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Sustainability in action

We're putting sustainability at the centre of everything we do at UAL.

Environmental policy and strategies

Our Environmental Policy (PDF 401KB) is our mission statement for sustainability at UAL. It sets out our aspirations but also how we manage, report, set targets and promote environmental stewardship. The Climate Action Plan is our formal, public and permanent demonstration of intent regarding performance in this area.

Various members of the University’s Executive Group have responsibility for climate justice at the university. In 2019, the University appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor Jeremy Till to lead our response to the climate emergency. Jeremy chairs the Climate & Environment Action Group (CEAG) (PDF 128KB) and you can read more about the group's remit and impact in UAL’s Carbon Management Plan (PDF 5.01MB) (see section 7). Within UAL’s Carbon Management Plan we also share details of how UAL will reduce Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions (PDF 196KB) to meet our net zero targets.

Find contact information for staff who contribute to sustainability at UAL. The University’s impact on the environment is managed through the three Environmental Management Systems certified to ISO 14001 (x2) and ISO 50001.

UAL has written an Environmental Policy Statement 2022 (PDF 401KB) and our environmental sustainability strategy sets SMART action plan (XLSX 21.9KB) for reducing environmental impact across 8 key areas. These are:

  • Construction & Refurbishment
  • Emissions & Discharges
  • Community involvement
  • Biodiversity
  • Waste management
  • Travel and Transport
  • Sustainable procurement
  • Water.

Since 2013, the University has worked to reduce environmental impact and has invested £1.5 million into the reduction of carbon emissions from across our estate which has seen UAL’s carbon emissions fall.

Environmental auditing and management

We have opened ourselves up to external scrutiny, demonstrating our commitment to measuring and monitoring environmental aspects and impacts through regular audits. UAL’s Environmental Management Systems (EMS) are ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 accredited. The University has a dedicated EMS for both sustainable learning, teaching, and research (ISO 14001) and our business operations (also ISO 14001). The University has a third EMS, ISO 50001, which covers energy management and helps us reduce our direct (scope 1 and 2) emissions.

You can find supporting documentation, certification and external audits on our Policies and Sustainable Documentation page.

The scope of each EMS covers all university buildings (including Halls of Residence) and all activities within those buildings. The aspects, also known as key performance indicators (KPIs) are audited at each site annually and define how the university plans, operates, checks and acts in terms of environmental performance. This allows the university to manage its environmental responsibilities in a systematic manner. The EMS(s) help the University to achieve its intended outcomes which are:

  • enhancement of environmental performance in response to the climate emergency;
  • fulfilment of compliance obligations;
  • achievement of environmental objectives;
  • the EMS is independently verified to be true and correct.

The University also completes the annual return to the Association of Directors of Estates Sustainability Scorecard. View our AUDE Sustainability Scorecard (PDF 376KB).

Managing carbon

UAL acknowledges that a steep and annual reduction in global carbon emissions is required to avert climate change. Countries like the UK, have a responsibility to meet targets to reduce carbon emissions at every level. UAL is taking a holistic approach to carbon management and has announced a bold pledge to achieve net zero across our total carbon footprint by 2040. This pledge accelerates our response to the climate emergency. It covers the university’s full indirect emissions, including the supply chain and international student travel, as well as direct emissions. Read our President & Vice Chancellor's commitment to reach net zero by 2040 in full.

The university has made the UAL Carbon Management Plan (PDF 5.01MB) public. Our Carbon Management Plan contains a baseline and reduction targets for Scope 3 emissions, covers emissions linked to residential accommodation and is reported annually to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) through the Estates Management Record process. Our direct emissions are emissions linked to utility consumption within our estate.

Our total Scope 1 and 2 emissions are on target as shown in this graph (Scope 1 and 2 emissions) (PDF 44KB). The energy monitoring system UAL uses is proven to be robust - it is accredited to ISO 50001 (PDF 108KB). Find out more in the UAL ISO 50001 audit report (PDF 496KB).

