Sustainability and Social Responsibility

Sustainability and Social Responsibility
Strategy and Vision

In an era of significant societal challenges, an effective approach to sustainability will ensure that limited resources are used efficiently, and that activity is conducted in a way that minimises environmental impacts while demonstrating an awareness of ethical and social responsibilities.

We recognise that the sustainability legacy and impact of the University will be measured not only by carbon emissions or landfill tonnage, but by the sustainability of our decision-making, by the quality and global relevance of our research, and by our role in developing active and engaged graduates with the attributes necessary to tackle the challenges facing society.

Our Aberdeen 2040 strategy makes the following sustainability commitments.  We will:
- Encourage everyone within our community to work and live sustainably, recognising the importance of our time, energy and resilience
- Educate all our students and staff to be leaders in protecting the environment
- Excel in research that addresses the climate emergency, enables energy transition and the preservation of biodiversity
- Achieve net zero carbon emissions before 2040
- Generate resources for investment in education and research year on year, so that we can continue to develop the people, ideas and actions that help us to fulfil our purpose
Whole Institution Approach

Our approach to sustainability recognises the breadth of the sustainability agenda and the need for a whole-institution approach to tackling the challenges involved.  Our Aberdeen 2040 strategy builds on the foundation of our earlier commitments, and reinforces the need for a programme of actions across all areas of institutional activity. 

We welcome the work of the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC) in helping to frame a broad consensus on what a 'whole-institution' approach to sustainability looks like in the HE sector.  We intend to utilise the Sustainability Leadership Scorecard to inform the development of our sustainability approach, building on the SLS's four broad pillars of activity: 

  • Leadership and Communication (Culture)
  • Estate and Infrastructure (Campus)
  • Partnership and Engagement (Community)
  • Learning, Teaching & Research (Curriculum)

By adopting this structure we acknowledge that, alongside estate and campus issues, our approach to sustainability will cut across all aspects our teaching, research, civic and administrative roles.

Policy Framework

Over the years, we have introduced a series of sustainability and social responsibility policies and statements. These cover core environmental concerns such as Energy, Water, Waste, Travel and Buildings, as well as issues such as Fairtrade, Food, Curriculum and Investment.

All our institutional policies are available via our Policy Zone.

For the most up-to-date sustainability themed policies just enter 'sustain' or 'carbon' as a search term.


Following the inclusion of Sustainability as one of four themes in our Aberdeen 2040 strategy, oversight of sustainability issues now sits with a Sustainable Development Committee chaired by the Senior Vice-Principal.


The Sustainable Development Committee has responsibility for overseeing the development of sustainability policy and strategy and for monitoring its implementation.  This will include oversight of areas ranging from our net-zero commitments, to how best we respond to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda.

The SDC replaces a group established in 2007 with a predominantly environmental and operational remit, reflecting the evolution of the sustainability agenda to embrace a much broader range of institutional challenges.  The SDC will look to adopt a genuinely whole-institution approach in its work.

Full details are available on our institutional Governance pages here.


The Sustainable Development Committee includes academics, administrators, and students from across the University.  With representatives from senior management, Estates & Facilities, Finance, People, Planning, and various academic disciplines it has a genuinely cross-institutional outlook.  The student voice has always been well represented in institutional discussions of sustainability and the Group welcomes input from AUSA's Student President and Communities Officer, as well as from AUSA staff involved in student-facing sustainability initiatives.

Policy advice is provided from the Estates & Facilities directorate, with administrative support from the Senior Vice-Principal's office.

Full details are available on our institutional Governance pages here.

Statutory Reporting

In 2015, Public Bodies in Scotland were invited to submit (voluntarily) a sustainability report as part of a new obligation under statutory Public Bodies Climate Change Duties. In 2016 that exercise became compulsory.

Details of that exercise and all public body reports are available via the Sustainable Scotland Network (SSN) reporting page. Our most recent reports as part of this exercise are available below and via SSN online:

These reports provide detailed inventories and full information relating to our efforts to reduce emissions.

Prior to this reporting regime, the Scottish sector had developed a voluntary annual reporting mechanism that introduced a consistent framework for further and higher education. The reports submitted formed our annual return under the then Universities & Colleges Climate Commitment for Scotland (UCCCfS).

Details of function specific reports on Waste, Energy and Transport are available in the 'around campus' section.

Sustainable Development Goals

In consulting about our Aberdeen 2040, our academic and student community highlighted the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework that should inform our academic and operational sustainability activities.  We are committed to working with the SDGs to help us articulate the positive sustainability impacts of our research and teaching, and to help us prioritise improvements in operational practice. 

SDG Reporting and SDG Accord

As part of the formal launch of our Aberdeen 2040 strategy, we signed the global SDG Accord (external site). 

In June 2020, we submitted our first annual SDG Accord Report as our key commitment to that initiative. The report collates activity across all 17 SDGS and forms part of a global report on the contribution of the tertiary education sector to tackling the SDGs.

In November 2021 we published our first SDG Report (available here). As our approach to sustainability develops, we intend to investigate options for the production and sharing of other sustainability and SDG reporting.

Times Higher 'Impact' Rankings

We entered the inaugural Times Higher Education 'Impact' Rankings in 2019 and have participated actively since.  We welcome the increased awareness these rankings have given to the SDGs across the global HE sector.

Collaborative Networks

The SDGs also inform much of the work we are doing with our partners in the Aurora Universities Network, including initiatives on the bilbliometric analysis of our various research outputs, through to a shared SDG-themed public lecture series across the network.

Net Zero Commitment

Our Aberdeen 2040 strategy commits the University to achieving net-zero emissions before 2040.

Colleagues from across the University are working to define the parameters of that commitment and how it will be pursued, with the initial findings of a working group to develop our net-zero thinking shared with the Sustainability Steering Group in September 2020 (see slides here).

Our approach will encompass emissions from all sources (i.e. Scopes 1, 2 & 3) and all sites associated with the University.

To reiterate this commitment we have also signed the Global Climate Letter and the One Planet Pledge.

Contact Us

The University has a small but dedicated group of staff, each leading on different aspects of the sustainability and social responsibility agenda.

Policy and Strategy

Fraser Lovie provides strategic and policy advice to the Sustainability Steering Group and encourages operational and academic input to the full-range of sustainability issues.

Tel: 01224 273165


Chris Osbeck is the University's Transport & Waste Manager. His role includes the development of initiatives to alter staff and student travel habits towards sustainable alternatives such as walking, cycling and using public transport.

Tel: 01224 272254


Tristan Wolfe is the University's Energy Manager and has a remit that includes the sourcing of energy, how it is supplied, how much is used, and what carbon dioxide is emitted as a result. The Energy Management team also manage the supply and use of water. The team consists of staff with responsibility for implementing energy and water saving measures and increasing staff and student awareness of these.

Tel: 01224 273266


Chris Osbeck is the University's Transport and Waste Manager. Chris is responsible for co-ordinating the collection of all types of waste from the University as well as implementing new initiatives to minimise waste, increase reuse, and to recycle more.

Tel: 01224 272254


For enquiries or information on the following issues please see the email address or web pages below:

  • Equality & Diversity
  • Health, Safety & Wellbeing
  • Healthy Working Lives
  • Procurement
  • Biodiversity Centre
  • Environment and Ethics
  • UCU Forum

If you have any questions about specific sustainability initiatives at the University of Aberdeen, please contact

Social Media

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News Archive

Find below a selection of the many institutional news stories on sustainability and social responsibility issues: