The path to responsible sustainability

Building a sustainable future doesn’t just mean pioneering cutting-edge research and addressing the way the University of Sheffield consumes energy. It means transforming the way we educate the next generation of environmental advocates.

A cutout photo of a wind turbine

A sustainable strategy

The University of Sheffield is committed to a concerted and innovative response to the grave environmental issues that threaten our planet. There are three main strands to our approach.

Firstly, the steps we can take as an institution to reduce the impact we have on the environment.

Secondly, the world-class research carried out at Sheffield that has a direct effect on our understanding of everything from climate change to sustainable food production.

And finally, and perhaps most ambitiously, the way we can develop our students’ thinking as they become the researchers, business leaders and environmental advocates of the future.

Change begins at home

We have long been committed to a more sustainable future. For the last decade we’ve been part of Green Impact, an NUS affiliated scheme where University staff and students work together to undertake sustainability projects: growing vegetables, reducing energy consumption, litter picking and raising awareness of steps we can all take to make a difference.

Over the 10 years of Green Impact, we’ve saved 3 million kg of CO2 and engaged hundreds of our staff and students to help achieve our sustainability goals.

That’s why, when a student-led campaign group made a passionate and persuasive case for the University moving to renewable energy sources, we worked with them to find a solution. As a direct result, in May 2020 we announced that we’d signed new electricity contracts sourced entirely from solar, wind and hydro generation.

For the first time ever, that means 100% of the purchased electricity used across the University comes from renewable sources - reducing our carbon footprint by 17,000 tonnes every year.

But that’s not the only way we’re addressing the climate emergency. We were one of the first universities in the country to completely divest from fossil fuel investments. We are committed to making our campus more biodiverse and increasing tree cover.

And after recently taking delivery of a new fleet of electric vans, more than a third of University vehicles are now petrol and diesel-free. It’s all part of our long-term objective to become carbon neutral.

Researching the future

As a research university we’re also acutely aware of the positive impact we can have on the world around us. Hundreds of our academics and students work on a huge range of relevant topics – from energy technology and sustainable crops, to atmospheric chemistry and behavioural change.

In the last 12 months alone we’ve published details of projects that recommended adding rock dust to farmland to absorb two billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere every year, used robots to place magnets on wind turbines to speed up their manufacture, and discovered new ways to help essential crops like rice and wheat adapt to climate change.

Research has a huge part to play in fixing the mistakes of the past and shaping the environment of the future. We’re proud to be at the cutting-edge of a global effort.

Powered by our people

To create long term change we believe you have to transform attitudes. That’s why, over the next five years, we’re embedding education for sustainable development into every single one of our courses.

Inspired by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, our programme will educate students on the importance of sustainability whether they go on to become doctors, engineers, scientists, economists or historians. It’s a virtuous circle.

Whatever their field, we want them to be equipped with the knowledge, skills, values and attributes they need to work and live in a sustainable way, passing on those values to others. It’s a huge step change in the way we design our courses. But we’re confident it’s the best way to help shape a better future.

Through world-class research, institutional change and a radical education programme we’re committed to creating a sustainable future. It’s a strategy that involves every department, every member of staff and every student. Whatever we achieve, we will achieve it as One University.

Our vision

We are the University of Sheffield. And this is our vision.