Our commitment to sustainability

We want Sheffield to be one of the most sustainable research intensive universities in the country. This is our aim and we are committed to it - but we know that we are not there yet and there will always be more to do.

We are committed to taking action in response to the climate emergency and have recently made announcements about some of the steps we are taking to become a more sustainable institution. However, we know that some of the things we currently do don’t live up to our aspirations and we have been accused of hypocrisy in some recent media reports.

We have always said that sustainable development is not a destination; it’s a journey. It is an ongoing process and we need to continually review our practices and reassess our assumptions. As much as we would like to, we can’t make all the changes we want to instantly. Our University is a large and complex organisation with systems, culture and processes that have been established over many years. We know that sometimes our decisions may require trade-offs, compromises or take time to implement - but our commitment is genuine.

We also know that the University and the Students' Union will not always fully agree on issues, for example about the companies present at careers fairs. On this particular issue, we will be working together to ensure that next year there is a greater focus on sustainable, ethical and inclusive organisations. We remain committed to an open and transparent dialogue, which helps us to reach consensus and allows us to take meaningful action which results in changes in the future.

We know it is important we work together and we’re particularly proud that students have played such a key role in the development of our new five-year sustainability strategy and action plan, which will be launched before the end of the year. This will map out the areas where we’ll be taking action and will provide some timescales for how long we expect certain things to take. This will also include more details on our plans to be carbon neutral.

We will always strive to be open and transparent about what we’re doing, our decision making processes and what is and isn’t possible. We’re committed to involving our student community and listening to their views at every step of the way.

Becoming a more sustainable organisation is a challenge and we don’t currently have all the answers. The challenges we face are multifaceted and embedded in complex economic and societal systems, but we must never lose sight of the urgency needed to cut emissions, restore our habitats and secure our planet for the future.

Professor Gill Valentine
Deputy Vice-Chancellor