decent work and economic growthIndustry, innovation and infrastructureResponsible consumption and productionPeace, justice and strong institutions

The University’s current Procurement Strategy aims to embed considerations around environmental, social and economic issues within procurement practices by 2021. A range of policies, including the University’s Fair Trade Policy, Conflict Minerals Policy, Good Food Policy, Palm Oil Policy, Modern Slavery Statement and Community Benefits Policy, govern purchasing practices.


Image: Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation Cafe.


Progress this year


Over the last year, the University has achieved financial efficiencies of £19.7 million on procurement activity of goods, services and capital works, worth £243 million. 83 per cent or £181 million worth of procurement activity is influenced through the University’s Procurement Office, while the remainder is locally managed. 50 per cent of the total procurement spend is with small and medium size enterprises.

The University published its third Modern Slavery Statement this past year. The Statement details what steps the University takes to combat modern slavery, relevant policies and procedures, and an action plan to ensure sustained focus on this issue. To help improve the knowledge of staff and students, an online Modern Slavery Awareness training course was created. A total of 116 staff have completed the course in the last year.

The University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh University Students' Association continue to hold a two-star Fairtrade University Award from the Fairtrade Foundation and NUS. The University maintained its 2 star award from the Sustainable Restaurant Association.

In October 2018, the Procurement Office earned the University a Scotland GO Award for Social and Community Benefits in Procurement for its approach, specifically drawing on strategic aims and unique strengths of Higher Education institutions and our aims for impact for society.



University of Edinburgh food

Good Food Policy progress: 150 students attended cookery classes, 1000th tree was planted by Coffee Conscience supplier and working towards 50% plant based or vegetarian options in every outlet

Central to the University’s Good Food Policy is the vision of a responsible catering service that succeeds in providing healthy, sustainable and affordable food to its customers. Over the last year, the University has provided cookery classes, with over 150 students attending. The proportion of plant based and vegetarian options on offer have increased, working towards the aim of ensuring that 50 per cent of catering options in every outlet will either be plant based or vegetarian.

Coffee Conscience, the coffee supplier who provides Fairtrade coffees to the University, planted its 1,000th tree this past year as a direct result of the Fairtrade sales they have made at the University. Through this community reinvestment programme, the supplier reinvests 2.5 per cent of its Fairtrade sales back into community projects. Coffee Conscience works alongside social enterprise Fruitful Scotland, which provides workshop support for local schools and charities to plant trees. All of the trees have been planted in the Lothian region.

Work has continued to be undertaken to assess and better understand the sustainability risks in food supply chains, with extensive work being completed on palm oil.

Find out more about the Good Food Policy

Palm oil fruit

Palm Oil Policy sets out commitment to purchase products made from sustainable palm oil that meets the highest standards of environmental protection

In May 2019, the University agreed a Palm Oil Policy setting its commitment to purchase products made from sustainable palm oil that meets the highest standards of environmental protection, community relations and workers’ rights. This means palm oil that is certified by a rigorous and independently verified certification scheme that is based on multi-stakeholder participation.

While the University does not buy palm oil directly, its prevalence in manufactured goods means that many of the food and cleaning products used on campus will contain palm oil or other oil palm-derived ingredients.

Find out more about the Palm Oil Policy

Make ICT Fair black friday campaign

Research into working conditions and labour issues in electronics manufacturing for Make ICT Fair collaboration

The University is collaborating with ten partners from across Europe on a three year project, which commenced in 2017 and is funded by the European Union. The ‘Make ICT Fair – Reforming Manufacture and Minerals Supply Chains through Policy, Finance and Public Procurement’ aims to improve the lives of workers and those impacted along different stages of the Information and Communication Technology supply chain through research, campaigning, capacity building and advocacy.

Over the last year, the University has been carrying out research on working conditions and labour issues in electronics manufacturing. The project builds on the University’s affiliation to Electronics Watch, which carries out worker-based monitoring of ICT factories on behalf of public sector members.

Find out more about the Make ICT Fair project

Engineering students site visit

Community benefit connects University contractors and suppliers with positive projects

In the last year, the University introduced a Community Benefits through Procurement Policy. This approach aligns with the University’s strategic priorities across the organisation in terms of community engagement, engagement with students, widening participation, equalities and environmental aims, and supporting inclusive economic growth. The University has implemented Community Benefits requirements into tenders across a wide range of projects beyond construction.

Examples of this include engaging Robertson Group with our Students as Change Agents initiative, where students from across disciplines have been working with Robertson and the Building Research Establishment (BRE) on ways to design out waste from the construction process. Balfour Beatty has worked on an innovative Circular Economy construction project with the School of Engineering in relation to one of their sites, and Player Layer, our sports clothing supplier, has been engaged in discussions with the University about strategies to support the future of sustainable and ethical textiles in their industry.

Find out more about Community Benefits and Fair Work at the University of Edinburgh

Sustain website

31 suppliers attend event to engage with Sustain, a sustainability monitoring tool

The University has supported the ongoing rollout of Sustain, a supplier based sustainability monitoring tool that was developed for the Scottish Further and Higher Education sector. The tool asks prioritised suppliers to provide details of their human resource practices, along with other measures they take in relation to sustainability concerns in their supply chain.

In the last year, University has devoted resource to increase the number of completed assessments of suppliers and provided feedback to the Advanced Procurement for Universities and Colleges group. A supplier engagement day was hosted by the University, which aimed to support innovation, capacity building and the sharing of best practice. A total of 31 suppliers attended the event.

Visit the University's Procurement website


Looking forward


In the next year, the University will continue to identify potential social and environmental impacts in its supply chains, specifically reviewing those products and services associated the Estates.

The University will undertake research into the catering and cleaning products it purchases. If the University cannot verify that the palm oil in an item comes from a certified source that meets our requirements, then the item will be replaced with a certified alternative or removed, wherever possible.

The online Modern Slavery Awareness training course will be made mandatory for all staff with authority to approve financial transactions, supporting efforts to number of staff with knowledge of this issue.



Hide sustainable procurement section



Investment icon: signpost

Responsible investment


In 2013, the University of Edinburgh became the first university in Europe to sign the UN Principles for Responsible Investment, an internationally-recognised initiative seeking to build a more sustainable financial system. Signatories commit to following six Principles for Responsible Investment and report annually to the PRI on their progress, who issue signatories with a scorecard and benchmarking against past performance, peer performance, and industry standards.

Affordable and clean energyDecent work and economic growthIndustry, innovation and infrastructureReduced inequalities

Our Responsible Investment Policy Statement from 2016 outlines approach the University takes to responsible investing, and highlights the progress made along with actions planned in response to policy decisions and strategic objectives relating to environmental, social and governance considerations.


Image of tour guide, Sonny. Invisible Cities is a social enterprise that trains people who have experienced homelessness to become walking tour guides of their own city. Power Up Scotland investment recipient.


Progress this year


The University is on track to complete its transition out of fossil fuel investments by 2021. The decision taken in 2018, approved by the University’s ruling body, the University Court, follows its commitment to become carbon neutral by 2040. The University has the largest endowment fund of any university in Scotland. It will become the largest university endowment in the UK to be free of fossil fuel investment.

The University received an overall score of A in its 2019 assessment by the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment, the world's leading proponent of responsible investment. Its commitment to responsible investment has been recognised by being included in the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment's 2019 Leaders' Group. The University is the only Further and Higher Education institution in the group, and one of nine organisations in the United Kingdom named in the group.

Further research on the carbon footprint of the University’s investment portfolio was completed in summer 2019, together with a review of the Task Force on Climate Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD).



Announcement of the Scottish Social Growth Fund

The University has committed to invest up to £8m in social investments for the benefit of society

By May 2019, the University had already invested £2.5 million with Big Issue Invest via its Social Enterprise Investment Fund (SEIF) II and Power Up Scotland, and Social Investment Scotland via its Social Growth Fund 2.

The University works with Big Issue Invest, the social investment arm of The Big Issue Group, one of the world’s most recognised social enterprises and home to the award-winning street magazine. The University has invested £1 million in a partnership via SEIF II that seeks to dismantle poverty and create opportunity for people and communities across the UK. SEIF II invests in social enterprises and charities that are finding innovative solutions to tackle some of the toughest social problems. These include homelessness, social and financial exclusion, and youth unemployment.

The University has also invested £500,000 in Big Issue Invest’s Power Up Scotland which is aimed at enabling up to 30 Scottish early-stage social ventures to access loan funding of up to £50k over the next three years. Power Up has been developed for organisations likely to be accessing finance for the first time, and with social value creation being the key criterion, social enterprises, charities, and private enterprises are all welcome to apply.

Since launching the Social Growth Fund back in 2014, Social Investment Scotland have been able to support the growth ambitions of 22 social enterprises across Scotland with £12.7m of funding. All these organisations have been able to use this funding to scale their social impact to make a real, measurable and long-term impact on people’s lives. The University has invested £1 million in the second phase of the fund to connect more capital with communities and grow the social enterprise sector in Scotland, along with its partners the Scottish Government and Big Society Capital.

Find out more about the University's social investments

Prosper Social Finance students

Over the last year, 60 students have been trained as analysts through Prosper, a student-lead social investment group

Prosper, a student-led investment fund based on a community interest model was provided with £10,000 worth of investment from the University as a seed fund investor. Over the last year, 60 students have been trained as analysts, completing Prosper's Social Finance Analyst training programme and more students have been engaged through events.

Visit the Prosper website


Looking forward


Over the next 5 years the University will strive to be recognised as the leading university for social enterprise and investments in the United Kingdom. We will do this by taking a rigorous approach to investments that delivers an acceptable return, whilst also delivering multiple benefits for society, the economy and the environment. The University’s social enterprise and investment activities will be integrated with our research and teaching, our efforts on widening participation and sustainability, and with the City Deal and local community engagement.

The University will continue its efforts to transition out of fossil fuel investments by 2021 and identify other opportunities to accelerate our social responsibility and sustainability commitments across our portfolio.



Hide responsible investment section



Fair employer icon: heart

Fair employer


The University has a strong and long-standing commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion and to promoting a positive culture which celebrates difference, challenges prejudice and ensures fairness.

Sustainable development goal 3: Good health and wellbeingGender inequalityDecent work and economic growthReduced inequalities

The University’s Strategic Plan to 2030 highlights that students and staff are our lifeblood. All members of the University community should expect to be able to excel and be respected and valued for their unique perspectives and contributions.


Image: Staff in the Playfair Library. Photographer: Stuart Edwards.


Progress this year


The University is committed to delivering equality of opportunity to all employees, regardless of their gender or other protected characteristics. We are committed to addressing the gender pay gap that exists at the University. There has been a positive trend towards a more balanced gender split for Grade 9 and 10 pay bands since 2016-17, however there remains a gender pay gap that is in favour of male employees.

The University continues to be recognised for its commitment to advancing the careers of women working in higher education. Edinburgh has retained the institutional Athena SWAN Silver Award it achieved in 2015. The University is the only Scottish institution to hold a silver award. The Athena SWAN Charter was established in 2005 to advance gender equality in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine in higher education and research.



