At Unite Students we believe it’s Up to uS to reduce our environmental impact, and encourage responsible behaviour in our students and employees. We focus on the areas where we have the biggest impact:

  • Energy and carbon - reducing energy use and carbon emissions that contribute to global climate change
  • Water - reducing water use and wastage
  • Resource use and waste - sustainable use of materials and resources, reducing waste and improving recycling

Our Environmental Policy sets out our commitment to do this by focusing on three areas of activity:

  • Sustainable Behaviour – this is about encouraging and enabling lasting responsible living and working habits among our students and employees, such as helping them reduce their energy and water use and promoting recycling.
  • Sustainable Buildings – this is about physically improving the energy and water efficiency of our buildings, and making sure they support the Sustainable Behaviour agenda.
  • Sustainable Energy Use – this is about better managing how and when we purchase and use energy, including buying renewable electricity, demand-side management and on-site renewable generation.

Reducing our environmental impacts through sustainable buildings, behaviour and energy use

Sustainable Buildings

Our existing buildings provide the biggest opportunity to reduce our main environmental impacts of energy and carbon, water, and resource use and waste.

To comply with the energy surveys as part of the mandatory Energy Saving Opportunities Scheme (ESOS) we completed a number of energy surveys of our buildings. We also updated Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) for all our buildings ahead of the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) that take effect in 2018. Over 2016 and 2017 we are undertaking further detailed surveys of every single building to produce individual building sustainability plans that will identify further energy and water saving activity to be undertaken.

We have already started a £21 million LED lighting and controls update, and are working to improve energy efficiency across a range of areas including networked heating and hot water controls, on-site renewable energy, dynamic demand side management (DSM), battery storage, building services controls and optimisation, and building fabric improvements.

Sustainable Behaviour

Our sustainable engagement programme promotes and encourages both employees and students to adopt responsible behaviours. Developed over the last three years, using social change theory, it encompasses a range of activities on a national, local and individual level.  The programme has built-in flexibility allowing us to maximise opportunities for behavioural change in each of our different properties.

The programme targets five key behaviours around energy saving, water saving and waste reduction, using digital screens, social media, and in-property exhibits to display top tips on how to live a little greener. These are bought to life each term with a dedicated student campaign around one element of green living, for example warm & winning.

At a local level, our network of employee sustainability champions work closely with student volunteer “Green Impact Consultants” to complete actions from a workbook across the academic year.  This Green Impact workbook is accredited by the National Union of Students and every action is simple, clear and easy to implement. Completed actions qualify the teams for either bronze, silver or gold awards. All cities are tasked with obtaining a minimum of a bronze award for their properties and this can be achieved a number of ways due to the range of actions to choose from, and progress is verified by volunteer student “Green Impact Auditors”.

Finally, at the individual level, we engage students directly via the Green Impact volunteer scheme, and via building energy performance information published throughout the year with feedback on the actions that we are encouraging as part of Up to uS.

More information on our sustainable behaviour programme is available here.

Sustainable Energy Use

We have committed to taking serious action to improve our environmental performance, including :

  • Meaningful carbon reduction: Unite Students were one of the first 125 global companies to commit to developing and implementing science-based carbon targets.  In line with the historic Paris climate deal signed in 2015, we will aim to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in line with the level that climate science states is necessary to avoid global warming in excess of 2 °C.   We are currently working with the Science Based Targets Initiative to finalise our targets which will be published once they are approved.    
  • BREEAM Excellent new buildings: from 2018 onwards all our new buildings will be built to BREEAM Excellent standards. This will help ensure they play their part in improving the environmental performance of our portfolio.
  • Creating a green legacy: by actively engaging our students with our Up to uS sustainability engagement programme we aim to help them adopt responsible and sustainable living habits that stay with them long after they leave us.

Environmental Management System

To make sure we properly manage and reduce our environmental impacts, we have processes and systems based around the requirements of the widely used ISO14001 environmental management system (EMS). This helps us ensure we identify, monitor, manage, reduce, and report on activity that could potentially damage the environment. 

Progress to date

More details of our environmental performance are set out in our Environmental policy here, and within our GRI Standard report here.

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