Our strategic vision is to realise a sustainable, zero pollution future. As one of the world’s top universities, we have the power to help make that a reality.
Our staff and students are already at the cutting edge of finding sustainable solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and waste. We know we need to do more to make our campuses greener and more energy efficient. In our Sustainability Strategy 2021–26 we confirmed our ambition to achieve carbon net zero for Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2040, minimising Scope 3 emissions where possible. Our Imperial Zero Pollution (IZP) programme develops our strategy through four pillars: Our Research, Our Partnerships, Our Education, and Our Campuses.
Imperial Zero Pollution (IZP) programme:
As a world-leader in climate change research, we are uniquely placed to deliver the scientific, technological and policy solutions we need to make the zeropollution vision a reality.
We will coordinate, embed and promote sustainability education initiatives more widely across Imperial College London; teach the skills and competences our students will need to help create a zero-pollution future and support adaptation to climate change.
We will use our convening power to build and facilitate partnerships across the world that drive the transition to net-zero, working with industry, business, governments, our local communities and the wider public.
We will combine technological improvements to our infrastructure with behavioural changes to meet our ambition of reaching net zero emissions for scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2040.
2022–23 in focus
Sustainable food and drink on campus
The University launched its new Sustainable Food and Drink Policy, outlining a set of ambitious targets to reduce the impact its catering and retail outlets have on the environment.
As at 2023 the university has focused on reducing its use of beef and dairy, the largest drivers of its catering carbon footprint. We have decreased the volume of beef products on our menus by 47% since 2017 and are providing all non-dairy milks free of charge. Further initiatives include the serving of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fish and a cumulative reduction of 850,000 single-use cups across campus.
“The University is a global leader in research on climate change and sustainability, so it’s important that we walk the walk ourselves. The food and drink sector will play a huge role in reaching the UK’s Net Zero targets, and I’m incredibly happy that we will be at the forefront.”
Kamil Khoury, Head of Catering and Events Imperial
Undaunted climate solutions
Undaunted, a climate innovation partnership between Imperial’s Grantham Institute and The Royal Institution, welcomed new corporate members this year.
Undaunted is a home for London-based innovators to implement global change through pioneering, practical solutions. Its founding partners (Imperial’s Grantham Institute and The Royal Institution), members, and activities make it a unique hub of climate innovation.
Furniture retailer DFS, professional services companies EY and Slaughter and May, and investment firm Talis Capital have joined founding partners HSBC and the Greater London Authority as corporate members of Undaunted. These organisations will have the opportunity to gain insights into new technologies and ventures coming through Undaunted and have access to expert advice from academic climate science and technology experts. They will also provide sectoral expertise that will help guide the development of the climate solutions being worked on by the community.
Sustainable drugs from recycled materials
Researchers have used recycled gold from SIM cards as catalysts for reactions that could be applied to making medicines.
This would replace the need for using rare metals for catalysts, instead of reusing materials already mined. This extraction method was developed by researchers at the University of Cagliari, and Imperial researchers have developed the process for using the recovered gold. Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is typically sent to landfill, as separating and extracting the components requires a lot of energy and harsh chemicals, undermining its economic viability. Using this approach is a way to make our electronic goods more sustainable, by finding ways to recover and use these metals in a low-cost, low-energy and non-toxic way.
Improving our campus infrastructure
Imperial is working to decarbonise the South Kensington Campus by removing the steam heat network and central steam generating systems in the Energy Centre. This work will migrate the heat load to the centralised water heat network.
The project is expected to have significant environmental benefits and is estimated to lead to a reduction of 2,400 tCO2e, approximately 4% of the University’s current scope 1 and 2 emissions.
Research to improve sustainability
Imperial academics are leading a collaboration between industrial and academics partners to develop functional materials from biowaste products.
Most materials currently used in industry are either imported, such as critical metals like lithium and nickel, or produced using unsustainable components or processes. At the same time, combined food, forestry and agricultural waste is estimated to reach approximately 26.5 million tonnes per year and holds little economic value. The project aims to develop functional materials from local, bio-based waste resources.
This year’s Sustainability Week brought together staff and students to celebrate research taking place across Imperial and explore work towards creating a sustainable university for the future.