Modern apprentice from the landscape team preparing annual flower meadow for sowing

A second cohort of Modern Apprentices started work at the University in 2019

Some 25 new staff working on a range of roles across campus. This included posts as landscape gardeners, digital application support assistants, business administrators and lab technicians.

In 2018, 19 young people started Modern Apprenticeships at Edinburgh as part of a pilot year. Each has received on-the-job training, sometimes with study at college, as part of a structured programme that leads to an industry-approved qualification. The Modern Apprenticeships initiative enables young people to earn while they acquire the skills they need to succeed in their chosen career. The long-term goal of the programme is to help create a skilled workforce that’s ready to face the future.

Find out more about Modern Apprenticeships at the University

PlayFair Steps presentation, Melissa Highton https://thinking.is.ed.ac.uk/melissa/playfair-steps/

300 per cent increase in women at directorship level with Playfair Steps initiative

A programme designed to encourage diversity at Edinburgh has been recognised at the University Human Resources 2018 Awards. The University established the Playfair Steps initiative to improve equality and diversity in its central Information Technology and Library departments. The programme has resulted in a 300 per cent increase in women at directorship level, and an increase of more than 30 per cent at Grade 9 level.

The initiative began life as a gender equality survey in 2015, as the University was keen to explore ways to diversify its workforce. However, the scope of the programme has broadened, exploring how a wide range of factors affect a person’s workplace experience, from gender to religion, age, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background and parental status.

The University invited 10 academics from fields including gender studies and social policy to present and make recommendations to Information Services Group staff. As well as the lecture series, a Playfair Steps Equality Working Group was set up to allow staff to voice equality and diversity issues that should be addressed.

Diversity initiative wins prestigious HR award

Don't Cross the Line campaign image (it was a joke / it was bullying)

The Don’t Cross the Line campaign was launched by the University to raise awareness of dignity and respect across the University

The campaign provides staff and students with the appropriate level of knowledge to understand the expectations placed on them, in relation to dignity and respect, as a member of the University; understand the University’s zero tolerance stance on any forms of bullying, harassment, discrimination and victimisation; ensure staff are aware of the processes and support for raising and addressing such concerns.

Find out more about the anti-bullying and harassment initiative

Accessibility in campus

Over the last year, the University has been focused on delivering on the disability review focus areas, the implementation of adjustments for disabled students and accessibility of the estate

As of 31 July 2019, 3.5 per cent of our staff have declared they have a disability, compared to 3.4 per cent in 2018. The University aims to create an environment that gives all staff the opportunity to fully participate in University life, and we remain committed to a policy of equal opportunities for disabled staff and students.

Last year, the Disability Review report and recommendations was published after engagement with disabled students and staff and input from the Student Disability Service, academic staff, Coordinators of Adjustments and others.

Find out more about review of support for disabled students


Looking forward


The University will continue to welcome and bring together people from a wide range of backgrounds and experience, both close to home and across the globe. As one of the largest local employers, the University will continue to offer interesting and varied career opportunities to young people in the local community.

The University’s Service Excellence Programme will continue to make the University an even better place to work, making life easier for staff. Work will also be undertaken to celebrate and enable staff to volunteer with local community organisations, delivering positive social and environmental impact.



Hide fair employer section



Community engagement icon: Edinburgh skyline

Community engagement


Just as we make an impact on the global stage, the University also makes a positive contribution to city life. The University provides funding and support for local community groups, runs projects to share the University’s knowledge with the city and celebrates work done across the institution that engages with the Edinburgh community.

No povertyReduced inequalitiesSustainable cities and communitiesPeace, justice and strong institutionsPartnerships for the goals

The University’s Strategic Plan to 2030 highlights the importance of social and civic responsibility, including its integral role in the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal. The University is collaborating with local schools, colleges and universities, public authorities, industrial and business partners, and governments, to support the City Region Deal’s ambition for Data-Driven Innovation and inclusive growth.


Image: Students working in the community with the True Athlete Project.


Progress this year


To date, Edinburgh Local, the University’s community engagement programme, has awarded £180,000 to more than 40 projects across the city since its inception in October 2017. Grants of up to £5,000 are available to help develop community activities and sustainable initiatives. Successful projects must seek to make a positive social impact, create learning opportunities and increase engagement between the University and local communities.

The University’s Digital Ambassadors project, which supports digital literacy, was nominated in the “Benefitting Society” category in the prestigious Green Gown Awards.

Visit the Edinburgh Local website



Man playing saxophone on Princes Street https://unsplash.com/photos/u75R2EC1bNs

Centre for Homeless and Inclusion Health links people who experience homelessness with University expertise and services

The Centre for Homeless and Inclusion Health is a collaboration between the University and local partners in Scotland to improve the health and wellbeing of people who experience homelessness. Development of the Centre began in 2016 and it was formally launched in 2018.

The Centre has established the first course in Scotland on Homeless and Inclusion Health. This is a Masters course aimed at individuals from a range of organisations, including the NHS, local authorities, housing providers, the third sector and policy bodies, as well as students. Participants taking the course as Continuing Professional Development occupy a range of roles in their daily work, from CEO to support worker. The University has provided 23 bursaries to enable them to take part.

Students taking the course are primarily medical, nursing and health care students – the workforce of the future – who wish to develop their knowledge and interest in health inequalities.

The headcount of the Centre is growing, with a PhD student exploring LGBTQi and youth homelessness in Scotland and a researcher working on alcohol use with migrants who are experiencing homelessness. Also in place is a member of University staff who provides legal advice and advocacy to patients at the Edinburgh Access Practice, the service supports 6-10 clients each week.

