Operational Excellence

On campus, creating a sustainable environment and managing space that supports our staff and students is at the heart of our approach. We believe in building a campus that enables sustainable working practices and behaviours, facilitates community engagement and enhances the experience of all who use our facilities.

Carbon Emissions

Our direct emissions (scope 1 & 2) come from the operations of the University around its estate, its fleet and the energy we purchase for light, heat etc. We have greater control, and therefore more opportunity to reduce direct emissions, than some indirect emissions. The University had achieved an emissions reduction of c. 20% in 2020 from a 2005/06 baseline. This has been achieved through a range of measures, for example decarbonisation of our purchased energy from the grid, improved efficiency of buildings (new and refurbished) an LED lighting strategy (over 50% of the Edgbaston Campus is now LED) and transitioning our fleet to ultra-low emission vehicles  (50% of the fleet ULEV by 2020).

Scope 1&2 (All figures should be considered estimates)
Source2005/062010/11 2011/12 2012/132013/142014/152015/162016/17 2017/18 2018/19
Electricity 23,435 19,607 16,632 15,161 20,304 15,891 13,127 9,158 7,631 8,093
Gas 34,570 35,172 35,433 40,959 31,961 35,571 38,678 43,313 46,916 43,753
LPG 11 10 9 7 9 9
Gas oil 165 72 36 302 280 14 0 57 5 5
Steam 6,006 - - - - - - -
Fleet 423 248 239 238 213 213  189.00 189.00 175 172
Refrigerant loss 345 479 285 265 282 279 279 279 226 172
TOTAL  64,955 55,588 52,634 56,932 53,048 51,972 52,282 53,005 54,962  52,204
Percentage change from 2005/06   -14% -19% -12% -18% -20% -20% -18% -15% -20%

Indirect emissions (scope 3) are those that occur through the University’s procurement activities eg. purchase of building materials, equipment, commuting and business travel and food. The University has been collating scope 3 data since 2013/14 however there is still more work to be done and the University intends to transition from a cost proxy approach for emissions reporting for more accurate emissions reporting, the intention being to align with Higher Education Supply Chain Emissions Tool (HESCET), a reporting tool due for release in early 2021.

Scope 3
Commuting, Students 7,514 7,514 3,323 3,323 3,323 1,888
Commuting, Staff 5,698 5,698 4,446 4,446 4,446 3,183 
Business Travel  4,588 7,915 9,815 8,761 11,017 12,118
Water and Effluent 529 503 575 542 476 554
Waste and Recycling 330  308  40 62 59 61
Supply Chain 53,348 106,825 80,537 65,507 94,300 94,300
TOTAL 72,007  128,763 98,736 82,641 113,621 112,104
TOTAL Scope 3 - Percentage Change from 2013/14   79% 37% 15% 58% 56%
TOTAL Scope 3 - Percentage Change from 2014/15     -23% -36%  -12%  -13%

Ethical Investment

The University of Birmingham is committed to maintaining high environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards across its investment portfolios. The University’s investments and cash holdings totalled £331m as at 30 September 2020, a combined total of the University Investment Fund and cash holdings £224m and the Long Term Endowment Fund £107m.

The University has also published an updated Responsible Investment Policy on its website. The Policy defines the commitment of the University to responsible investment. Its purpose is to detail the approach that the University aims to follow in integrating environmental, social and governance (‘ESG’) issues in its investments and the Policy applies to the full scope of the investments held by the University. The Policy is also intended to be entirely consistent with the University’s duty to yield the best financial return within the level of risk considered to be acceptable by the University.

The Responsible Investment Policy details three sets of principles which accord with the University’s values as a socially responsible institution. Firstly, the stewardship of the operations of its external fund managers, secondly environmental, social and governance (ESG) integration into its investment operations and governance practices and thirdly setting appropriate standards for all its investments through exclusions criteria that the University’s external investment managers are required to take into consideration when investing the University’s funds.

The Responsible Investment Policy was updated in collaboration with the University Sustainability Steering Group (SSG), Chaired by Professor Laura Green, PVC and Head of College for Life and Environmental Sciences, with representatives from across the University, including student representation. The Group provides strategic advice to the University Executive Board (UEB) to develop and deliver a sustainability plan covering education and research locally, nationally and internationally as well as for a green campus.

