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

We are number one in the UK and Europe, and number two in the world for social and environmental impact (Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings 2023).

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


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:

Research beacons 

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.


The University of Manchester and our Students’ Union are committed to the responsible use of plastics, minimising waste, and seeking opportunities to reuse and recycle plastic, allowing for circularity and efficiency in use.

We are leading on a range of plastics research exploring new and different ways of making, using, and recycling. Outputs of our research inform our ongoing approach to responsible plastic management and guide our actions set out below.

This action plan maps out our progress so far and our targets to achieve by 2025.

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.

Zero carbon university

Alongside the ecological crisis, climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity.  It is critical we limit global average temperature rises to no more than 1.5 degrees, in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement. This requires severe and urgent reductions to our carbon emissions.

A carbon budget is the amount of carbon emissions an individual or organisation can emit into the atmosphere before emitting more than their “fair share” of the remaining carbon we can emit globally if we are to not exceed 1.5 degrees. 

Our carbon budget was set by climate scientists at The University’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. The same team were also asked to set a carbon budget for Manchester, and this led to the adoption of the same target by many organisations across the city.  This is captured in one of The University’s eight measures of success in the Our Future strategy under Carbon Reduction: “We will align to the city’s decarbonisation pathway and 2038 target for zero carbon”. 

Although the 2038 target and carbon budget relates only to our direct emissions (Scopes 1&2 under the Greenhouse Gas Protocol), we recognise that our indirect (Scope 3) emissions – which include all the carbon associated with our “value chain” – are likely to be considerably larger than our direct footprint and must be acted upon, despite being less within our control.

Sustainable Futures

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

Sustainability challenges

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

Take 50,000 Actions

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

Environmental sustainability

Find out more about our environmental strategy.