Read more about the Centre for Homelessness and Inclusion Health

Enactus Edinburgh student winners of the Enactus national competition

Student social enterprise supported

A commitment to develop an eco-system to support Student Social Enterprise was one of the University’s first Social Impact Pledges. In 2018, we implemented a pilot programme aimed at improving this infrastructure. The pilot was led by the Edinburgh University Students’ Association in collaboration with Launch.Ed. We also set up a £2,000 Social Enterprise Start Up fund, and a showcase, where student entrepreneurs had the chance to highlight their work to, and connect with, pertinent senior management of local organisations.

Four new student social projects were developed with a view to progressing into the University’s formal social enterprise support, with each delivering social and environmental benefits. One of the projects currently supported by the University, Enactus Edinburgh, won the Enactus national competition, where they were judged by a panel of 80 senior business leaders, and went on to represent the UK at the Enactus World Cup in California in October 2018.

Read more about the Edinburgh Innovations' enterprise service for students

Digital Ambassadors in action

Digital Ambassadors help local organisations deliver confidence-boosting digital skill training

The University established links with two new delivery partners for its digital skills outreach programme: the Edinburgh arm of the Amina Muslim Women’s Resource Centre, whose mission is to empower, inspire and support local Muslim Women; and People Know How, a community centre, which works with local people to identify their needs and the solutions that will help them fulfil their potential and solve social issues.

The six-week digital skills course delivered by University student volunteers has become a regular part of Amina’s employability skills suite of courses. The course focuses on teaching tablet computer skills that fit the SCVO’s definitions of Foundation and Essential digital life skills. Using the SCVO’s Essential Digital Skills toolkit, observable improvements in learners’ digital skills are now being recorded. Friendships and community are also being created through the course, with one learner returning for all four deliveries of the course. Since the sessions began, 24 different women have been through the course at least once and approximately 140 student volunteer hours have been given.

People Know How reviewed its digital outreach provision in 2018 with a view to better meeting the needs of its users and the University will be working with this community centre to develop a ‘digital befriending’ service.

The University has continued to work with Edinburgh’s Central Library to deliver the Friday afternoon Digital Drop-In Service. This is now a well established and popular service. Between late September and early February 2019, 81 one-to-one consultations were held delivered by 20 individual student volunteers.

Read more about Digital Ambassadors


Looking forward


In Summer 2019, the University reaffirmed its commitment to the local community by signing the Social Impact Pledge from Communities Channel Scotland to develop and introduce even more ways to engage with the city in the coming year. This includes the following:

  • The Centre for Homeless and Inclusion Health extending its educational outreach and partnership-working in support of effective practice
  • We will launch phase 1 of the ‘Understanding Place Project’, a research programme aimed at tackling multiple deprivation and empowering and giving voice to hard-to-reach and marginalised groups
  • We will develop and pilot a scheme to allow local community organisations to make use of the University’s room.

The University will also be developing its support to student-led enterprises, this will include opening a new Student Enterprise Hub for entrepreneurial students and recent graduates.



Hide community engagement section



Widening participation icon: key

Widening participation


Building on our values, and our commitment to delivering a positive impact with our local and global communities, we are working to ensure that students from a wide range of diverse backgrounds thrive and feel a sense of belonging at the University.

Quality educationReduced inequalities

The principles within the University’s Widening Participation Strategy demonstrate Widening Participation and inclusion can and should be the lens to everything we do. The University can be both a world-leading centre of academic excellence and a place of opportunity for a diverse group of students, including those from some of the most deprived communities and under-represented groups in Scotland.

The University has a strong and long-standing commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion and to promoting a positive culture which celebrates difference, challenges prejudice and ensures fairness. However, we recognise there is more for us to do in this area.


Image: Educated Pass programme. Boys from Musselburgh Windsor FC at the University's Centre for Sport and Exercise. Photographer: Paul Dodds.


Progress this year


The University was delighted to meet the Commission for Widening Access targets of 10 per cent of our intake to come from the 20 per cent most deprived areas in Scotland 3 years ahead of schedule. The 195 students from SIMD20 represent 11 per cent of this year’s undergraduate intake.



Primary and Early Secondary Years initiative. Local P7 students at a history workshop with WP Officer Jenny Edwards.

University launches pilot secondary school partnership programme, Your Ed

To support more school students from lot attaining or low progression schools into the higher education, the University launched a pilot secondary school partnership programme, Your Ed.

Through the pilot the University arranged visits from former students of the school or town who are studying at the Edinburgh or staff who share their academic passion. Information sessions and activities are delivered on a range of topics, including the student experience, transitions to university, careers, degree subjects and UCAS applications.

Further curriculum based support activities have been delivered throughout the year, including revision sessions, challenge days, student tutors and academic support for both Highers and Advanced Highers.

Read more about Your Ed

Students playing rugby

Funding and bursaries enhance participation in sports and student societies

To enhance the student experience for current students from low income and other under-represented backgrounds, the University has provided additional funds to support participation in sports and student societies. Over the last year, there have been 189 applications for funding, of which 140 students were allocated funding totaling £9,947.

A total of 57 students were in receipt of a University’s Scotland Accommodation Bursary, 73 were in receipt of a University RUK Bursary. 75 per cent of students used the grant for sports clubs, 20 per cent for societies and 5 per cent for intramural sport.

Read more about the Activities and Sports Participation Grant

Graduation ceremony - Douglas Robertson

University expands support for care experienced students

The Edinburgh Cares Committee has been established by the University to ensure we provide excellent holistic support for our care experienced students. The new Corporate Parenting Strategy and action plan is part of the work of the committee; one positive development for 2020 is a new scholarship for £5000 per year for Care Experienced and Estranged students at the University.

