People and Planet

UHI, where sustainability means more content

UHI, where sustainability means more

The climate emergency is one of the most prominent societal challenges of the modern day, with expectations around moving away from fossil fuel reliance, and countries becoming net zero in terms of their carbon emissions.

UHI Zero is our new flagship project, aimed at helping create a resilient, zero-carbon future through our research and innovation, education, enterprise and engagement.

UHI Zero will maximise our contribution towards achieving a resilient and sustainable carbon neutral world. UHI zero is not just about developing greener technologies or a zero-carbon UHI. We are harnessing the full range and breadth of our capabilities, both in the UK and globally, to develop solutions that have a transformational impact on the prospects of our region, its economy, its people, and its communities - with collaboration, openness, respect, and excellence embedded in all that we do.

For more information, please contact the UHI Senior Executive sponsor Jen Vanderhoven, Vice-Principal Engagement.

University League content

University League

People & Planet is the largest student network in the UK campaigning for social and environmental justice.

People & Planet’s University League is the only comprehensive and independent league table of UK universities ranked by environmental and ethical performance.

The information below, lays out what UHI is currently doing, and planning to implement, in response to the People and Planet League assessment criteria.

UHI is an integrated university encompassing both further and higher education and is a diverse partnership of 12 academic partners.

It is important to note that due to the nature of our partnership, and the large geographical spread of the region we serve, we have substantially more sites than any other UK university, with 63 sites and 117 buildings

In addition, some of the areas of assessment cannot be met, or evidenced by 'the university', as these are delivered through our academic partners who operate their campuses independently. Areas such as food policy for example - 'the university' has one catering facility but many of our partners also have cafes or training restaurants.

Section 1 - Policy and strategy

1.1 - Publically available policy

In 2020 the university partnership published our first Partnership Carbon Management and Sustainability Plan, covering 2020-2023. The plan outlines four key workstreams for the partnership, with the workstreams ‘Regional Carbon Footprint’ and ‘Awareness Raising and Shaping Pro-Environment Behaviour’ having direct links with Government reporting requirements.

To oversee this work a new cross-partnership group, the Carbon Management and Sustainability Project Board, was created comprising estates, facilities and finance practitioners. In addition to the partnership-wide work several academic partners have their own Carbon Management Plans which focus on local work and targets.

Building on progress to date, and illustrating our ongoing commitment to contributing to the achievement of a zero carbon world, we are now seeking to take forward a range of other initiatives such as  the creation of an academic-led carbon management and sustainability group to focus on the curriculum and research aspects of our work. This will be driven through the UHI Zero project.

1.2 - Targets and Strategy

As set out in our climate commitment, and through our Partnership Carbon Management and Sustainability Plan, we are working on :

  • Our regional carbon footprint
  • Awareness raising and shaping pro-environment behaviour
  • Paper usage reduction
  • Single use plastic reduction

We also have a sustainable procurement policy.

Section 2 - Staff

2.1 - Senior Staff Responsibility

Dr Jen Vanderhoven, Vice- Principal Engagement, who sits on the Senior Executive team, reporting into University Court, is the named senior lead. She is responsible for the Engagement portfolio including Advancement and Alumni Engagement, Corporate Communications and Sustainability and Social impact.

2.2 - Number of Sustainability Staff

Jen Vanderhoven, Vice- Principal Engagement, heads up the newly formed Sustainability and Social impact portfolio, and is the executive sponsor of our flagship sustainability project, UHI Zero.

In addition to the senior staff responsibility, UHI recruited for a dedicated Sustainability Manager in August 2022. The project, UHI Zero, has a team of over 10 people associated with it.

2.3 - Sustainability Budget

We are in the process of developing our sustainability budget.

2.4 - All Staff Participation

All staff and students are welcome and encouraged to participate in our Green Champions Network and other Environment and Sustainability activities.

We also encourage staff and students to engage with our sustainability efforts through our Green Resources Hub, Sustainability Sessions, and annual Green Week

Section 4 - Ethical Investment and Banking

Section 5 - Managing carbon

5.1 Carbon Management Plan

In 2020 the university partnership published our first Partnership Carbon Management and Sustainability, covering 2020-2023. The plan outlines four key workstreams for the partnership, with the workstreams ‘Regional Carbon Footprint’ and ‘Awareness Raising and Shaping Pro-Environment Behaviour’ having direct links with Government reporting requirements.

