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About this policy

As an organisation, we contribute to solving the global challenge of climate change through our academic mission: the work of our research centres in particular the newly established Climavores research lab, the curriculum content within our taught Master's programmes, which includes an MA in Environmental Design and Grand Challenges on recent themes such as microplastics in the oceans; and the nature and number of sustainability focussed start-up businesses which the RCA incubates within it business incubator, InnovationRCA. At an operational level, the institution is actively working towards minimising the global impact of its carbon usage at Scopes 1 & 2, and we will commit to reviewing our Scope 3 emissions in 2027–32 in order to achieve net zero carbon by 2035.

Our commitment to net zero and climate justice fall within the remit of our Sustainability Committee. Its work is inseparable from our equity, diversity and inclusion strategy, which is led by the Head of EDI. The RCA and its EDI Committee reviews the intersectional nature of our ‘on the ground’ EDI commitments and ensures that there is a clear link between the stance we taken on equity, diversity, and inclusion at a local level, the active monitoring of our commitment to the Anti-Modern Slavery Act, and the wider impacts of Scope 3 emissions, the loss of biodiversity and the protection of indigenous people and land at a macro level. This Environmental Policy should therefore be viewed in conjunction with the RCA’s:

Demonstrating and improving our environmental performance

We will demonstrate the environmental commitments of the RCA through:

  • Meeting, and wherever possible exceeding environmental legislative and other requirements. For example, the new campus buildings which opened in 2022 are rated BREEAM ‘Excellent’.
  • Establishing new systems for assessing, monitoring and curbing emissions to land, air and water, through the commissioning of an external third party validated Environmental Impact Study in 2023.
  • Following the Environmental Impact Assessment, we commit to reducing our landfill waste through active upcycling and reuse programmes; improving our energy efficiency and reducing the carbon intensity of all aspects of our operations.
  • Actively encouraging awareness of the environment, biodiversity and climate change, in particular, through our Sustainable Food Policy, which will ban the sale of beef and single use plastic containers from July 2024, prioritises locally sourced seasonal products from ethical, and where possible locally farmed sources, and which publishes on our intranet the carbon footprint of all food in order to raise our staff and students’ awareness of the carbon impact of farming.
  • Reducing food waste by committing to the London Higher Operations Network’s Circular Food Sprint, run in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Mayor of London’s Food Flagship Initiative, which aims to create a circular food economy for London HE campuses.
  • We will promote awareness among staff and students of the carbon intensity of some of our making processes, in particular the use of gas and electric fired kilns in Ceramics and Glass.
  • Supporting the practices and initiatives of our students, staff, researchers, alumni and innovation start-ups where these contribute to sustainability goals.
  • Working towards achieving ISO 14001 accreditation, the recognised international standard in environment management and a globally recognised mark of excellence.
  • Reviewing metering and procurement contracts for supply of utilities (electricity, gas and water) to identify opportunities to improve energy efficiency and increase the percentage of energy we purchase from renewable and sustainable sources, rather than from fossil fuels, via a new Energy Management Policy.
  • Producing and implementing a Carbon Management Plan.
  • Considering sustainability as part of the College’s purchasing processes.
  • Ensuring that all construction and refurbishment work takes into account sustainability principles and that all new buildings are a minimum of BREEAM Excellent.
  • Producing and implementing a Travel Plan to encourage more sustainable commuting and business travel. Record and monitor each School’s and Directorate’s air travel in terms of carbon emissions and publish this regularly as a league table by the end of 2023.
  • Generating student and staff awareness and instilling sustainable practices across the College and within programme curricula through eg Sustainability Statements of Intent.
  • Engaging with the local community and the Further and Higher Education Sector on implementing carbon reduction practices, in concert with climate scientists, the carbon zero policies of UUK and their working group on Carbon Reduction and the AUDE Sustainability Leadership Scorecard (SLS).
  • Commit to producing an annual, rolling Environmental Policy, including SMART targets by May 2024, which will support our accreditation under the ISO 14001 standard.

Monitoring and reporting

To give effect to its commitment to its Environmental Policy the RCA will:

  • Publish its full Policy on its website and intranet
  • Provide an annual update to the RCA Council

An update on the progress on environmental sustainability was shared with the Audit and Risk Committee and the Planning and Resources Committee in June 2023, and with Council in July 2023.

Any expressions of concern should be made to [email protected] for staff and [email protected] for students. The Chair of the Sustainability Committee, along with the Vice-Chancellor, are responsible for this policy. Delivery of the policy will be overseen by the RCA’s Sustainability Committee, chaired by the Chief Operating Officer.

Review process

The Environmental Policy will be subject to regular review by the RCA SMT, and was last approved in July 2022, alongside a wider discussion of environmental progress to date. This approval is an interim approval, subject to a more detailed Environmental Policy being in place by May 2024.