This year, the University has been a founding partner in the Hub for SUCCESS, a service supporting care experienced students to access education. Other partners include the City of Edinburgh Council, Scottish Children’s Lottery, the Open University and other Edinburgh based colleges and universities. The Hub provides advice and support for people with care experience to get in, stay in or return to education.

Read more about support for carers, estranged students and students with care experience

Engineering Students, School of Engineering, Paul Dodds

Institution-wide review and task group for equality, diversity and inclusion

The University has a strong and long-standing commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion and to promoting a positive culture, which celebrates difference, challenges prejudice and ensures fairness. However, we recognise there is more for us to do in this area.

Between 2018 and 2019, the University proactively and independently conducted its own institution-wide review, looking at the experiences of our black and ethnic minority students. We consulted widely with our students in order to better understand their experiences of race and ethnicity within the University environment and highlight the challenges that our BME students still face.

The University’s Senate Learning and Teaching Committee (LTC) also established a task group in 2018-19 to explore how institutional action can assist in promoting inclusion, equality and diversity in the curriculum.

Visit the University's Equality and Diversity website

Student, Paul Dodds

The University’s Global Community team has won the Herald Higher Education Award for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion for the support it provides to refugees and students seeking asylum

The team, based in Edinburgh Global, leads the University’s Refugee Advisory Group and supports our strategic partnership with the Council for At-Risk Academics (Cara) by providing postdoctoral placements and helping to deliver in-country workshops for displaced academics. Taking an innovative approach in collaboration with Cara, we created and funded the post of Cara Scotland Manager to empower universities, research institutes and civic society groups to increase engagement in Scotland to support at-risk academics.

The University’s Refugee Advisory Service offers coordinated advice and assistance to prospective students and staff with refugee or related status covering immigration, English language tuition, finance and scholarships, admissions, counselling support and more. We have widened participation to students seeking asylum from within the United Kingdom by setting fees as equivalent to ‘Scottish domiciled’ for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

Find out more about access for refugees


Looking forward


Everyone deserves an opportunity to study at Edinburgh, and over the next year the University will continue to ensure this is the case. A new scholarship scheme will be launched in 2020, providing care experienced and estranged students up to £5000 at the University. In response to the high demand from students, funding will also be increased to support current students from low income and other under-represented backgrounds to participate in sports and student societies.

As a result of the University’s most recent activity in equality, diversity and inclusion, the University has already committed to:

  • Produce specific advice and guidance for students who have experienced racial harassment or discrimination and publish this by January 2020
  • Introduce “Report and Support” for students who have experienced racial harassment or discrimination by July 2020
  • Ensure all conduct investigators have received specific training in investigating allegations of racial harassment or discrimination by January 2020
  • Set up a task group to take forward the recommendations from our internal report and Equality and Human Rights Commission findings.


Hide widening participation section



Research and public engagement icon: magnifying glass

Research and public engagement


The University is committed to embedding a culture of public engagement with research at Edinburgh, putting in place the mechanisms to enable the widest possible range of audiences to understand and make use of our research.

No povertyZero wasteGood Health & WellbeingQuality educationGender equalityClean Water & SanitationAffordable and clean energyDecent work & economic growthIndustry, innovation and infrastructureReduced inequalitiesSustainable cities and communitiesResponsible consumption & productionClimate actionLife below waterLife on landPeace, justice & strong institutionsPartnership for the goals

The University’s ethos of working without boundaries will deliver a step change in innovation and research.

“We will strive to make our research even more interdisciplinary and international, to address social and global challenges including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”

University Strategy 2030


University of Edinburgh research: Meticulous on-the-ground observations provide critical insights into how tundra vegetation is changing. Image © Jeffrey Kerby, National Geographic Society


Progress this year


International climate experts gathered in Edinburgh at the start of April 2019. The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and ClimateXChange met in Edinburgh to launch their work on the Working Group III contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report. Hosted by the Scottish Government, more than 180 authors from more than 65 countries came together for one week to start preparing a first draft of the report, due to be finalized in July 2021.

The Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI) continued to set the brightest new climate start-ups on the road to success with dedicated start-up support programmes. In 2018, 22 new cutting-edge Scottish businesses were supported through the Climate-KIC Accelerator and Greenhouse business support programmes. The entrepreneurs taking part secured funding of over £1.75 million in investments and prize money and received an impressive 54 awards.

In November 2018, the ECCI, hosted the Global Grand Final of Climate Launchpad 2018, the world’s biggest clean tech competition. The sold-out spectacular attracted participants from forty-five countries around the world. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave a keynote address praising ECCI’s role in putting Scotland at the forefront of the new climate economy.

The University has started work this year to map the Sustainable Development Goals across its academic research. Based on a key word search of the Sustainable Development Goals of academic publications in the Scopus abstract and citation database from the last five years, the University contributes to every one of the Sustainable Development Goals. The findings have also highlighted that the University accounts for over 4 per cent of the United Kingdom’s research relating to Climate Action. The graphic below visually highlights the results of this initial mapping exercise.

