Sustainability with University of Plymouth

Top 10 sustainable university

We are ranked 9th in the world out of all the institutions featured in the tables for our efforts in support of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal number 17: partnerships for the goals.

The University has established its position as an international pioneer in sustainability practices, research, education and engagement.

The University is recognised as an innovative leader in higher education for sustainability, across teaching and learning, research and our University operations.

We have three main goals:

  • To have a sustainable campus.
  • To enable learning about sustainability and to pioneer research solutions to the world’s most pressing sustainability challenges.
  • To motivate the next generation of students to go out and tackle the sustainability challenges they'll find in their workplaces.

We have a strong embedded strategy for sustainability, incorporating social, economic and environmental principles across the University that have been in place for nearly two decades. This includes short, medium and long term objectives measured against baseline data. We seek to deliver continuous improvement of our performance and to research solutions for global problems. We innovate in our teaching and learning to equip graduates with the attributes necessary for applying sustainability principles in their civic and professional lives and we ensure that we operate a sustainable estate.

Transparency in our approach to implementing sustainability at Plymouth is important to us. Since 2007, we have participated in the People & Planet Green League, coming first twice and second no less than four times. In 2016, we decided to move to a disclosure framework that would be internationally recognised and so implemented the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) framework for a new challenge. GRI is an international independent organisation that provides a globally recognised framework for sustainability.

This enables us to report on the impacts related to our economic, social and environmental performance against aspects that are material to us and align with our sustainability targets. Since 2016, this is the framework that we have been using to publicly disclose our performance.

We are externally accredited to ISO 14001 for our Environmental Management System and the activities on our main campus site, including the Cookworthy building. We use the guidance detailed in the International Standards Organisation as a framework for how we manage our environmental impacts, our social responsibility and our consumption of utilities. The ISO standards offer an independent, non-governmental status that is internationally accepted.

University of Plymouth Sustainability Report 2020

Read the 2020 Sustainability Report to find out more about how we are doing against our sustainability commitments.

Download the full report in PDF format

University of Plymouth Sustainable Restaurant Association Report 2019

The University also ensures sustainability across its food outlets by being externally accredited by the Sustainable Restaurant Association and has achieved the highest three-star rating as well as being named one of the top 20 sustainable businesses in 2019. 

Download the full report in PDF format

Ditch the disposables

Use your reusable cup at our campus cafes

Our goal is to reduce the number of disposable cups that are used and then disposed of on campus. An estimated 2.5 billion paper coffee cups are thrown away in the UK every year (that’s almost 5,000 a minute, or 7 million per day), with our campus contributing over 300,000 of those. As of November 2019 there has been a reduction in the use of almost 60,000 disposable cups since implementing the 20p discount.

Use a reusable cup at our campus cafes and get a 20p discount.

Cut waste, cut carbon, save money.

Help us reduce plastic waste and refill your water bottle on campus

We're an award-winning university for sustainability, but don't just take our word for it.

2019 – Awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for world-leading microplastics work.

2018 – Guardian University Award winner in the Sustainability category, University signs up to three national plastic campaigns, Plymouth Law earns national Pro Bono Award.

2017 – The University signs up to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Accord, Drake’s Place Gardens and Reservoir receive Green Flag award for third year running, University of Plymouth Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry is an Athena SWAN Silver award winner.

2016 – Achieved Sustainability Reporting (Public Sector) category at the Building Public Trust in Corporate Reporting Awards, fifth Green Gown Award for Sustainability Reporting category, University of the Year at the Food Made Food Awards.

2015 – 1st in People and Planet, Drake’s Place Gardens and Reservoir wins Green Flag, The House and Drake’s Place win two Abercrombie Awards, reaccredited with Food for Life Bronze and Silver, Sustainable Restaurant Association Three Stars, Guardian Award 2015 winner for Social and Community Impact.

2014 – UPSU gained Excellent in Green Impact Scheme, gained Sustainable Restaurant Association 3 Star status, won three Green Gown awards.

2013 – Ranked 2nd in People and Planet, UPSU Gold in Green Impact Scheme, Silver LiFE accreditation, shortlisted in Times Higher Education Awards, 7th in International Green Metric, won Good Egg Award.

2012 – 5th in International Green Metric, first University to be awarded Social Enterprise Mark, ranked 2nd People and Planet, Food for Life Bronze certification.

2011 – Green Gown Award Continuous Improvement, Green Tourism Gold Award, ranked 4th People and Planet.

2010 – Ranked 1st People and Planet.

2009 – Gained Fairtrade status, achieved ISO 14001 accreditation, Corporate Responsibility Index award from Business in the Community, ranked 6th People and Planet.

Leading the charge against plastic pollution

The University is at the forefront of international research into the causes and impacts of marine litter and is now taking action to reduce the plastic waste generated on its campuses

Read more about our Plan for Plastics