At Sheffield, we are proud of our students’ knowledge, dedication and activism within the sustainability agenda.
Sheffield provides world-class research and teaching on environmental issues and all students will engage with Education for Sustainable Development to equip them with the knowledge and skills to prepare them for the jobs of the future. We know that many Sheffield students already have the knowledge and enthusiasm to make a real impact on our sustainability work. Students are invited through our governance structure and our open engagement with campaigns to get involved in shaping our sustainability agenda.
Sustainability Steering and Delivery Groups
Students and student representatives play key roles in both the Sustainability Steering Group and Sustainability Delivery Group. The Sheffield Students’ Union Welfare and Sustainability Officer, as an elected sabbatical officer and student lead for sustainability, sits on both groups. The Students’ Union Sustainability Coordinator and the Chair of the Student Sustainability Committee also sit on the Delivery Group. Both positions play a key role in mobilising and representing Students' Union and student sustainability activities.
Below our formal structures there are a range of social and environmental student societies for students to get involved with which also work with the University on different projects when relevant. To find out more, visit the Sheffield Students’ Union website.
Other University governance groups
Student representatives play a key role in a number of other University governance groups which often have an impact on our sustainability agenda. These include University Council, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee and Finance Committee. Students are also represented on project groups set up for any major new development or building being planned by the University.
Gathering the views and input of students is a key part of our consultation process for new pieces of work and policies.
In the writing of our sustainability strategy, we sought to keep our student voice at the heart of our work. The audit on which our strategy is based was undertaken by PhD students at the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures. During our strategy development, students helped to research approaches and draft key commitments, providing a unique perspective, much of which was included in the final strategy.
As well as involving representatives in the drafting process, we have made sure to consult with students on our draft work. The Students’ Union ran a session in which the students involved in writing the strategy and the SU Development Officer consulted with interested students and fed back their thoughts and concerns. This work has been collated and is being addressed in ongoing strategy development work.
Sustainability working groups
The University has regular need to bring together groups of professional staff and academics to overcome a particular challenge. Students are regularly included in these groups and work closely with staff to bring their passion and insight to the problem, as well as gaining valuable experience of how a large organisation such as the University works and insight into the complex challenges of sustainable development. In recent years students have helped shape our approach to becoming net-carbon neutral across our operations; continue to work with us to embed Education for Sustainable Development into our courses; and are helping to review our careers offering to students.
Students have taken an active approach to mobilisation around specific sustainability issues. We recognise the passion students have for sustainability and that on some issues, the University has been behind the curve. We strive for a positive dialogue with campaigns and have succeeded in finding solutions to issues that are of common interest for both student campaigners and the University.
In 2015, the University of Sheffield pledged to be one of the first universities to divest from fossil fuel investments. This pledge came about after student pressure led to an open dialogue between senior University staff, student campaigners and Students’ Union representatives. Our divestment was completed in April 2019 and we are currently considering how we can progress this work further to actively invest in socially and environmentally just projects.
The University has engaged successfully with the student campaign UoS Clean Energy Switch. The campaign lobbied the University to change its electricity supplier to a fully renewable provider. In May 2020, the University announced that it had signed new fully renewable electricity contracts for all procured electricity. Throughout this process, we worked pragmatically with the UoS Clean Energy Switch group as well as our energy procurement consultants to explore low carbon opportunities.
Our sustainability strategy
We have set the principles and direction for our sustainability strategy