Visit the website for the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation



Sustainable development goals mapping wheel Edinburgh University

University of Edinburgh SDG mapping wheel

Created by the University of Leicester


Sustainable development goal 3: Good health and wellbeing

1,872

publications for good health and wellbeing
Sustainable development goal 2: Zero hunger

737

publications for zero hunger
Sustainable development goal 13: Climate action

695

publications for climate action
Sustainable development goal 15: Life on land

666

publications for life on land
Sustainable development goal 16: Peace justice and strong institutions

664

publications for peace justice and strong institutions
Sustainable development goal 7: Affordable and clean energy

621

publications for affordable and clean energy
Sustainable development goal 12: Responsible consumption and production

604

publications for responsible consumption and production
Sustainable development goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities

583

publications for sustainable cities and communities
Sustainable development goal 6: Clean water and sanitation

441

publications for clean water and sanitation
Sustainable development goal 5: Gender equality

361

publications for gender equality
Sustainable development goal 10: Reduced inequalities

347

publications for reduced inequalities
Sustainable development goal 8: Decent work and economic growth

315

publications for decent work and economic growth
Sustainable development goal 1: No poverty

311

publications for no poverty
Sustainable development goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure

248

publications for industry, innovation and infrastructure
Sustainable development goal 17: Partnership for the goals

228

publications for partnership for the goals
Sustainable development goal 14: Life below water

204

publications for life below water
Sustainable development goal 4: Quality education

66

publications for quality education

Looking forward


The University’s Strategy 2030 sets out the commitment to ensure its academic research addresses social and global challenges, including the Sustainable Development Goals. Over the next year, the University will look to improve its understanding and reporting of how its academic research contributes towards these challenges.

With the global spotlight turning to the United Nation’s Climate Change Conference in Glasgow during November 2020, the University will continue to play a key role in supporting the development of low carbon technologies, including start-ups. The University will ensure its academic research addresses the causes and impacts of the climate crisis, influencing policy and raising awareness of the climate crisis through its public engagement with local and global communities.



Hide research and public engagement section



Learning and teaching icon: graduation hat

Learning and teaching


Students want to learn about sustainability. For nine years in a row, around 60 per cent of students want to learn more about sustainability. Students Organising for Sustainability UK asks students about their attitudes towards learning for sustainable development. Since 2010, results have remained constant, despite changes in higher education and society, the demand for students to learn about sustainability has remained constant.

Quality education

Over the last year, the University has provided students with further opportunities to engage with social responsibility and sustainability issues through the formal and informal curriculum.


Image: Sustainability Awards student auditor training session.


Progress this year


The University has started work this year to map the Sustainable Development Goals across its academic curriculum. A methodology incorporating best practice from across the sector has been developed with the intention to involve students in a key word search of the Sustainable Development Goals of academic courses in the coming year.

A radical rethink of how first-year undergraduates learn about the world of business has resulted in the Business School receiving a global education award. The Global Challenges for Business course, led by Lecturer Dr Sarah Ivory, has secured one of the ten 'Ideas Worth Teaching' awards announced by the Aspen Institute. The award recognises "exceptional courses that are preparing future business leaders to tackle society's largest challenges and create a more inclusive, just, and sustainable version of capitalism".

The University has continued to provide learning opportunities for students out width their main academic studies. The Edinburgh Award, a programme which wraps around volunteering and extra-curricular activities and allows students to get official recognition for their involvement, launched a Social Responsibility and Sustainability version of the Award. Open to all students, the programme provides students with an opportunity to develop employability skills required to address the climate crisis and a wide range of sustainability issues.

Close to four thousand staff, students and members of the public attended a range of events throughout the year, which aimed to raise awareness of issues such as palm oil, single use plastics and biodiversity. The University hosted events on careers in sustainability for students, as well as events to support students who wanted to undertake their dissertation research on sustainability issues.



National Union of Students logo

93 per cent of student participants said their participation a European funded project on University Social Responsibility exceeded their original expectations

The ‘European Students, Sustainability Auditing’ Project piloted an approach to support universities improve their social responsibility practices, which in turn provided students with a learning opportunity on how universities implement these practices and a platform for institutions to share best practice.

The project was a collaboration across the European Higher Education Area, including the United Kingdom’s National Union of Students, supported by the European Students Union, working with the University of Edinburgh, the University of Porto, Kaunas University of Technology and the Students’ Associations of these universities. Between 2017 and 2019, 60 students were trained as Social Responsibility Auditors, going on to audit four European Higher Education Institutions.

The real-world experiences provided to students provided a chance for students to apply and develop professional skills in a work-based setting, while working with a diverse group of students from different institutions, disciplines and cultures, and improving their awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Visit the website for the ESSA project

Sustainable development goals banner at Sustainability Champions meetup

Mapping the academic curriculum against the Sustainable Development Goals underway

The University is currently working to map the academic curriculum against the Sustainable Development Goals, with the aim of identifying best practice and opportunities to further embed the climate crisis and wider sustainability issues into courses.

Student Pathways carbon literacy training

54 students participated in Student Pathways

Students interested in learning more about social responsibility and sustainability issues had the opportunity to participate in a new student learning programme at the University. The Social Responsibility and Sustainability Pathways was launched last year, promoting active student-led learning beyond students' main programmes of study, supporting opportunities for experiential learning on campus and in the community. A total of 54 students participated, developing transferable skills and improving their knowledge in the climate crisis and the Sustainable Development Goals. Each student was recognised for his or her efforts through the Edinburgh Award scheme.

Find out more about Student Pathways

Business School

Students completed the Global Challenges for Business course, a new innovative approach to the University’s Business School first year core requirements

All of the students, and those on a joint programme, take this course where they critically engage with global challenges businesses face. Students study topics such as digital disruption, globalisation and environmental disruption. Over three hundred students take this course. Students learn how to think, rather than what to think, and students are prepared for the complex world they will face when they graduate, with the skills that will help them to understand and cut through that complexity.

