The College is establishing new systems for assessing, monitoring and curbing its emissions to land, air and water and reducing waste arisings, energy use and carbon intensity of all aspects of its operations. We actively encourage awareness of the environment and climate change, and we support the practices and initiatives of our students, staff, researchers, alumni and innovation start-ups where these contribute to sustainability goals.
The RCA is currently updating its Environmental Policy to reflect its new sustainability strategies and its commitment to achieving ISO 14001 accreditation, the recognised international standard in environment management and a globally recognised mark of excellence.
Working towards ISO 14001 is now a strategic priority for the College’s Schools and professional and technical services teams, and is already reflected in ambitious sustainability performance targets captured within the College’s new Strategic Plan 2022–27.
The College’s Estates & Campus Operations team is pulling together a range of initiatives to identify specific areas of improvement of our environmental performance. Examples are:
- Food waste: The RCA is 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
- Energy use: The College is reviewing its current metering and procurement contracts for supply of utilities (electricity, gas and water) to identify opportunities to improve energy efficiency and improve our use of energy from renewable and sustainable sources, rather than from fossil fuels.
Sustainability research and innovation
The RCA nurtures an environment where research and innovation flourish. Increasingly these supported projects and start-ups focus on sustainability and the reduction of environmental impact. The College is engaged across all programmes, at all levels, in rethinking how societies, industries and individuals can pursue their aims while reducing emissions and waste, eradicating pollution and maintaining biodiversity.
Examples of recent projects and initiatives include:
The RCA’s staff, students and alumni regularly take part in challenges designed to tackle sustainability and climate change issues. Recent examples include:
- Terra Carta Design Lab, launched in July 2021 by HRH The Prince of Wales and Sir Jony Ive. The initiative forms an integral part of His Royal Highness’s wider Sustainable Markets Initiative – in partnership with the RCA – and brings together staff, students and alumni to develop solutions to the climate crisis.
- The RCA Grand Challenge – the biggest single-institution postgraduate design project in the world, bringing together multidisciplinary teams of students across the School of Design to address some of the world’s most pressing problems through a marriage of design and science. The theme of this year’s Grand Challenge – a New Economic Model for the Ocean (NEMO) – investigates global topics including environmental sustainability, plastic pollution, loss of marine habitat and new ocean economies. You can find out more about the winning teams and their projects in this news article.
Sustainability statements of intent
A Sustainability Statement of Intent (SSI) is a working manifesto to be discussed and contributed to by technicians, teaching staff and students. The aim is to clarify what sustainability means in the particular practical context of a given programme or medium, acknowledging the responsibility of academics, technicians and students to support and pursue sustainable practices, and to approach each programme’s materials, processes and production with a critical understanding of their impact.
Currently, SSIs are a component exclusive to the School of Arts and Humanities.
SustainLab is a collaborative platform for all RCA students wanting to explore issues of sustainability and discuss how it can be progressed. It is a social and productive forum in which ideas can be challenged, investigated, experimented on and shared. SustainLab organises events, workshops and biweekly open crits for students interested in developing their knowledge of sustainability and its incorporation into their creative processes.