Responsible Investment Policy (September 2020)
Further information on our portfolio management

Circular Economy

A circular economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. Find out more with the Ellen Macarthur Foundation.

The following are just a few of the ways that the University is engaging with the Circular Economy:


Procurement supports University staff to purchase goods and services in ways that ensure 'value for money'.

Birmingham spends over £300 million each year on a variety of construction projects, goods and services which result in significant environmental, social and economic impacts. Sustainable procurement is central to our approach which means we aim to minimise any negative impacts associated with these goods and services, as well as taking opportunities to enhance our contribution to society and the economy. We outline the approach we take in our Procurement Strategy, including how we link to regionally important agendas such as inclusive growth, sustainable transport and skills development.

Minimising our negative impacts might mean purchasing organic or Fairtrade products, seeking to avoid sweatshops and child labour in the supply chain, or choosing to purchase from suppliers who are working hard to reduce their own carbon footprint. We can enhance our contribution to society through our spending by working with companies who support apprentices, provide training and treat their workers fairly. 

Flexible Framework

The Flexible Framework is a self-assessment mechanism that allows organisations to measure and monitor their progress in relation to sustainable procurement over time.  We demonstrated achievement at Level 4 in 2017 and have opted to be peer assessed during 2018 to determine we can evidence Level 5 performance (the highest possible).

This activity is scrutinised internally by members of the Procurement Strategy Forum

Sustainable Procurement and our Suppliers

Procurement is working to embed sustainability into the policies, processes and practice of the central team. They approve suppliers only once social, environmental and economic considerations have been explored and manage contracts to ensure these are delivered effectively.

Working with suppliers is crucial to helping us achieve global benefit.

How do our suppliers contribute to our Responsible Procurement activity?

We have suppliers providing goods and services to the University and they can help us achieve our Sustainable Procurement ambitions by:

  • Demonstrating how they are working to reduce their own negative impacts
  • Demonstrating how they are working to increase their positive impact
  • Working with us to demonstrate value for money helps us to do more

To ensure Sustainable Procurement has the impact we want to see it is important that as much of our spending power as possible reflect our values

What support can we offer our suppliers?

We want our suppliers to understand our ambitions in this area. We also want to support and develop our suppliers to minimise risk in our supply chain at the same time as demonstrating the positive contributions they can help us to make.

We therefore offer all University suppliers access to an online tool that helps us to understand our suppliers at the same time as encouraging their own sustainable practices. If you are a supplier and have not yet completed the NETpositive Supplier Engagement tool, please contact us for access.

Email: admin@netpositivefutures.co.uk
Tel: +44 (0)1723 850535

The tool enables all our suppliers to create a sustainability action plan for their own business. As they do so we can demonstrate the collective activity of all our suppliers and support and celebrate progress.

Read the Supplier Sustainability Impact Report (PDF - 891Kb)

Sustainable Travel

Wherever you start your journey to campus, you can take a more sustainable transport mode to get here, and the benefits abound. We have electric car, bike and public transport incentives, as well as a host of walking and cycling routes and so much more. Learn more about sustainable travel at the University by visiting our dedicated Intranet pages.

Nature & Wildlife

At the University of Birmingham, we are surrounded by beautiful green spaces. We manage these areas to protect nature and wildlife wherever possible, creating landscapes for people and wildlife to enjoy. We want to contribute to biodiversity and well-being in areas such as our stunning 12-acre Green Heart, where new cycle and pedestrian routes bring students, staff and the local community together. We will continue regularly to survey the green spaces on campus to improve the biodiversity of insects and mammals. The University has been awarded Green Flag status since 2017.

What is Biodiversity and what does it mean?

Biodiversity is the name given for the variety of life on earth, all plants and animals, their habitats and how they interact with one another. As nature provides so many free services for humankind (eg. water, air, pollination)  it is important that we protect it and ensure the diversity of life on the planet.

Our biodiversity policy statements

  • To comply with any relevant UK legislation regarding biodiversity.
  • To devise and implement an action plan on biodiversity.
  • To review the action plan on a regular basis.
  • To maintain and, where possible, enhance biodiversity on Campus.
  • To work in partnership with environmental groups and local authorities where appropriate.
  • To consider opportunities for good practice for new builds and refurbishment projects.
  • To raise awareness of biodiversity.

Visit our Nature & Wildlife pages to find out more