Find out more about the Global Challenges course on the Teaching Matters blog

Looking forward


Over the next year, the University will look to improve its understanding of how the Sustainable Development Goals are being taught across the academic curriculum. The findings from the mapping exercise of the academic curriculum will identify opportunities to strengthen good practice and provide new learning opportunities for students.

In advance of the United Nation’s Climate Change Conference in Glasgow during November 2020, the University will aim to provide and promote learning opportunities for all students and staff to improve their own awareness of the climate crisis and how they can reduce their own carbon impact going forward.



Hide learning and teaching section


Key performance indicators


Find out how we are measuring our performance for carbon, energy, waste, transport, sustainable procurement, widening participation, equality and diversity, and community engagement.

Key performance indicators for social responsibility and sustainability issues.

Carbon

Strategy / Theme: Climate Change Strategy 2016-2026

Performance Indicator Target 2018-19 progress 2017-18 progress Progress
We will reduce our emissions of carbon per £ million turnover by 50% from a 2007/8 baseline year by 2025. 78 tCO2e per £M turnover 71.6 tCO2e per £M turnover 89.4 tCO2e per £M turnover
Green tick

On track

We will return our carbon emissions to 2007/08 baseline year levels by 2025. 86,707 tCO2e 78,903 tCO2e 87,985 tCO2e
Green tick

On track

We will become a net zero carbon university by 2040. 0 tCO2e 78,903 tCO2e 87,985 tCO2e
Green tick

On track

Energy

Strategy / Theme: Sustainable Campus Fund

Performance Indicator Target 2018-19 progress 2017-18 progress Progress
Sustainable Campus Fund financial savings. £514,000 (by end of July 2018) £520,000 £370,000
Orange eye

Not yet on track but not yet of significant concern

Sustainable Campus Fund tCO2e savings. 2,813 tCO2e (by end of July 2018) 1,600 tCO2e 1,327 tCO2e
Orange eye

Not yet on track but not yet of significant concern

Waste

Strategy / Theme: Waste Strategy 2018/19 – 2022/23

Performance Indicator Target 2018-19 progress 2017-18 progress Progress
Maintain percentage diverted from landfill. 99% of waste diverted from landfill (academic estate only) 99% 99%
Green tick

On track

10% reduction in waste arising per capita (FTE staff and students). 66kg (academic estate only) 65kg 66kg
Green tick

On track

10% reduction in waste arising per student. 59kg (University managed accommodation – Pollock Halls) 85kg 71kg
Orange eye

Not yet on track but not yet of significant concern

Transport

Strategy / Theme: Integrated Transport Plan 2017 - 2021

Performance Indicator Target 2018-19 progress 2017-18 progress Progress
By 2021, increase the proportion of staff travelling on foot to University. 30% of staff and 60% of students 25% of staff and 57% of students 25% of staff and 57% of students
Green tick

On track

By 2021, increase the proportion of staff and students cycling to work and study. 15% of staff and students 13% of staff and students 13% of staff and students
Green tick

On track

Reduce car driving to 29% or less at each University site by 2021 (excluding Easter Bush). 29% or less at each University site (excluding Easter Bush) matching the Edinburgh Council Local Transport Strategy Target. Central Area 7%, Pollock Halls of Residence 47%, King's Buildings/Royal Observatory 15%, Edinburgh BioQuarter (including Little France) 22%, Western General Hospital 21% Central Area 7%, Pollock Halls of Residence 47%, King's Buildings/Royal Observatory 15%, Edinburgh BioQuarter (including Little France) 22%, Western General Hospital 21%
Green tick

On track

30% of the University fleet will be electric by 2021. 30% Awaiting data. 4%
Green tick

On track

Sustainable Procurement

Strategy / Theme: Procurement Strategy 2016-21

Performance Indicator Target 2018-19 progress 2017-18 progress Progress
% spend on SME 50% 46%
Green tick


On track

Widening Participation

Strategy / Theme: Widening Participation Strategy

Performance Indicator Target 2018-19 progress 2017-18 progress Progress
% full time, Scottish undergraduate entrants from MD20 and MD40 categories of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation Target - MD20 at least 10% of entrants by 2020-21 (2016/17: 7.1%), rising to 10% of population by 2023/24

MD20: 11.2%

MD40: 21.7%

MD20: 8.2%

MD40: 19.3%

Green tick

On track

Equality and Diversity

Strategy / Theme: Equality and Diversity

Performance Indicator Target 2018-19 progress 2017-18 progress Progress
Grade 9 and 10 Gender Profile Grade 10 to mirror Grade 9 gender profile Grade 9: 41 (female) / 59 (male)
Grade 10: 28 (female) / 72 (male)
Grade 9: 40 (female) / 60 (male)
Grade 10: 27 (female) / 73 (male)
Green tick

On track

Staff age profile (%): Professional services staff aged under 25 Upward trend 11% 11%
Orange eye

Not yet on track but not yet of significant concern

Staff age profile (%): Academic staff aged under 40 Upward trend 47% 48%
Orange eye

Not yet on track but not yet of significant concern

Community Engagement

Strategy / Theme: Community Engagement Strategy

Performance Indicator Target 2018-19 progress 2017-18 progress Progress
Community Grants awarded

Edinburgh Local Community Grants

Over £180,654 provided to local organisations to date Over £90,000 provided to local organisations to date
Green tick

On track

Digital Ambassadors - student volunteer recruited Upward trend 33/57 - awaiting confirmation 70 students recruited
Green tick

On track

Social Impact Pledges

Implement University's three Social Impact Pledges.

