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Aston’s Sustainability Policies & Reports

Aston University is committed to integrating sustainability into all aspects of the three corners of our academic triangle, as stated in the missions: “delivering an excellent learning experience for our students, enhanced by the interaction with internationally recognised, relevant research, and linked to innovative support for local companies and engagement with schools and the community, involving students and staff in raising aspirations and attainment”.

The University endorses the World Commission on Environment and Development’s definition of Sustainable Development:

Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

In doing so we will strive to reconcile the tensions which exist between the three pillars of sustainability – economic prosperity; environmental quality; social equity – both now and for the generations who will engage with the University in the future.

The Sustainability Policies Document was created to bring together all the key areas into one document. The individual  policy objectives are mentioned below. All the policies below were
annually reviewed by the Sustainable Aston Working Group (SAWG) unless separately stated within each policy. Its content has been signed off by the University’s Vice Chancellor.

The Energy, Environment and Sustainability Team have set out annual objectives and targets in order to achieve the University's sustainability commitment; these are outlined in the following document:

Objectives and Targets August 2015 - July 2016

Aston University is proud of our green campus and our Sustainability Policy states that we will “develop and maintain the estate and associated landscape with due regard to environmental impact and social value”.

Our Biodiversity Policy builds on this statement; highlighting our commitment to limit the University’s negative impacts on biodiversity on campus and in the locality, to preserve, and where possible, enhance the biodiversity (habitats and species) of the University campus.  

 The University will achieve this by upholding the following objectives:

  • Raise awareness amongst staff and students of the importance of biodiversity on campus through events, displays and volunteering activities.
  • Support the University Wildlife Group to record and protect species on campus.
  • Incorporate the principles of conservation into estate planning and management, preserving and enhancing existing habitats where possible. In particular, operations should be timed to minimise impact on breeding, feeding and hibernating species.
  • Identify opportunities to conserve and create new biodiversity habitats, with particular focus on native species and wildlife paths through campus.
  • Work with new and existing partners to sustain and enhance biodiversity in the University and within the community.
  • Ensure sympathetic management techniques continue to be used to avoid disturbance wildlife, and to stimulate natural habitats and encourage native species.
  • Implement specialist protective measures for vulnerable species and monitor their population.

The policy will be implemented, monitored and reviewed by the Aston Campus Wildlife Group and the Sustainable Aston Working Group (reporting to the University Executive). The policy will be supported by Aston’s 5-year Biodiversity Action Plan.

Approved by University Executive, June 2010; reviewed September 2015.

The Biodiversity Policy is supported by the 5 year Biodiversity Action Plan which can be viewed here.

This Energy and Water Management Policy commits Aston University to be responsible in its use of energy and water across all our operations. The policy will not only meet legal requirements, and approved codes of practice, but strive to ensure that Aston is at the leading edge of good practice.

The policy of the University is to control energy and water consumption in order to:

  • avoid unnecessary expenditure on utilities;
  • improve cost-effectiveness, productivity and working conditions;
  • reduce our carbon emissions from energy in line with national, sector-wide and institutional targets;
  • protect the environment;
  • meet legal requirements.

In order to meet the above criteria, we are committed to a number of objectives:

  • Continually improve energy performance through reducing our energy and water consumption and associated emissions in line with the figures set out in our Carbon Management Plan.
  • Meet and where appropriate exceed, legal and other requirements, and strive to meet indicators and best practice requirements in respect of our emissions;
  • Monitor our performance and publish an annual energy and water report as well as reviewing the University’s Carbon management Plan on an annual basis.
  • Utilise energy and water from sustainable sources where practicable, including incorporation of renewable and low carbon technologies into building development projects.
  • Invest in projects and equipment to reduce energy and water usage across the University and design for energy performance improvement.
  • Raise awareness amongst staff and students of the important contribution each member can make to energy and water conservation.
  • Ensure that commitment is obtained from staff at all levels within the University on aspects of energy and water efficiency under their control.
  • Implement the Space Heating and Ventilation Code of Practice.
The University is committed to ensure the availability of information and necessary resources to achieve these objectives and targets. Responsibility for formulating and overseeing the energy and water management policy lies with the Sustainable Aston Working Group, a subcommittee of representatives from schools across the University.


The Energy Policy is supported by our Carbon Management Plan; the Energy, Environment & Sustainability Manager is responsible for day-to-day management and implementation of the energy policy.