UAL has also set a baseline and target for reduction of Scope 3 emissions. The definition of Scope 3 emissions includes:

  • Supply chain emissions
  • Business transport
  • Staff and student commuting
  • International student travel
  • Waste and recycling
  • Water consumption

Our total scope 1,2 and 3 emissions are shown in this graph: Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions (PDF 196KB). Full details are available in our UAL Carbon Management Plan (PDF 5.01MB)

UAL aims to share information with staff, students and the public in the spirit of transparency. All of our emissions are reported on our external facing Carbon Dashboard.

The University has an allocated budget to cover the implementation and staff resourcing of the sustainability strategy, steps are outlined in the UAL Carbon Management Plan. Full details are available in our Utility and Sustainability Budgets document (XLSX 19.5KB).

Ethical investment

UAL prides itself on its sustainability work and its work to combat climate change, whether through research, teaching and learning, or carbon reduction. This ethos can be seen across our investments. UAL’s Responsible Investment Policy (PDF 151KB) screens out fossil fuel companies, all arms companies, companies in violation of international law and commits to reinvest in renewable energy projects. The policy covers the full scope of the university’s investments and is signed off at a senior level.

UAL were the first signatory from the higher education sector to commit to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). PRI is the world’s leading proponent of responsible investment which incorporates key environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues into investment practices. It supports its international network of investor signatories in incorporating these factors into their investment and ownership decisions.

Fund managers acting on behalf of the University must be signatories of the PRI and the managers must invest based on the University’s definitions of ESG including screening out certain sectors outlined in the UAL Responsible Investment Policy.

The University collates all our information about investment practices and procedures in one place. This facilitates greater transparency and means students, staff and the general public can access our information. The University’s PRI Transparency Report provides an annual progress report as well as information on responsibility for signing off investments and types of investment. This report is the latest available: the PRI have stated they have delayed the release of 2021 reporting outputs until Q3 of 2022, with a specific date to be confirmed as soon as possible.

Ethical Careers and Recruitment

A new Student and Graduate Employment Policy (PDF 101KB) was approved by the University’s Executive Group in 2021. This was reviewed and reapproved in May 2022, reaffirming UAL’s commitment to the temporary and permanent employment of students and graduates, within and outside the University as part of their education and career development to ensure good graduate outcomes.

Arts Temps is University of the Arts London's recruitment agency and jobs board, providing UAL students and alumni with exciting temporary and permanent jobs opportunities and providing recruiters the ability to employ these talented students and alumni with a wide range of experience to meet the needs of all employers.

UAL Arts Temps strives to be a social enterprise recruitment agency, promoting ethical recruitment practices as well as inclusive and transparent processes. We want to be the best recruitment agency for our temps and partners. We firmly stand against unpaid internships and believe that all our students and graduates deserve fair pay for their incredible work. We are an accredited Living Wage employer and are the largest recruitment agency for students and graduates to guarantee at least the real Living Wage for all our roles.

The ArtsTemps service has screened out fossil fuel companies, mining companies, arms companies and tobacco companies.

Workers' rights

Living wage

Since 2021, the Living Wage Foundation formally accredited UAL as a UK Living ‎Wage Employer. As a Living Wage Employer, all UAL staff and contracted staff earn at least the minimum hourly wage of £9.50 in ‎the UK or £10.85 in London. These rates are ‎higher than the government-set UK minimum rate of £8.91 per hour for anyone over 23.‎

Sustainable food

Agriculture and transportation of food has a big environmental footprint. This is because of the carbon emissions produced and the impact on soil and biodiversity.

The UAL Sustainable Food Policy (PDF 676KB) sets out our goals to reduce our environmental and ethical impact through the food served, its location and procurement. We ensure the compliance of external contractors and agencies by making sustainability a key part of our tender documents.

In 2019, following a competitive tender process (tender ref. number CC-UK1.FID23448287 as published the Delta procurement portal), the University appointed BaxterStorey as its agent to manage and administer the services set out in the contract (see policy and letter included affirming BaxterStorey's commitment to retain the Soil Association Food for Life rating).

In 2014, UAL was the first university to achieve Gold Standard under the Soil Association's Food for Life rating (PDF 369KB). We’re proud to continue working to this standard, and as of today 100% of UAL’s catering outlets adhere to the food for life accreditation scheme to Gold Standard.

