Telling Imperial's story of sustainability.

Download our Sustainability Report and Carbon Footprint Annex to learn more about our 2022-23 progress on our journey towards net zero.


Foreword - Professor Nigel Brandon

Welcome to Imperial’s first Annual Sustainability Report. This report tells the story of our journey towards sustainability from August 2022 to July 2023, building on the foundations laid out in our previous Carbon Management Reports. This isn’t just a collection of data and statistics, here you’ll discover not only the milestones we’ve reached over the past year, but also the ambitious goals we have for the future. It’s all part of our ambition to transform Imperial into a beacon of sustainability, to be net-zero by 2040.

Through the Imperial Zero Pollution (IZP) programme, we’re on a journey towards a sustainable, zero pollution future under the four pillars of Our Research, Our Partnerships, Our Education, and Our Campuses. On our university campuses, we want to become one of the lowest carbon, zero polluting, low consumption and biodiverse ecosystems within the constraints of our urban environments. And we plan to achieve this by applying our academic strength and our commitment to safeguarding the future.

Our Sustainability Strategy for 2021–2026 set a goal of reaching net zero for Scope 1 and 2 emissions (energy and campus transport) by 2040 and minimising Scope 3 emissions (goods and services we buy) as far as possible.

We are building the IZP: Our Campuses sustainability programme to deliver our ambitions, and we have much work to do to realise it. Universities across the globe face similar challenges. But here’s the exciting part: we’re not daunted, we’re driven. Our plans include retrofitting our buildings for much higher thermal efficiency, decarbonising our heating systems, and breathing sustainability into every new capital development such as our White City Campus. But it’s not just about the large-scale, visible changes, we’re focused on the everyday choices, too. We’re building a stronger approach to sustainable procurement, considering climate-conscious travel options, and working sustainability into all areas of our work from energy monitoring, data analysis and reporting, to laboratory sustainability, waste reduction and enhancing biodiversity.

This year we’ve made strides in our sustainability efforts as we transition into the implementation phase of the Sustainability Strategy. It has been a team effort, with central divisions working on decarbonising our estate and understanding our carbon footprint. But our efforts extend far beyond these initial steps. Colleagues across teams, departments, and academic and professional services have been making sustainable choices across their daily practices. From ICT solutions to biodiversity champions, and energy efficient methods, everyone has contributed their unique expertise.

We now have a more thorough analysis of our carbon footprint, which has been a huge step forward. By breaking down our Scope 3 emissions (which account for up to 80% of our emissions), we have been able to pinpoint the areas that need the most attention. To tackle these areas, over the past year we have developed our Sustainable Business Travel Policy and launched the Sustainable Food and Drink Policy. Our colleagues are now working hard to embed these policies into everyday operations.

We have continued to grow laboratory efficiency programmes, such as the Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF), empowering individual labs to reduce their carbon footprint. We are currently refining our Sustainable Procurement Strategy and Policy to support us to choose more sustainable suppliers and purchases wherever we can, and work with our supply chain to improve their practices and reduce their footprints.

As well as working to understand our Scope 3 emissions in detail, our Estates colleagues, in collaboration with Arup, have been progressing a decarbonisation plan for our campuses to tackle our Scopes 1 and 2 emissions. This plan focuses on energy efficiency and infrastructure upgrades, such as moving to electrical heating and discontinuing the use of on-site gas-fired combined heat and power plant (CHP). Our goal is to achieve net zero for Scopes 1 and 2 emissions without offsets. This will be achieved through the combined efforts of implementing the decarbonisation plan alongside wider decarbonisation of the UK’s electricity supply and securing increased grid capacity for our campuses.

The results from our summer 2023 all-staff and student sustainability survey revealed a resounding call for enhanced university action. The survey also showed that people are willing to play their part. This highlights the need for a two-pronged approach:

  1. Central actions
  • retrofitting older campus buildings to improve energy efficiency and comfort
  • embedding sustainability into all decisions
  • enhancing communication of sustainability efforts.
  1. Individual actions
  • implementing sustainable practices in laboratories and offices
  • choosing a climate-conscious travel approach
  • using sustainable catering options
  • being a sustainability champion
  • buying less, buying sustainably, re-using and recycling.

Beyond these internal efforts, we are committed to growing the positive impact of our research, partnerships, and education on sustainability.

At the time of writing, Imperial stands ready to publish its new ten-year university strategy, which places sustainability at the core. It reaffirms the goals set out above and sets a path for the next several years. We are clear on our ambitions and what is needed to achieve them and determined to make progress on this over the year ahead.

Professor Nigel Brandon OBE FREng FRS

Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Chair of Sustainability Strategy Committee

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Contributors: Yasmine Baghdadi, Alex Berry, Jan Carberry, Ben Gray, Neil Hanham, Andy Hitchman, Richard Johnson, Frank Kelly, Niamh McAuley, Fintan O’Connor, Rhea Samra, Sharron Stubbs, Harriet Wallace, Mark Wilkinson, Stephanie Yeung.