A picture of the Queen's Tower with flowers in the foreground, with the Greening Imperial tagline as a footer

Imperial seeks an academic to lead ‘greening’ activities in new senior role – could it be you?

A picture of the Queen's Tower with flowers in the foreground, with the Greening Imperial tagline as a footer

Grantham Institute Director of Policy and Translation Alyssa Gilbert reveals Imperial’s plan to recruit an Academic Leader for Sustainability, who will embed zero-carbon thinking and actions across the College’s estate, research, innovation and policy influence.

After the UN agreed an international treaty for action on climate change in Paris in 2015, I was part of a small group of Imperial staff who met to discuss how the College could make the most of its position as a world-leading academic institution to tackle climate change. We were inspired, and somewhat challenged, by pledges from comparable institutions (MIT, Cambridge etc.) and wanted to make sure our own institution was making its full contribution to climate and environmental challenges.  I felt then (and still feel now) that the university is a microcosm for broader action, and beyond that, has the potential to catalyse much wider change. So, with high ambitions, our group sought backing from the Provost’s Board to scope out where the College could make a difference, and Greening Imperial was born.

Over the last year, the Grantham Institute’s Dr Neil Jennings has led activities to build momentum on Greening Imperial. We were delighted when our survey showed that students and staff from all job families and departments supported greater action on climate change, and five areas were identified for action: estate, education, research, innovation and policy influence. Neil has since built fantastic relationships with staff and students across the College to stimulate some practical changes to improve the environmental impact of the institution. The growing community of Greening Imperial includes a dedicated and diverse steering group, and supporters throughout College. Groups including Campus Services, Estates, Communications & Public Affairs, Imperial College Union, and teaching staff across departments have participated in Greening Imperial activities. Neil is also working with external bodies including the National Union of Students.

So, we are already making some progress, but to realise our ambitions for Imperial’s leadership on climate action, Greening Imperial must become embedded in the heart of senior management. The Provost’s Board is now seeking to appoint an Academic Leader for Sustainability to take on responsibility for Greening Imperial, and planning and overseeing the delivery of future activities to turn Imperial into a leading light in sustainability action. This new role will report directly to Professor Neil Alford (Associate Provost Academic Planning) and the College Sustainability Board (to be convened).

It has never been so urgent to prove that large organisations can genuinely deliver on the environmental agenda. Are you up for the challenge?

Achievements so far …

To date Greening Imperial has delivered the following actions:

Greening Imperial graphic encouraging people to use reusable water bottles. The words are: "drink refill repeat"

  • Created visual branding for Greening Imperial
  • Removed single-use plastic cups from drinking fountains
  • Replaced single-use plastic cutlery with FSC-certified wooden cutlery
  • Introduced a disposable coffee cup levy and sale of discounted reusable cups
  • Introduced ‘bring your own container’ scheme in catering outlets
  • Piloted Meat Free Monday in catering outlets in January 2019
  • Supported Campus Services in their launch of Plantworks plant-based catering outlet
  • Introduced sustainability themes into regular teaching for a week in February 2019 as part of the ‘Sustainable Development Goals Teach-In’
  • Staffed Greening Imperial stall at Freshers’ Fair
  • Piloted Laboratory Environmental Assessment Framework (LEAF) in four laboratories
  • Installed additional cycle parking at South Kensington Campus – Weeks Building
  • Brought together a group of staff and students to support the ICU Environmental Society with their allotment

Banner explaining that disposable cutlery has been replaced the FSC certified cutlery. The banner says "Make Lunch more sustainable"

In doing so, Greening Imperial has already had a positive impact and achieved a number of outcomes, including:

  • Saving approximately 500,000 plastic cups from being burnt for energy after one use
  • Reducing usage of disposable coffee cups and doubling the sale of reusable coffee cups
  • 1,200 students (7% of the student body) reached by activities during the Sustainable Development Goals Teach-In week

What’s next?

Once appointed, the Academic Leader for Sustainability (working at 0.25 FTE) will build high-level leadership on sustainability and climate change action, galvanise a network of sustainability champions, and create investment for a small number high-profile activities.

In January 2019 at the World Economic Forum, President Alice Gast committed Imperial to membership of the Global Alliance of Universities on Climate (GAUC), which provides further internal support and impetus for this post. CTA here? E.g. Could you turn Imperial into a sustainability champion?

To apply for the Academic Leader for Sustainability post visit the College’s recruitment website (Imperial staff only – login required to view details)

For more information about Greening Imperial activities visit the website

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