Steve West, Vice-Chancellor cycling

Governance, strategy and finance

Our vision is to be valued as a leader, innovator and trusted partner for sustainability.

Our aim

We aim to play a part in supporting the global sustainability agenda for a strong, healthy and just society living within environmental limits in everything that we do. Central to this commitment is our ambition to create an environment and culture in which all student and staff members have the opportunity to develop and use the skills and understanding required to contribute to global sustainability and health throughout their careers. Sustainability must become embedded in everything that the University does in its teaching, research, operations and community engagement.


Overall strategic leadership for sustainability is guided by the Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Environment and Sustainability. Their leadership is reflected in our ambition to be a ground-breaking example of a sustainable university as set out in the UWE Bristol Sustainability Plan 2013 – 2020: Positive Footprint.

The Sustainability Plan was refreshed in 2017 and new ambitions and targets introduced. View on film the University Senior Leaders signing the Foreword to the Sustainability Plan. The plan details our aims and ambitions relating to all aspects of sustainability at UWE Bristol, including education for sustainable development. The Sustainability Plan is a double award winner: in 2016 UWE Bristol was awarded the UK and Ireland Green Gown and in 2017, was awarded  the prestigious International Green Gown for Continuous Improvement-Institutional Change in competition with universities from Australia and France. We are currently preparing our new Climate Action and Sustainability Strategy for 2030, which will be released at the end of this year.

Governance of Sustainability in UWE Bristol

The Sustainability Board meets four to five times a year and is governed by formal Terms of Reference. The Sustainability Plan Theme Leaders, the Sustainability Officer Green Team Coordinator, President and nominated Vice-President from the Students' Union and representatives from all three trade unions are entitled to attend. The board takes its authority from and reports to the Directorate, Academic Board and the Board of Governors. In addition, elected officers of The Student Union report on outcomes through the governance arrangements of the Union.

At each meeting, the Board reviews progress with the 13 themes of the Sustainability Plan, undertakes regular reviews of policies including the Environmental Sustainability Policy and the Ethical Investment Policy, approves action plans arising from the Sustainability Plan, reviews progress with the commitment to adopt the principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME) across the institution, and provides the governance of the whole institution ISO 14001 accreditation process and the Responsible Futures accreditation.

In particular, in 2017/18, the Environmental Sustainability Policy was reviewed and what is believed to be a sector leading Statement on Palm Oil was approved by the Sustainability Board. In 2018/19 statements on plastics, food waste and fossil fuel were approved, in recognition of our new expectations. The Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Environment and Sustainability is charged with promoting the integration and enhancing the impact of all our sustainability teaching, research, knowledge exchange and community engagement activities.

Healthy University Group

The Healthy University Group was established in 2006 as a sub-group of the Sustainability Board. This group ensures that a whole university approach is taken, endorsing membership from Academic Staff, Senior Management, Student Services, Human Resources, Facilities, Students' Union and Centre for Sport. This cross-university steering group is uniquely positioned to progress this complex, multi-factorial agenda of the health and wellbeing of staff, students and wider communities.

The Healthy University Group supports UWE Bristol’s commitment to be a leading UK Healthy University, with the aim to raise the profile of and embed health and wellbeing within the culture, structures and processes of the daily life of the University. In addition, UWE Bristol aims to enhance everyone's health and wellbeing by creating and promoting healthier working, learning and social environments.

The interdisciplinary World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Healthy Urban Environments provides a particular focus and connection to a global health improvement agenda and has established itself at the forefront of efforts in the UK and Europe for promoting better understanding of the interlocking nature of health and the built environment.

The Students’ Union and UWE Bristol working in partnership 

In pursuit of our sustainability goals, we work closely with The Students’ Union to embed sustainability within the wider student experience.

To this end, during the last five years we have supported The Students’ Union to develop The Green Team, a sizeable community with more than 1,600 supporters, across the departments and programmes of UWE Bristol. The Green Team initiative is supported by a specially appointed Green Team coordinator within The Students’ Union. Most recently, the team have established an elected committee of representatives, each of whom take on a theme area within the Sustainability Plan and link with the responsible staff member, thereby driving even stronger working relations.

The University and The Students’ Union have a strong partnership and are working to provide training and resources for student projects. In exchange, we expect The Green Team to challenge us and to push us to do better in meeting the aims and objectives of our 2020 Sustainability Plan and currently in drafting our 2030 plan.

Together, UWE Bristol and The Students' Union at UWE have gained external recognition for their efforts to improve their sustainability performance across the board – for their teaching and research, for their professional services and for the dynamism and creativity of individual students and staff. Most recently, we have worked together to gain two accreditations from the NUS - Responsible Futures, reaccredited in 2019, and the NUS Green Impact award for which The Students' Union at UWE received an excellent categorisation and were designated overall winner in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

City region activities

At UWE Bristol we aim to make the most of our ability to impact on the sustainability of the city region through various channels; through our leadership, our academic expertise and research, our students’ placements, projects and volunteering, and our involvement in key initiatives.

Our commitment to the key sustainability grouping in Bristol, the Bristol Green Capital Partnership has been significant over many years. During the Bristol 2015 European Green Capital year, we were a strategic partner and strong supporter. In 2016, we were involved in the development of the partnership into a Community Interest Company and Professor James Longhurst, Assistant Vice-Chancellor, is a member of the current board.

Building on the expertise of our staff and our strategic role in the city, we are engaged in a range of other initiatives, the key one of which is the Bristol City Council's commitment to achieve a carbon neutral city by 2030. Professor James Longhurst is co-chair of the Advisory Committee on Climate Change, along with Dr Jo House of the University of Bristol.

In terms of sharing good practice and learning with others in the city and South West region, we are regular participants (and winners in) the South West Business Fairtrade awards, the Travelwest Sustainable Travel awards, the Bristol Volunteering Awards and more. We also host conferences seminars and events and provide keynote speakers for many sustainability events.

Supporting and Developing a Sustainable UWE Bristol - our financial commitment to sustainability

UWE Bristol supports its sustainability activities through various budgets:

  • The Facilities Sustainability Team is supported through the University’s Facilities budget.
  • The University-wide ESD Associate Professor post has been created to ensure curriculum development incorporates considerations of sustainability and to coordinate a university wide network Knowledge Exchange for Sustainable Education.
  • The Assistant Vice-Chancellor, Environment and Sustainability has a dedicated budget to support student and staff initiatives and projects.
  • The University supports The Students' Union Green Team through its annual block grant.

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