The Centre for Homeless and Inclusion Health extending its educational outreach and partnership-working in support of effective practice We will launch phase 1 of the ‘Understanding Place Project’, a research programme aimed at tackling multiple deprivation and empowering and giving voice to hard-to-reach and marginalised groups We will develop and pilot a scheme to allow local community organisations to make use of the University’s room. More students will be trained to work with community groups to enhance digital literacy and support employability. University aims to increase the number of sustainable start-up social enterprises it generates. University to support the establishment of a Centre for Homeless Health and Inclusion.
Green tick

On track



Hide key performance indicator section


Approach to reporting and governance


Social and Civic Responsibility is one of four key focus areas in the University’s Strategy 2030.

Our vision is to make the world a better place, so we will ensure that our actions and activities deliver positive change locally, regionally and globally.

A Social and Civic Responsibility Plan will be published by the University in 2020.

Strategy 2030

Governance

Overall governance responsibilities sits with the Social Responsibility and Sustainability (SRS) Committee, which succeeded the former Sustainability and Environment Advisory Group (SEAG) in 2015.

The scope and remit for the SRS Committee includes sustainability and environmental topics, as well as fair employment, equality and diversity issues, access to education, widening participation issues, community relations and public engagement. Through engagement with both the University and local communities, government relations and partnerships, we seek to understand the social responsibility and sustainability issues that are important to our stakeholders and to the long term success of the University.

Professor Sandy Tudhope, University Lead on Climate Responsibility and Sustainability, is the Convenor of the committee. Professor Lesley McAra Assistant Principal Community Relations, is the Vice Convenor. The SRS Committee reports directly into the University’s Executive.

The remit and name of the Sustainability Operations Advisory Group was revised in 2017, becoming the Sustainability Strategy Advisory Group. It provides advice on the development of integrated strategies, plans and programmes for operational sustainability across all of the University functions, including broader social aspects where relevant. Dave Gorman, Director of Social Responsibility & Sustainability, is the Convenor of the group. The Group reports directly into the SRS Committee.

The University also has working groups on Modern Slavery, Sustainable Laboratories and Utilities. An informal working group focusing on the Sustainable Development Goals and the academic curriculum has been established within the last year. The University also has a partnership working group with the Edinburgh University Students’ Association.

Social Responsibility and Sustainability Committees

Reporting

Over the last year, we have continued to improve our approach to social responsibility and sustainability reporting, ensuring we report on those issues that are of most importance to our stakeholders.

In 2019, the University published a staff and student survey on social responsibility and sustainability issues. The survey found high levels of interest in climate change, sustainability, and social responsibility. Staff and students were asked to rank 10 social responsibility and sustainability issues in order of importance. Using renewable energy was the number one priority for students, and improving the energy efficiency and sustainability of our buildings was the number one priority for staff. Progress against these important issues for our staff and students are included within this report. The staff and student survey will take place every two years.

We have worked with the University’s Finance Department to further support efforts to align the Annual Report and Accounts to the International Integrated Reporting Framework.

Social responsibility and sustainability issues are reported throughout the Annual Report and Accounts, including in the Principal’s Foreword and Operational Review sections. This is the sixth year that we have reported progress on social responsibility and sustainability issues in this report.

We have created a new website to host this report, ensuring it is more accessible to users, providing information that is more detailed, and case studies on performance against a range of social responsibility and sustainability issues.

As a world leading university with a mission to facilitate the creation, dissemination and curation of knowledge, we will have some different issues to report on in relation to social responsibility and sustainability than organisations outside of the higher education sector.

Survey results: 95% of University of Edinburgh students are interested in climate change

Annual Report and Accounts




Hide approach to reporting and governance section


Sustainable Development Goals


The University and Students' Association signed the Sustainable Development Goals Accord in 2017.

The purpose of the Accord is to inspire, celebrate and advance the critical role that education has in delivering the Sustainable Development Goals and the value it brings to governments, business and wider society. This reaffirms the University's commitment to make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK and the world.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals, part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, were adopted by the United Nations and world leaders in 2015. These will universally apply to all, countries will mobilise efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind.

Through its research, learning and teaching, operations and community of staff, students and alumni, the University is committed to delivering these Sustainable Development Goals with partners, including the Students' Association, both locally and globally.

The Sustainable Development Goals are embedded within the University’s Strategy 2030 and progress will be reported annually through this annual report.


Sustainable Development Goals Sustainable Development Goals Accord



No poverty

Sustainable development goal 1: No poverty

Zero hunger

Sustainable development goal 2: Zero hunger

Good health and well-being

Sustainable development goal 3: Good health and wellbeing

Quality education

Sustainable development goal 4: Quality education

Gender equality

Sustainable development goal 5: Gender equality

Clean water and sanitation

Sustainable development goal 6: Clean water and sanitation

Affordable and clean energy

Sustainable development goal 7: Affordable and clean energy

Decent work and economic growth

Sustainable development goal 8: Decent work and economic growth

Industry, innovation and infrastructure

Sustainable development goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure

Reduced inequalities

Sustainable development goal 10: Reduced inequalities

Sustainable cities and communities

Sustainable development goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities

Responsible consumption and production

Sustainable development goal 12: Responsible consumption and production

Climate action

Sustainable development goal 13: Climate action

Life below water

Sustainable development goal 14: Life below water

Life on land

Sustainable development goal 15: Life on land

Peace, justice and strong institutions

Sustainable development goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

Partnerships for the goals

Sustainable development goal 17: Partnerships for the goals



Hide Sustainable Development Goals section


Timeline of Social Responsibility and Sustainability


Find out about our biggest successes from the last 30 years. Scroll right for more.