Approved by the Vice-Chancellor, reviewed and updated June 2016.

Click here for a PDF version of the Space Heating Code of Practice

Click here for a PDF version of the latest Energy and Water Management Report

This policy will inspire us to meet, support, and influence and raise awareness to reflect latest environmental practice. This will be through the implementation of an environmental management system in pursuit of sustainability and continual improvement. The University will seek innovative ways of meeting environmental objectives. Within the higher education and local community Aston aspires to become an exemplar for others to follow.

 Objectives include:

  • To meet and, where appropriate, exceed all relevant UK, European and (where necessary) international legislative and regulatory guidelines, and strive to meet indicators and best practice requirements in respect of sustainability;
  • To support continuous environmental improvement by establishing demanding and measurable environmental performance targets, specially related to energy, transport and materials, which are reviewed regularly and reported upon at least annually;
  • Raising awareness within the Aston University community to ensure that everyone recognises and respects their environmental and ethical responsibilities and acts accordingly;
  • Implement ethically and environmentally responsible procurement and financial management measures, policies and procedures and communicate these to suppliers, contractors and partner organisations;
  • Prevent all kinds of pollution through reduced waste, reduced emissions and responsible disposal;
  • Embed sustainability into the curriculum, research, community, and culture of the University;
  • Develop and maintain the estate and associated landscape with due regard to environmental impact and social value;
  • Take a leading role in advancing the sustainability agenda in the West Midlands region, and develop meaningful local, national and international partnerships and networks; and
  • Monitor, annually report and continually strive to improve our sustainability performance, through the setting and achievement of clearly defined objectives and targets.

Aston University aims to be an inspirational place to live, work and study, promoting justice, integrity and sustainable growth in society. The University welcomes donations from alumni, corporate benefactors and other supporters.  

We are committed to ensuring that the University makes all investment decisions responsibly with the primary guiding principle of generating funds, through income and, or capital growth, with which to further the work of the University. In making investment decisions, environmental, social and governance issues will also be considered. To this end the University will:

  • screen investments on ethical grounds, with the proviso that, if the activities of a company are, on ethical grounds, inconsistent with the objectives of the University, 
  • then the University may choose not to invest even though this may reduce returns; not engage in any investment which might hamper the work of Aston, either by alienating financial supporters or potential financial supporters, or by having a material impact on applications from potential students; 
  •  not engage in any investment which, while not excluded by virtue of i. or ii. above, is considered by Aston to be unethical; 
  • seek investment opportunities with companies who have demonstrated a positive record of ethical performance; 

  • engage with companies in which it considers investing, and where appropriate use its influence to encourage ethical standards, practices and lines of business acceptable to the University; and 
  • engage with companies in which it considers investing, and where appropriate use its influence to encourage ethical standards, practices and lines of business acceptable to the University; and 
  • monitor the University’s investments to ensure that ethical standards are maintained. 

     

The Investment Sub-Committee will provide a forum for regular review of the University’s investments and procedures in accordance with this policy.

Approved by the Council, 24th June 2009; reviewed September 2015.

Aston University is committed to integrating sustainability into all aspects of catering to students, staff, visitors, conference delegates and leisure guests where practicable.  We recognise our responsibility to carry out our procurement activities in an environmentally and socially responsible manner, and to incorporate environmental and social considerations into our service and procurement selection processes. This is in part demonstrated by the accreditation of Conference Aston to ISO14001 standards. We also aspire to improve the health of our catering customers by increasing choice and access to fresh healthy food, as well as providing relevant information to enable customers to make informed choices. We will support agricultural practices that are environmentally friendly, economically viable and socially responsible by the way we purchase consumables and will incorporate energy reducing methods and practices in all aspects of food production. University Catering has made a commitment to buy only cage free whole eggs or shell eggs.  

The University endorses DEFRA’s definition of Sustainable Food, and undertakes to provide food and drink that: 

  • is safe and contributes to a healthy diet

  • supports a thriving and competitive food industry

  • promote the highest standards of animal health and welfare

  • deliver improving environmental impact throughout the lifecycle of the product or service

The Sustainable Food Policy will be supported by related policies that reflect specific sustainability issues, in particular the Sustainable Procurement Policy and by the development of a Sustainable Food Action Plan.

The policy will be implemented by the operational teams responsible for delivering catering services and monitored and reviewed by the Sustainable Aston Working Group (reporting to the University Executive), the Sustainable Procurement Working Group, and the Aston Fair Trade Steering Group.

