Our new Sustainability Sub-Strategy (SSS) will guide not only our work to reduce emissions and encourage biodiversity, but also our approach to education and research. So what is the SSS and what can we expect from the final version, due this summer?

What more can we do to reduce our environmental impact at Essex? Our University community has made positive progress in recent years:

  • Staff have hundreds of actions through the Green Impact programme (now Sustainable Essex) to embed sustainability into their work
  • Staff and students recycle an average 37% of their waste on campus and in some months we’ve seen it as high as 44%
  • Students are using their voice to influence change
  • Green spaces and biodiversity have been improved
  • Carbon emissions have been reduced through a range of measures including LED lighting, generating our own electricity, installing modern boilers and building the first zero carbon business school.

The University’s mission is to contribute to society through excellence in education and research. This is clearly defined in the University Strategy, and the Sustainability Sub-Strategy (SSS) is part of a suite of strategies that support this. The 2021-26 SSS will achieve a step change in our approach to sustainability and the environment. With 13 priority areas, it will cover a broad spread of the University’s activities, a significantly wider spread than the 2016-19 SSS. While familiar priority areas are included, such as carbon emissions, grounds and biodiversity, water use and waste and recycling, we are also including other areas such as education, research, finance and communication and engagement, recognising the far-reaching nature of sustainability. This is crucial as all the University’s activities and our community’s actions contribute to our carbon emissions and environmental impact.

The UK government has set a legally binding target to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and increasing scientific evidence shows climate change is happening now; we need to do much, much more and act now. The challenge we face is large and the impact of inaction – or insufficient action – would affect us all for generations to come. However, there is hope as long as we act collectively as a community. We must move on from the concept that the problem will be solved by others. We all need to make positive changes in the things we do.

Developing the SSS has been a truly collaborative approach. A Climate Emergency Group (CEG) was created to ensure an appropriate response to the climate emergency from all sections of the University. The group’s membership includes colleagues from sustainability, education, research, Estates and Campus Services, finance, People and Culture, communications, travel and transport, the SU and all three campus trade unions (UCU, Unison, Unite). CEG members are leading working groups consisting of colleagues from across the University and talking with a variety of committees to develop the main priorities, objectives and actions of the SSS. This approach allows us to draw on the expertise of those working in core areas to ensure action is being taken by those who can effect change.

The SSS is critical to the University’s ability to deliver on our declaration of a climate and ecological emergency. It gives us direction and, in its development, allows us to include the input of our community and challenge whether our aspirations go far enough. It will guide us for the next five years and beyond, on our journey to significantly reduce our impact on the climate and the environment.

Alongside this work it is really important to hear from our community too, to make sure everyone is given a voice, whether you’re new to sustainability or an expert. We all have an important role in this journey; everyone has responsibility. Our consultation is currently running offering our community opportunities to contribute to the developing climate action plan, offering their thoughts on the actions we must take and what teams or individuals will do, ensuring a ‘one University’ approach. You know your area of work or study better than anyone – where are the efficiencies your team can implement? What would you like to see improved at the University? What are the personal choices you can make? We want to hear from you, so please take the time to chat about it with friends and colleagues about how we can all do more and then share your thoughts.

To find out more visit the consultation on Moodle.