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UAL is leading the way for higher education in the UK to achieve net zero

Green fashion

@UAL pledges bold action to reach comprehensive net zero by 2040

UAL is leading the way for higher education in the UK with a bold pledge to achieve net zero across our total carbon footprint by 2040. This pledge accelerates our response to the climate emergency. It covers the university’s full indirect emissions, including the supply chain and international student travel, as well as direct emissions. 

Under our comprehensive zero carbon plan, UAL will achieve net zero by 2030 on our direct (scope 1 and 2) emissions and net zero by 2040 for our indirect (scope 3) emissions. This is 10 years ahead of the UK government’s deadline. 

James Purnell, UAL President and Vice-Chancellor, said: 

“We have a strong track record in promoting sustainability but such is the scope and scale of the environmental crisis facing all of us, we have to do more. Much more. That is why today, we are announcing the most demanding carbon reduction plan of universities in the UK. 

The UK government has set the goal of net zero by 2050. However, not everyone will reach that goal, so some institutions will have to do more to compensate.  We are therefore committing to UAL going faster, so as to bring the average down. Our target will be to achieve net zero across our total carbon footprint by 2040.”  

Jeremy Till, UAL Pro-Vice Chancellor for Climate Justice said: 

“From education and curriculum to conversations across the creative sector, the realities of UAL’s net zero carbon pledges are far-reaching, and empower students, staff and the creative community to innovate a different future. We will collaborate with other institutions to make progress on climate justice, sharing knowledge and best practice in a collective response to net carbon zero within the higher education sector.” 

These comprehensive commitments build on UAL’s track record of carbon reduction since 2012 and will be approached with the same rigour and attention. 

To reduce direct emissions, we will enhance utility management across university buildings and improve timetabling to reflect actual building occupancy to limit energy waste. Decentralised heat networks offer a practical solution for decarbonising heating, helping organisations achieve their climate goals at a lower cost. UAL will connect Chelsea College of Art to the proposed low carbon heat network in the Westminster area. By 2028, Central Saint Martins, London College of Fashion at East Bank and the new London College of Communication building will be connected to a site wide, low carbon heat network. Our Environmental Management Systems will track progress and provide transparency about our impact on the natural environment. We will continue to develop and roll out carbon literacy training, educating and deepening our community’s understanding of decarbonisation and empowering everyone to take action. 

To reduce indirect emissions, we will consolidate UAL’s supply chain through responsible procurement, alongside investment in research. We will provide a digital tool to assess the carbon impact of the products we purchase whilst reducing ‘last mile’ deliveries to our buildings. 

The University Executive Board will be accountable for delivering these targets, with actions covering the following areas: carbon reduction, business operations, academic strategy and delivery, community and influence. 

These new targets build on UAL’s progress to date, based on our long-standing commitment to sustainable business operations. UAL is already ranked in London’s Top 4 green universities and in the Top 20 most environmentally sustainable universities in England in People & Planet Green League.  

UAL also aims to focus our learning, teaching and research on sustainability, leaning on our expertise for sustainable fashion and our ongoing research capacity for product design. This will reduce emissions through circularity and the sustainable manufacture of materials. UAL’s climate-related research includes the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, which recently launched a blueprint for how small UK businesses can lead fashion in the race to zero. This is a partnership with Open University and Middlesex University’s Centre for Enterprise and Economic Development Research. 

Ongoing contributions span sustainable design and buildings. UAL’s new site for London College of Fashion currently being developed at East Bank is one of the largest buildings in an urban environment to achieve a BREEAM ‘outstanding’ label. 

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