Last reviewed 29th September 2015, by Sustainable Aston Working Group.

You can download a pdf version of our Food Action Plan.

Aston University’s Sustainability Policy states that we will “implement ethically and environmentally responsible procurement”.

The Sustainable Procurement policy supports this statement and provides guidelines and objectives for achieving a sustainable procurement procedure that is embedded in Aston’s culture. It is recognised that our purchasing decisions have a large impact outside of the University and this policy aims to minimise any negative environmental and social impacts; to this end we will:

  • Comply with, and where possible exceed, relevant legislation;
  • In the first instance, reduce the demand for goods and services by minimising waste and focusing on the re-use and recycling of existing goods;
  • Review environmental risks and target high-risk contracts and high-expenditure commodities;
  • Consider ‘whole life’ costs and impacts when assessing equipment for purchase;
  • Make Purchasing decisions based not only on economic, but also social and environmental factors;
  • Purchase and/or prioritise those items that are manufactured with a high recycled content;
  • In accordance with our accreditation as a Fairtrade University, consider products that are Fairtrade certified;
  • Include relevant sustainability criteria within all tender exercises and supplier appraisals, where legally appropriate;
  • Engage with suppliers to: Promote awareness, Encourage suppliers to adopt similar policies and sustainable approaches in their supply chains, Address barriers to entry for SMEs and local suppliers, Encourage development and promotion of new sustainable products, services and initiatives;
  • Raise internal awareness of sustainability issues through the promotion and communication of relevant goods and information;
  • Provide training on sustainable procurement for the appropriate people;
  • Define key areas for the University and suppliers and monitor and measure sustainable performance in these areas.

The policy will be implemented, monitored and reviewed by the Sustainable Procurement Working Group, the Aston Fairtrade Steering Group and the Sustainable Aston Working Group (reporting to the University Executive).

Approved by University Executive, October 2010; reviewed September 2015

Aston University is proud of our green campus and our Environmental Policy states that we will strive “To prevent all kinds of pollution through reduced waste, reduced emissions and responsible disposal”.

Our Waste Management Policy builds on this objective; setting ambitious targets to achieve a 7% reduction in overall waste production by 2020 on a baseline of 2012/13 and to increase participation in zero waste in halls by 10% on 2012/13 baseline.

The University will achieve this by:  

  • Reviewing our purchasing practices with a view to minimising waste;

  • Advising staff on the waste hierarchy (reduce, reuse, recycle) and providing guidance on waste reduction techniques and reuse/recycling facilities;

  • Providing adequate recycling facilities around campus;

  • Ensuring that waste is stored appropriately, safely and in line with legislation;

  • Ensuring that waste is disposed of responsibly and in line with legislation;

  • Providing waste management training where necessary;

  • Monitoring and reviewing waste streams, practices and reduction targets regularly;

  • Requesting waste minimisation and recycling information in line with targets in future waste management contracts;

  • Working with contractors and partners to ensure this policy is implemented across campus. 


The policy will be implemented, monitored and reviewed by the Environment and Sustainability Team, together with the Sustainable Aston Working Group (reporting to the University Executive) and the Sustainable Procurement Working Group.

Approved by University Executive, June 2010; reviewed October 2014.

Aston 2020 Strategy

Sustainability and social responsibility are issues our staff, students and stakeholders feel passionately about, and are central to how we work at Aston, and how we relate to the world around us. Sustainability and social responsibility are based on ethical values and underpinned by the idea of economic, social and environmental obligations to our range of stakeholders. The importance of this is outlined as on of our strategic aims in Aston 2020

Aim 07.03 Social responsibility and sustainability literacy 

Extending across the University curriculum changes aimed at enabling all graduates to be ‘literate in social responsibility and sustainability'.

Learning and Teaching Strategy 

Education for Social Responsibility and Sustainability is an explicit element in Aston University's Learning and Teaching Strategy, which is linked to the overall Aston 2020 Strategy. Sustainability will be identified and highlighted in existing modules and wherever possible be addressed both explicitly and implicitly in new ones.

The inclusion of Education for Social Responsibility and Sustainability in the student experience is outlined in section 7 of theLearning and Teaching Strategy. 

Principles of Responsible Management Education

Also outlined in our Aston 2020 strategy is that the University adheres to the UN's Principles of Responsible Mamnagement Education (PRME):

Aim 07.01 Commitment to the United Nations Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME)

Improving the integration of sustainability and social responsibility by embedding our activities in this area into all aspects of University life. 