Each day was themed, with focuses on Climate, Energy & Waste, Biodiversity, Water and Air. Students and staff heard from researchers about their work on the transition to zero pollution, found out what Imperial is doing to reduce its own environmental impacts and took part in workshops and events. Some highlights of the week’s events included a panel discussing climate justice and climate science, a talk with eco-anxiety experts, a visit to the Environmental Society’s Secret Garden in South Kensington, and a workshop led by student societies exploring effective solutions to the climate emergency.
Global solutions for global challenges
Imperial has signed an agreement with Hitachi to create the Hitachi and Imperial Centre for Decarbonisation and Natural Climate Solutions, to collaborate in fundamental and applied research to drive the transition to net zero pollution.
The Centre will work on selected research projects, reports and white papers on the technologies needed to achieve net zero and will help train the next generation of scientists and engineers. Initial research projects are focused on carbon management, the decarbonisation of energy and transport, carbon dioxide removal and biodiversity, with a focus on new technologies and nature-based solutions.
Imperial has also formed a strategic relationship with the University of Tokyo for cleantech and energy research. The partnership builds on major industry-research centres in climate repair and energy systems that both partners have with Hitachi Ltd. All three partners have ambitions to create a sustainable society and accelerate the transition to zero pollution.
This will bring together scientists from both universities to work on research projects and the development of new technology around energy, decarbonisation and climate repair.
2022 also saw the launch of a partnership between Imperial and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Germany to develop new technologies to tackle global pollution. The Imperial – TUM Zero Pollution Network will bring together scientists, industry, governments and other partners to develop and translate solutions to some of the greatest sustainability challenges and combined threats of global pollution, biodiversity loss and climate change.
“We will bring together knowledge and promote the creation of cleantech innovations. I am confident that our collaborations will contribute to creating a better society on a global scale.”
Professor Teruo Fujii, President of the University of Tokyo
Progress on reducing emissions
The table below shows our emissions for the last three financial years.
|Total energy/Fuel use
|Scope 1 Gas (kilowatt hour)
|Scope Fleet Fuel (litres)
|Scope 2 Electricity (kilowatt hour)
|Scope 3 Mileage (miles)
|Total Carbon Dioxide Emissions
|Tonnes CO2e (based on total energy/fuel use above)
|Energy Intensity Ratio
|Total (tonnes CO2e) / staff (tonnes CO2e/FTE)
|Total (tonnes CO2e) / students (tonnes CO2e/FTE)
|Total (tonnes CO2e) / building area (tonnes CO2e/net internal area m2)
- Data covers all utility supplies with the exclusion of utilities supplied to Scale Space at White City as this is outside of the College’s operational control.
- A number of buildings where the NHS supplies utilities through an unmetered supply as part of service level agreement are excluded from scope 1 & 2 emissions.
- Utility data is based on billed consumption. Where billed data is unavailable consumption forecasted by the College’s Energy Broker is used.
- Direct emissions from College-owned vehicles are calculated using fuel purchased on fuel cards associated with the vehicles.
- Emissions from vehicles not owned by the College are calculated from expense claims submitted by staff and students in line with the College’s policy. Mileage claims are assumed to be for a car with average emissions with an unknown split between petrol and diesel vehicles.
- Carbon dioxide emissions are calculated using Department for Energy Security and Net Zero 2023 emission factors.
Across a typical year, we self-generate much of our electricity demand at South Kensington. We are undertaking a large infrastructure project at our South Kensington campus, which will reduce our emissions over the coming years with increased thermal efficiency and reduced losses from our district heat network. As part of this work, our two Combined Heat and Power (CHP) engines have been turned off for the last three months of the reporting period and are expected to remain off until early 2024.
The CHP engine shutdown has removed our ability to self-generate electricity and to recover the heat energy from that process for our heat network. This has resulted in a 27% increase in grid imported electricity compared to last year, though this is offset by a reduction in total gas consumption and associated scope 1 emissions, which fell by 12% during the year.
We are investigating ways to improve our scope 3 reporting to enable us to better disaggregate between the different types of emissions. We are committed to aligning with the Standardised Carbon Emissions Framework produced by the Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education for the higher education sector. We intend to publish a full estimate of our scope 3 footprint in our next annual sustainability report.