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Sustainability strategy helps a university cut its environmental impact

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The University of Southampton (UoS) is a teaching and research institution in the top 100 universities worldwide (QS World University rankings).

The university and its student union needed a sustainability strategy

Nous partnered with the UoS and the Southampton University Students’ Union (SUSU) to develop a sustainability strategy to reduce the university’s negative environmental impact and position it as a higher education leader in sustainability. The UoS and SUSU sought to use the COVID-19 disruption to improve behaviours and processes.

We used research and consultation to deliver an ambitious but practical strategy

Despite remote working, the Nous team built trust and confidence, engaged widely across the community, delivered all agreed elements of the project and kept us on task and on time.

Professor Rachel Mills, then Dean of the Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences and member of the University Executive Board

We did three things to deliver the sustainability strategy over three months:

  1. Analysing the current state: We used internal UoS data and desktop research to compare the university’s sustainability performance with its competitors and sector-leading institutions. We then used this analysis to define draft strategy goals, which we tested and refined with university leaders, academic and professional services staff, students and alumni.
  2. Consulting on a draft strategy: We published a draft strategy online to gather feedback on the proposed sustainability vision and goals. We received and synthesised detailed feedback from more than 140 people.
  3. Finalising the strategy: We consulted with more than 20 staff members to workshop the best ways to achieve the strategy’s goals, refine the targets and indicators, and understand the practical implications of the proposed initiatives.

The strategy is shaping the university’s sustainability agenda

The UoS Sustainability Strategy 2020-2025 is a bold statement of UoS’ sustainability ambitions. It will underpin actions including developing a roadmap to net zero emissions for Scope 1 and 2 by 2030, and integrating sustainability into every education programme. The strategy will evolve as UoS refines its emissions reduction targets and pilots sustainability schemes.

strategy goals

What you can learn from Southampton

  • Broad engagement and working in partnership are key to developing a strategy that captures imaginations and aspirations.
  • COVID-19 represents an opportunity to change the status quo, including rethinking approaches to business travel and estate investments.
  • Sometimes it’s more important to capitalise on stakeholder energy and a conducive moment than extend the development and iteration period.
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