Aston Business School was one of the first UK Business Schools to sign up to the UN’s “Principles of Responsible Management”. 

In implementing these principles, Aston is committed to developing SRS literate graduates, engaging in SRS research, engaging with businesses and communities and understands “that our own organisational practices should serve as examples of the values and attitudes we convey to our students” 

More information on UN PRME can be found on the Aston Business School pages.  

Green Education Declaration 

 Aston has signed the People&Planet Green Education Declaration (PDF), which recognises the key role of the education sector in addressing the challenge of climate change and making the transition to a low carbon economy and society.

Teaching and learning are crucial to inspire and educate the next generation of decision makers, business leaders and citizens, and equip them with the skills and knowledge to deal with the challenges of climate change. Research and innovation helps us to understand the many facets of climate change and will be central to developing ideas and technologies to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate. 

Executive Summary

The University’s carbon footprint in 2005/6 for scopes 1 and 2 (covering the direct combustion of fuels on site, fuel use by owned fleet, electricity and heat purchased) was 12,149 tonnes CO2e. The implementation of this plan will support an absolute reduction in this footprint of 53% by 2020/21, compared to the 2005/6 base year.

Moreover, the University has decided to baseline and track the University’s emissions for scope 3 (all other indirect emissions). This document will look at how the University is embedding Sustainability into its practices that produce scope 3 emissions and over time set a tangible reduction target and solutions to meet this.

For scopes 1 and 2, the data shows that the University has reduced its carbon emissions by 30% between 2005/6 and 2014/15, 2.9% behind of where we need to be if we are to meet our 2020/21 target. On this basis an annual reduction of 5.5% needs to be met to hot target.

The targets are challenging, and technical fixes alone will not meet the carbon emission targets.  Only by a combination of technical measures, space efficiency and behaviour change will the university be able to meet its carbon reduction targets.  Engagement is also important if the University is to achieve its role of successfully educating its students about the importance of these issues.

The projects that have been implemented and put forward to achieve this plan is currently estimated to result in financial savings of approximately £761,500 per year.  

This plan aims to decouple our future growth in staff & student numbers and turnover from growth in our carbon emissions. 

The delivery of this plan will be led by the Energy, Environment and Sustainability Team and the plan will be under the scrutiny of the Sustainable Aston Working Group.  Progress will be reported to the University Council and key performance indicators will be published for carbon reduction.

The Carbon Management Plan was last reviewed May 2016

View the full report

To Support the Carbon Management Plan the University has a Carbon Management Plan data file that highlights past, present and future projects that are linked with Scopes 1, 2 and 3. This is a living document so is updated on a regular basis. This document is reviewed quarterly by the Estates Sustainability Group. This can be down loaded here - and was last updated in May 2015

As part of our commitment to sustainability, the University endeavours to reduce our emissions related to travel, both business travel and commuting. 

Birmingham City Council’s Smarter Choices Team assisted Aston University in conducting a travel survey in December 2013. This was to identify the primary travel methods of staff and students when travelling to campus, as well as incentives that would be most effective in encouraging sustainable travel methods such as cycling, walking and using public transport.  

The following Travel Plan uses data from the latest travel survey to outline specific actions to reduce travel related carbon emissions.

Staff and Student Travel Plan 2014/15 

Climate change is one of the greatest and costly challenges we all face. Aston University is already making strong progress towards reducing its reliance on fossil fuels through mitigation. However, even if we were to completely end our carbon emissions today the climate would continue to change for about 30 years, thanks to our historic emissions and a lag in the climate system.

The earth’s climate is changing so that there will be more frequent and intense extreme weather events than we have been used to in the past. Current extreme weather will no longer be exceptional, but will become the norm and Aston University needs to be aware of this and prepared to adapt to new circumstances.


Aston’s Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan has been developed to help the University prepare for the impacts of climate change. The Action Plan focuses on the risks and opportunities within various functions that make up Birmingham including;

  • Built and critical infrastructure
  • Business and the economy
  • Community
  • Health and well-being

 By outlining the strategic processes for developing and embedding evidence and taking action, it will improve services, increase resilience and reduce the economic impact. Adapting to climate change now will have a long-term direct economic benefit.

The full Adaptation and Climate Change report can be downloaded here however, please note it is currently in draft form..