SDG12: Responsible Consumption & Production

Consumption and production is pivotal to the global economy, but an estimated one third of all food produced each year is wasted. Through initiatives and partnerships we are tackling our consumption and production patterns, to be sustainable and responsible to reduce our environmental impact.

a reuseable salad bowl with sdg12 logo overlaid

Key facts for how we are achieving SDG 12

  • Our 2021-26 procurement strategy places resposible consumption at the heart of purchasing decision making
  • Introduction of a 20p levy on single-use cups in all of our cafes
  • Since launching our community fridges in 2017, over 30 tonnes of food waste has been donated which would have otherwise been thrown away
  • Our partnership with Our Cow Molly has allowed us to cut our plastic use by 87,000 bottles a year by switching to steel milk churns and pumps
  • Our Donate, Don't Waste scheme has helped students in Sheffield donate 66,000 bags of usable items to the British Heart Foundation, equivalent to £925,000 worth of donations
  • Zero Waste Shop located within the Students’ Union promotes ethical and sustainable consumption 
  • Save Our Sandwiches scheme of student volunteers collects hundreds of unwanted edible sandwiches weekly from cafes and catered lunches across campus and distributes it to those in need in the city
  • The Swap Shop situated within the SU lets students exchange their clothes for another item, and allows them to donate any unwanted clothing

Sustainable procurement

In 2021, we introduced our new procurement strategy. Socially and environmentally responsible procurement is fundamental in delivering sustainable outcomes for the University. The new procurement strategy puts sustainable thinking at the heart of purchasing decision making, with the aim of significantly reducing consumption and associated Scope 3 emissions in the coming years.

Read our procurement strategy

Sustainable food and drink

Beef and lamb

As mass beef and lamb production and consumption can be environmentally damaging, in 2019 we made the decision to no longer sell pre-packaged beef and lamb sandwiches in our outlets. The beef we do serve in our University-operated pubs in pies and burgers are from locally sourced butchers to limit our carbon footprint further. We are proud of our brilliant range of vegetarian and vegan food menus through our catering system, and

offer meat free options in all of our outlets across campus. As well as this, Sheffield Students’ Union, with whom we work closely, also has an array of vegetarian and vegan cafes and food outlets, which are popular amongst staff and students alike.

Food packaging and single use items

The University is continuously looking at ways to reduce unnecessary packaging amongst food and drink products, especially single-use disposable packing. Sheffield Students’ Union (SU) have introduced a coffee cup levy for single-use coffee cups with funds being ring-fenced to fund sustainability projects inside the SU. As a result, there has been an increase in the number of people bringing their own reusable cups.

Donate, Don’t Waste

Donate, Don't Waste is a scheme designed to help students donate reusable items, recycle waste and minimise their impact on the environment and local community when they move out of their student accommodation. It is run by the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield City Council and charity partners to help make it as easy as possible for students to donate reusable items and dispose of waste responsibly. Established in 2013, this scheme has diverted 66,000 bags of usable bags to charity, preventing 4,776,677kg CO2e from being sent to landfill.

Many Happy Returns

Many Happy Returns is a University of Sheffield research project funded by the UKRI which explores the challenges and benefits of reusable packaging systems, looking at everything from the way that language influences our choices to the chemistry of the materials involved. To learn more about the potential benefits of this system, the University is trialling a system that allows people to reuse containers for takeaway food and drink in a bid to reduce waste. 

Read more about Many Happy Returns

Resilient Campus, Resilient City (RC2)

RC2 will see self-supporting mini-farms built in old shipping containers, first on campus and then across the city, to grow crops on a small scale in a controlled environment. The small size of the farm means it can be built into nooks and crannies in towns and cities across the UK without disruption to the surrounding environment. A major benefit of the mini-farm is that it provides food on a local scale, removing the risks associated with food flown thousands of miles over the oceans.

Working with the local and global community

Institute for Sustainable Food

Our Institute for Sustainable Food is dedicated to producing groundbreaking research and innovations to feed a growing population, whilst also protecting the natural world to promote a sustainable future. An example of such research, was conducted by Dr Megan Blake, a senior lecturer in the Department of Geography at Sheffield, and a member of Institute for Sustainable Food identified a new approach to understand how and in what ways food insecurity was exacerbated by the pandemic in the UK through Food Ladders


In 2017, we partnered with Roastology, a sustainable coffee sourcing business, working with a coffee-growing cooperative called CENCOIC in the Cauca region of Colombia. Through much research, it is evident that products such as coffee, cocoa and tea have long supply chains and thus Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). Since working with Roastology, we are able to identify where our coffee beans are grown, processed and shipped from. The roasting takes place only three miles away from campus. This partnership has also led to research opportunities in Columbia, with one project investigating the links between Colombia’s rich biodiversity and a sustainable bioeconomy.

Our sustainability strategy

We have set the principles and direction for our sustainability strategy