A beekeeper holding up a honeycomb.

Environmental sustainability

Increasing greenhouse gas emissions, rising temperatures, and the erosion of nature and biodiversity represent an urgent threat to humanity and the ecosystems that surround us.

Through our research, teaching, operations, engagement and people, the University is helping to lead the way to a more sustainable world.

We’re at the forefront of tackling key global challenges such as climate change, population growth, rapid urbanisation, overconsumption, food and water security, loss of biodiversity, and pollution.

We want to use our full range of knowledge and influence to support a world that is environmentally sustainable. Our Environmental Sustainability Strategy sets out how we’re doing this.

Sustainable Development Goals

The quality and scale of our impact against the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been ranked among the top ten globally in the Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings in 2022.

The 17 SDGs are the world’s calls to action on the most pressing challenges and opportunities facing humanity and the natural world, and we’re playing a leading role in tackling them.

As one of the world’s leading research institutions and the UK’s only university to have social responsibility as a core goal, The University of Manchester is playing a leading role in tackling the SDGs in four ways – through our research, learning and students, public engagement activities and responsible campus operations. See how we are tackling the SDGs in our 2021/22 SDG report (PDF, 11.2MB).

Read more about the SDGs

Research

Through our research institutes and centres, we find innovative solutions for cleaner energy and more sustainable use of resources.

We contribute to the challenge through our:

Beacons for a sustainable future

Our research beacons are examples of pioneering discoveries, interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-sector partnerships that are tackling some of the biggest questions facing the planet, including environmental sustainability:

  • Energy–  explores the sustainability and efficiency of different energy sources and systems.
  • Industrial biotechnology– works towards replacing our reliance on fossil fuels with plants, algae, fungi, marine life and micro-organisms to change how we manufacture chemicals and materials, and provide sources of renewable energy.
  • Advanced materials– focuses on graphene and other 2D materials, pioneering innovation on sustainability in areas such as clean water and more sustainable energy storage devices.
  • Global inequalities – addresses issues of global development in sustainability and people’s lived experience of environmental breakdown.
Air quality

Using our Air Quality Supersite and Manchester Urban Observatory, we combine expertise from the Manchester Environmental Research Institute, the Manchester Urban Institute, the Data Science Institute, and Digital Futures to underpin world-leading research into air quality and help Greater Manchester achieve its goal of becoming a green city region.

Sustainable Resources Plan

Our Sustainable Resources Plan (PDF) focuses on:

  • carbon reduction
  • energy efficiency
  • water conservation
  • sustainable travel
  • waste reduction
  • sustainable buildings (including technical spaces and construction)
  • responsible purchasing
  • sustainable IT services
  • sustainable catering and conferencing.

The Plan focuses on the natural resources and resultant raw materials and products that we use, and the waste that we generate in our day-to-day activities and operation of the University. It identifies opportunities to maximise positive impacts and minimise the negative environmental impacts of university operations, while delivering the right infrastructure to encourage good environmental behaviour and choices.

Plastic

The University has committed to eliminating avoidable single-use plastics by 2022. In our labs, we’ve developed a systematic approach to reduce single-use plastic which has already generated a reduction of more than 26,000 plastic items per year (YouTube video).

Living campus

Our Living Campus Plan has been developed as part of the University’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy, specifically to address the challenges of a growing urban campus alongside the opportunities a healthy environment provides for people and nature. The Plan recognises our dependency on the natural environment and the services it provides, and seeks to support these services and provide environmental benefits across campus.

Learn more about our living campus.

Climate care

The University of Manchester has pledged to support Manchester’s climate change target for zero carbon by 2038. The Carbon Action Group and Zero Carbon Enabling Team are currently developing a series of initiatives and interventions to support this commitment. We had an absolute carbon reduction target of 40% from 2009 to 2020 and have reduced carbon emissions by 37% from our baseline measurements.

We’re ideally placed to support the UK in reducing carbon emissions from the operations of our research, teaching, people and estate. We’re at the forefront of the search for solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems, including carbon reduction and climate change, and we‘re pioneering the energy systems of the future so that we can continue to heat our homes, light our buildings, and travel efficiently.

Learn more about climate change and the University.

Sustainable Futures

Find out how we’re delivering solutions to urgent environmental challenges.

Environmental sustainability targets

Our targets outline what we hope to achieve by 2022.

Take 50,000 Actions

Tools to help take action on environmental sustainability (UoM login required).

Environmental sustainability

Find out more about our environmental strategy.

Sustainability challenges

We are delivering on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).