All food served at UAL is assessed to high environmental and ethical standards. This includes fish and seafood which is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (certified through BaxterStorey who provide all university catering). UAL works with BaxterStorey to reduce the environmental impacts of food. Local produce is used - 70% of the fruit and vegetables come from the south east. A major supplier is Chegworth Valley farm, less than 35 miles southeast of London. All meat comes from Rother Valley near Petersfield, Hampshire.

This local food is used on a regular basis in our menus (Example of a Previous Menu (PDF 192KB)) and across our sites such as the vegan café at London College of Communication and including in the new canteen at Camberwell. UAL was a case study in an academic paper which explains our use of local and sustainable food (view paper, section 4.2). Watch videos and read more about the vision and mission of canteen services at UAL.

All sites have free drinking water in catering outlets and across the sites in dispensers.

Growing food at UAL

There is space at the University to grow food and four sites are home to honey bee hives. All students and staff are welcome to join in beekeeping activities. On the roof terrace at Central Saint Martins’ and at the Wimbledon College of Art staff and students created a green growing space where edibles such as strawberries and herbs are grown. This is maintained by the Green Roof Society and the Wimbledon Garden Club, respectively.

The Green Roof Society is one of UAL’s student societies dedicated to furthering green issues at UAL. The group has created a green growing space where edibles such as strawberries and herbs are grown, as well as pollinator plants, bespoke structures and a dye garden. One of their visions is to work with Central Saint Martin’s canteen in the future, which focuses on health and sustainability by cooking with local ingredients. All canteens across our colleges are already following our sustainability guidelines on food policy (PDF 676KB).

Students are encouraged to take part in gardening as well as their smaller "affinity groups" (Composters, Builders, Sowers + Growers, Biodiversity, Field Trips, Communicating + Knowledge Sharing). With sustainability at the heart of society's values, encouragement to interact, learn and share tips and tricks takes place amongst all participants. Overall, the Green Roof Society is an opportunity for experimentation, with the long-term vision of creating a flourishing, rooted, eco-friendly roof terrace.

Waste and recycling

UAL has a 2 stream waste and recycling scheme (PNG 145KB) and we send no waste to landfill. In 2020/21 we produced 47 tonnes of waste, recycled 41% and sent 14.5 tonnes of food waste to an anaerobic digester.

We also encourage all students to incorporate sustainable materials into their projects, putting an emphasis on the use of recycled materials and that end-of-year student shows should design according to the theme of 'building for deconstruction’. The disassembly of displays and artwork allows material to be reused the following year.

Our waste management is compliant according to all current statutory legislation and audited through the ISO14001 management system. In 2020/21 UAL reported zero environmental incidents.

Construction and refurbishment

Over the past 10 years, we’ve invested in excess £350 million across all our campuses. We’ve revamped historic buildings and built state-of-the-art new facilities. We’ve revamped historic buildings and built state-of-the-art new facilities, plus we’re proud to be one of the most sustainable universities in the world. Our Design brief for Sustainable Development (PDF 274KB) ensures that all new major developments achieve BREEAM Excellent and an Energy Performance Certificate rated ‘A’. This policy has helped us to create sustainable buildings at all 4 campuses.

Travel and transport

UAL encourages sustainable transport through our Workplace Travel Plan (PDF 1.33MB).

In 2020/21 Scope 3 carbon emissions associated with staff and student commuting accounted for 603 tCO2e. Our target is to reduce Scope 3 carbon emissions associated with staff and student commuting by 54% no later than 2040, from a 2018/19 baseline.

Detailed baseline and reduction targets for all scope 3 emissions can be found in version 11 of our Carbon Management Plan (PDF 5.01MB).

Cycling to our Colleges

On top of having access to London's world class public transport network, UAL has great facilities for staff and students to make cycling to work that much easier including:

  • Over 600 secure parking spaces
  • Showering facilities available across the colleges
  • Funding to buy a bike as part of the government's Cycle to Work initiative.

View our Workplace Travel Plan (PDF 1.33MB) for more information.