Each month, academic, professional services and student sustainability leaders come together to discuss the ongoing sustainability work across the University. Each member of the Sustainability Delivery Group is responsible for organising, resourcing and delivering sustainability projects and embedding sustainable values throughout the institution. The breadth of departments represented allows the group to ensure a coherent approach across the University.

In November, the group met virtually to discuss how they were keeping on track with their sustainability action plan amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Travel, Sustainability Training and COP26

The group considered further support and representation for travel within the University sustainability governance structure. It was agreed that bringing together updated business travel guidance alongside commuting, and car parking would further support the University’s drive towards a sustainable approach to travel. 

Discussion turned to the AMRC’s sustainability journey, getting to grips with their carbon impact and pulling expertise together to look further in detail at the next steps for their net-zero journey. The group also touched on sustainability training module, with the hope that the module should be ready to be shared and live in the coming months.   

The group welcomed the work that took place for COP26 including gaining successful media coverage, locally and nationally, the sharing of expert comment, insight from inside the exclusive ‘Blue zone’ of the talks.

Regional sustainability updates and announcements

Updates and announcements include the recent collaborations between the University and ITM on research into green hydrogen, the NARMC and Rolls Royce work on SMRs and the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Action Plan.

The announcement for the SMRs with NARMC and Rolls Royce was made with Kwarsi Kwarteng, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on 9th November 2021. The partnership with the University, known as the “Rolls Royce SMR”, is a collaboration to push research into small modular nuclear reactors forward.

On Wednesday (17th November), the Y&H climate action plan was launched by the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission, a regional body that monitors and evaluates regional progress towards a net-zero UK and is related to the UK Climate Change Committee. The plan is to be reviewed by members of the team who will assess the content for any sustainable policy that could also be implemented in the University’s action plan.

In addition to the announcements from ITM Power and NAMRC, the University has also signed a new asset management declaration around responsible investments. This reflects the divestment commitments that the University made in 2019 and commits investments in line with a 1.5 degree global heating target.

Energy Institute Living Lab Report

Four research assistants recruited to assess student attitudes have had the results from the Energy Institute’s living lab report assessing opinion of changing campus practices to achieve net zero by 2030. These practices fell into three categories: day to day life; research; and learning.

The survey showed an appetite for action across areas including the promotion of reusable materials across campus, positive engagement with the supply chain for sustainability outcomes and for energy to be conserved through switched off unused equipment. Discussion on the potential of the reports ranged from automatic lighting, heating and energy systems, campus user behaviour, conferencing and research sharing.

It was agreed that this report demonstrated the use of the living lab approach, where research is tested on University sites. Report authors agreed to discuss the potential implications of this model further with University staff further.

PRE action plan update

The Partnerships and Regional Engagement (PRE) team are working on a broader regional level across the renamed South Yorkshire Mayoral Authority on the action plan’s engagement in the city region.

PRE’s work is being brought together and formalised for a bid to create a South Yorkshire Sustainability Centre. The Centre will work on knowledge exchange to join up assets across the region working on net-zero including the University, voluntary sector and private sector. The group is confident that the capability for a just transition to net zero emissions exists in the region.

On city and culture, the team has worked on reducing resource use for the events such as the Festival of the Mind. The team has also managed to stop the use of diesel generators in their pop up events thereby reducing their footprint. Other projects include working on the Future High Street fund for an event space on Fargate in Sheffield city centre. 

These were welcomed by the group and highlighted that areas of work not yet reflected in the action plan should be added to the next round of sustainability action plan updates.

Refrigeration and Kitchen equipment discussion

The group acknowledged the upcoming kitchen equipment supply upgrade and the sustainability of purchasing new equipment. This was discussed with regard to the cost-benefit analysis of more efficient equipment in the context of other projects that would benefit from the funding.

Action points included carrying out a cost-benefit analysis of refrigeration and kitchen equipment  with the decision to be flagged by the sustainability steering group.  There is also the potential of looking into a carbon trust audit of the catering service as part of reviewing the sustainability of the kitchen appliances.

Progress within the University Sustainability Team 

The group also raised that Steve Foxley will be joining the Sustainability Steering Group to represent the Advanced Manufacturing Group at the top of the sustainability governance. 

One University Directors within each faculty are also being recruited to support the embedding of sustainability in faculties and departments as well as . This will contribute to the breadth of the sustainability team within the University. 

The hybrid working group assessing how staff are working both in the office and from home is also being restarted, with sustainability representation by the group ensured. 

A recent PwC audit was carried out with an overwhelmingly positive response that the University is heading in the right direction on its sustainability journey. The group noted that this was a reason to press ahead with the urgent work needed to reach its sustainability aims.