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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 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 Emergency Manifesto is our formal, public and permanent demonstration of intent regarding performance in this area.

Various members of senior management have responsibility over sustainability at the university and we recently appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor Jeremy Till to lead our response to the climate emergency. You can read more about who sits on our Climate & Environment Action Group in our Carbon Management Plan (see section 7).  A contacts page for staff who contribute to sustainability at UAL is available on the Contacts page

Version 10 of the UAL Carbon Management Plan (PDF 7MB) contains specific details of how we will reduce Scope 1, 2 & 3 to net zero from 2021.

The University has 3 Environmental Management Systems certified to ISO 14001 (x2) and ISO 50001, see more information below.

Our environmental sustainability strategy sets SMART targets 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

You can read our SMART action plan (XLSX 23KB) here. This is something that we’ve been working on since 2013. We've invested £1.5 million into the reduction of carbon emissions from our estate and have seen carbon emissions fall.

Read version 10 of the UAL Carbon Management Plan (PDF 7MB) for specific details of how we will reduce Scope 1, 2 & 3 to net zero from 2021.

Environmental auditing and management

We have opened ourselves up to external scrutiny which demonstrates that we are 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 (ISO14001) and our business operations (also ISO14001). The university has a third EMS called ISO50001 that covers energy management and helps us reduce our direct (scope 1 & 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 complete 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 23MB) 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). You can also view 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 41KB). Full details are available in our UAL Carbon Management Plan (PDF 23MB)

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 outlined in the UAL Carbon Management Plan. Full details are available in our Utility and Sustainability Budgets document (XLSX 28KB).

Ethical investment

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.

UAL prides itself on it's work combating climate change, whether through research, teaching and learning, or carbon reduction. This ethos can be seen across our investments.

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 (PDF 180KB).

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.

Electronics watch

UAL is a full member and affiliate of Electronics Watch with full access to its reports and tools. Our affiliation to Electronics Watch has been extended through the London Universities Purchasing Consortium (LUPC). The LUPC is a founding member of the Electronics Watch initiative to enhance the security and health of electronics workers.

Workers rights

Information coming soon

Living Wage

CIPS Index

The Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) published an index framework to give purchasers more visibility on the supply chain of their products and services. UAL has worked with our major suppliers to guide them through the CIPS Index. This has allowed us to push suppliers to consider their ethical responsibility more fully. This allows us to distinguish between suppliers.

Supply chain mapping

UAL is working with Action Sustainability to map its supply chain of office furniture. A preliminary investigation has produced a draft map for one of the University's most commonly purchased items - the office desk. Each component of the desk has been appraised for its environmental impact.

This work has led onto the drafting of a furniture procurement policy which outlines a furniture procurement hierarchy. Please contact Ian Lane (Director of Sustainable Operations) for further information: i.lane@arts.ac.uk.

The University is a member of the LUPC who conduct investigations, including site visits and worker interviews, to assess their (and therefore their members’) supply chains. These visits risk assess factory working conditions for possible human rights abuses including modern slavery. The LUPC will implement any necessary actions following the audit report. By being a member of the LUPC the university is committed to workers’ rights in the manufacturing of good for its use. Read the LUPC’s Slavery and Human Trafficking Statements.

Sustainable procurement is audited through the ISO14001 management system and included in the university’s SMART policy action plan and targets for each of these areas - UAL Action Plan 2021 (XLSX 23KB)

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 258KB) 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). You can find more information in the Gold Standard certificates for our 9 accredited sites.

In 2014, UAL was the first university to achieve Gold Standard under the Soil Association's Food for Life rating. 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. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic an inspection was unable to take place, however we are still certified by the Soil Association.

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 to help produce, use and sell honey. On the roof terrace at Central Saint Martins’ 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.

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 new vegan café at LCC and including in the new canteen at Camberwell as you can read in this news article. 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.

Waste and recycling

UAL has a two stream waste and recycling scheme (PNG 145KB) and we send no waste to landfill. In 2019/20 we produced just over 968 tonnes of waste, recycled 55% of it while sending 63 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 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 2019/20 UAL reported zero environmental incidents.

Construction and refurbishment

Over the past 10 years, we’ve invested £350 million across all our campuses. Our libraries have a brand-new look, 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 four campuses.

Travel and transport

UAL encourages sustainable transport through our Workplace Travel Plan (PDF 2MB)

In 2018/19 Scope 3 carbon emissions associated with staff and student commuting accounted for 1008 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 10 of our Carbon Management Plan.

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 2MB) for more information.