We report our emissions annually, as per the government Climate Change (Duties of Public Bodies: Reporting Requirements) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2020.

Each public body within the university partnership has individual responsibility for collating and submitting their own return (published on the Sustainable Scotland Network website), and through 2020 we have worked with EAUC Scotland to develop emissions data for the academic partners that are not public bodies. 
We started reporting on our emissions in 2009/10 and are currently developing our 21/22 targets and how we can work to reduce these by 75% by 2030.

We are in the process of developing our sustainability budget.

To oversee and monitor and report on this work a new cross-partnership group, the Carbon Management and Sustainability Project Board, was created comprising estates, facilities and finance practitioners. In addition to the partnership-wide work several academic partners have their own Carbon Management Plans which focus on local work and targets.

5.3 - Scope 3 Baselines and Targets

Project UHI Zero will establish baselines and targets for our Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.

Section 6 - Workers' rights

A Living Wage University

We pay all our employees above the living wage, and all of our Academic Partners have living wage accreditation.

6.3 - Fairtrade

We are currently undertaking a review of our procedures and processes and how this map against the Fairtrade University and College Award criteria.

Section 7 - Staff and Student Engagement

8.1 - Staff and Student Engagement Strategy

We are in the process of developing our sustainability communications strategy, and through Project UHI Zero, we will be publishing our staff and student engagement plan.

8.2 - Student and Staff Engagement Actions

We are in the process of developing our sustainability communications strategy, and through Project UHI Zero, we will be publishing our staff and student engagement plan.

We are developing our sustainability training that will be mandatory for all staff and students.

We have Green Week annually. Green Week 2021 was organised by the university's Environment and Sustainability Group in partnership with HISA. The event ran from 1-5 November to coincide with the first week of COP26, which saw world leaders come together in Glasgow for the biggest international summit on climate change held to date. Green Week provided an opportunity to raise awareness of environmental issues and the importance of sustainability, whilst encouraging everyone to think about the actions they could take in their day-to-day lives to be a little greener.

UHI is a member of the Highlands Community Planning Partnership.

8.3 - Staff Inductions

We are developing our sustainability training that will be mandatory for all staff and students. 

8.5 - Student Representation

Our Court is responsible for our the governance of our sustainability plans, and there are two student representatitives on Court.

8.6 - Student's Union - HISA

The Highlands and Islands Student Association has a 'UHI Sustainable Development Society'. We have also formalised a Student Partnership Agreement which includes a dedicated theme of "Environment and Green Sustainability".

Section 9 - Education for sustainable development

9.1 - Commitment and Governance for Education for Sustainable Development

Our Learning and Teaching Enhancement Strategy demonstrates our commitment to ESD.

9.2 Implementing and tracking progress in Education for Sustainable Development

Jen Vanderhoven, Vice- Principal Engagement, heads up the newly formed Sustainability and Social impact portfolio, and is the executive sponsor of our flagship sustainability project, UHI Zero – which will implement and track progress in Education for Sustainable Development.

9.3 - Supporting Academic Staff

We are developing our sustainability training that will be mandatory for all staff and students.

Education for Sustainable Development Actions

We use our campuses as living labs in many ways:

  • Marine, Environmental Science and Engineering - which includes research in to the ways society uses energy, and how we can generate and use more renewable energies.
  • Centre for Living Sustainability

Our sustainability research and teaching is highlighted across our website, on pages including:

Section 10 - Energy sources

Due to the nature of our estate, we do not currently have any Combined Heat and Power energy generating activity, nor do we generate renewable energy onsite or off site.

Our energy is purchased through the Scottish Procurement framework, and 34.1% of our energy is currently from renewable energy sources. 

Section 11 - Waste and recycling

Our waste recycling policy and procedures is being analysed through our project UHI Zero.

Section 12 - Carbon reduction

Since our carbon emissions were baselined, we have reduced our carbon footprint by 6%.

Secttion 13 - Water reduction

Our water consumption and grey water usage policy and procedures is being analysed through our project UHI Zero.