Sustainability strategy, leadership and plans

A sustainable university - our aims

Through our 2030 Strategy we will work to address the urgency of the climate and ecological crisis and strive to fulfil our role in the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

We have pledged to:

  • be carbon neutral as an organisation, with net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2030
  • work through the ISO 14001 standard to set clear targets and plans to reduce water and energy use, cut waste generation including food waste, and support biodiversity
  • as signatories to the UK Plastic Pact, eliminate all but essential single-use plastic and meet the 2025 targets for recycling and reuse
  • establish all our campuses as clean air and smoke-free zones
  • invest in and secure year-on-year improvement in travel sustainability for staff, students and visitors
  • work with our students to explicitly address climate change and environmental challenges through our teaching, learning and curriculum
  • support research that addresses issues relating to climate change, environmental challenges and biodiversity; targets, timescales and detailed plans will be set out in the UWE Bristol Transforming Futures Climate Action and Sustainability Strategy.

Leadership and governance

Overall strategic leadership for sustainability is guided by the Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, chair of the Sustainability Executive Committee Pro Vice Chancellor and Head of College (CATE) Professor Elena Marco. She is charged with promoting the integration and enhancing the impact of all our sustainability teaching, research, knowledge exchange and community engagement activities. This level of seniority demonstrates the University's commitment to ensuring that sustainability is core to our decision-making processes.

The Sustainability Executive Committee

The Sustainability Executive Committee meets three times a year and is governed by formal Terms of Reference (PDF). The Sustainability Plan Theme Leaders, the Sustainability Officer, President and nominated Vice-President from The Students' Union at UWE and representatives from all three trade unions are entitled to attend. The board takes its authority from and reports to the Directorate, Academic Board and the Board of Governors. In addition, elected officers of The Students' Union at UWE report on outcomes through the governance arrangements of the Union.

At each meeting, the Board reviews progress with the seven themes of the Sustainability Plan (PDF), undertakes regular reviews of policies including the Environmental Sustainability Policy (PDF) and the Ethical Investment Policy (PDF), approves action plans arising from the Sustainability Plan, reviews progress with the commitment to adopt the principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME) across the institution, and provides the governance of the whole institution ISO 14001 accreditation process and the Responsible Futures accreditation.

Healthy University Group

The Healthy University Group was established in 2006 as a sub-group of the Sustainability Board and the Health and Wellbeing Strategy Group. This group ensures that a whole university approach is taken, endorsing membership from academic staff, senior management, Student Services, People and Organisation Development, Facilities, Students' Union and Centres for Sport and Music. This cross-university steering group is uniquely positioned to progress this complex, multi-factorial agenda of the health and wellbeing of staff, students and wider communities.

The Healthy University Group supports UWE Bristol’s commitment to be a leading UK Healthy University, with the aim to raise the profile of and embed health and wellbeing within the culture, structures and processes of the daily life of the University. In addition, UWE Bristol aims to enhance everyone's health and wellbeing by creating and promoting healthier working, learning and social environments.

The Students’ Union at UWE and UWE Bristol working in partnership

The University and The Students' Union at UWE have a strong partnership and are working to provide training and resources for student projects. In exchange, we expect The Students' Union at UWE to challenge us and to push us to do better in meeting the aims and objectives of our 2030 Sustainability Plan.

To this end, during the last nine years we have supported The Students' Union at UWE to develop The Green Team, a sizeable community with more than 500 supporters, across the departments and programmes of UWE Bristol. The Green Team initiative is supported by a specially appointed Sustainability Engagement Officer within The Students' Union at UWE. Every year in March they run one or more campaigns to challenge the University and to raise student awareness of positive climate action.

Together, UWE Bristol and The Students' Union at UWE have gained external recognition for their efforts to improve their sustainability performance across the board. Most recently, we have worked together to gain three accreditations from the NUS: Fairtrade University, awarded in 2022, Responsible Futures, re-accredited in 2021, the NUS Green Impact award for the academic year 2021/22, for which The Students' Union at UWE were the winners of a GISU Special Award for, "The Highest Scoring Students' Union" for the sixth year in a row.

Read more about sustainability at the SU

Read the latest SU Sustainability reports

City region activities

At UWE Bristol we aim to make the most of our ability to impact on the sustainability of the city region through various channels; through our leadership, our academic expertise and research, our students’ placements, projects and volunteering, and our involvement in key initiatives.

Our commitment to the key sustainability grouping in Bristol, the Bristol Green Capital Partnership (BGCP) has been significant over many years. During the Bristol 2015 European Green Capital year, we were a strategic partner and strong supporter. In 2016, we were involved in the development of the partnership into a Community Interest Company and Professor James Longhurst, our Assistant Vice-Chancellor and now Emeritus Professor, chaired BGCP in 2016 and is a member of the current board.

Building on the expertise of our staff and our strategic role in the city, we are engaged in a range of other initiatives, the key one of which is the Bristol City Council's commitment to achieve a carbon neutral city by 2030. Our recent former staff member and current Emeritus Professor James Longhurst is co-chair of the Advisory Committee on Climate Change, along with Dr Jo House of the University of Bristol. UWE Bristol is also working closely with South Gloucestershire Council to support their Climate Emergency Action Plan.

In terms of sharing good practice and learning with others in the city and South West region, we are regular participants (and winners in) the Travelwest Sustainable Travel awards, the Bristol Volunteering Awards and more. We also host conferences seminars and events and provide keynote speakers for many sustainability events.

Leading at a national level

UWE Bristol is a long-standing member of the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC), an Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education. In June 2020, our former Assistant Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jim Longhurst was elected as the chair of board of directors and trustees of the EAUC.

The EAUC, the Association of Colleges, GuildHE and Universities UK have partnered to establish a Climate Commission for UK Higher and Further Education Students and Leaders and Professor Longhurst serves as one of the Commissioners.

Find out more about the EAUC’s work, values and aims on the EAUC.

Our financial commitment to sustainability

Read our Responsible Procurement ESG policy (PDF) and find out how we are improving sustainable purchasing on campus.

In addition UWE Bristol supports its sustainability activities through various budgets:

  • The Facilities Sustainability Team is supported through the University's Facilities budget.
  • Estates and Facilities are committing considerable resources to decarbonisation of the campuses, for example through the building of Passishaus student accommodation through fabric improvements, installation of district heating networks, and the installation of solar photovoltaic panels.
  • The University-wide Professor of Education for Sustainable Development has been created, only one of three in the country, to ensure curriculum development incorporates considerations of sustainability and to coordinate a University-wide network Knowledge Exchange for Sustainable Education.
  • The Assistant Vice-Chancellor, Environment and Sustainability has a dedicated budget to support student and staff initiatives and projects.
  • The University supports The Students' Union Green Team through its annual block grant, a proportion of which it pays the salary of the Green Team Coordinator and provides funding for the Change for Change programme, whereby students receive up to £500 to make their ideas a reality.

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