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 and Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Environment and Sustainability.

The Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Environment and Sustainability 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 Board

The Sustainability Board meets four to five times a year and is governed by formal Terms of Reference (PDF). The Sustainability Plan Theme Leaders, the Sustainability Officer, Green Team Coordinator, 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, Human Resources, Facilities, Students' Union and Centre for Sport. 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 six years we have supported The Students' Union at UWE to develop The Green Team, a sizeable community with more than 800 supporters, across the departments and programmes of UWE Bristol. The Green Team initiative is supported by a specially appointed Green Team coordinator within The Students' Union at UWE. Every year 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 two accreditations from the NUS - Responsible Futures, re-accredited in 2020, and the NUS Green Impact award for the academic year 2020/21 for which The Students' Union at UWE received an excellent categorisation for the fifth year running.

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, 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. 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 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 Sustainable Purchasing 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.
  • UWE Bristol has committed £1 million each year to fund energy, water and carbon reduction projects.
  • The University-wide ESD Associate Professor post has been created 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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