Guest Blog: Simon Goldsmith, Head of Sustainability, University of Greenwich

This month’s Chair’s blog comes from Simon Goldsmith, Head of Sustainability, University of Greenwich, and Chair of the London Higher Sustainability Network.

At just eight months old, the London Higher Sustainability Network is building momentum and has already delivered significant outcomes.

The Network aims to share and showcase best practice sustainability activity across the sector, as well as find ways to collaborate with members and others to accelerate effective, positive change. Professor Frances Corner OBE, Warden of Goldsmiths, University of London and the Network’s Executive Chair provides us with invaluable insights to help us deliver impact.

Sustainability is recognised as having a strategic role within the higher education sector and we are keen to prove this through our work. London is also a global centre for sustainability, which provides a great opportunity to co-create and encourage the world to learn and work with us.

The Network has so far collaborated with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to develop a plan to tackle integrated circular economy thinking in the higher education food procurement and provisioning system. We are working with other London Higher Networks to illustrate that sustainability can add value to their specialist areas. We have developed visualisations to help higher education institutions better understand that sustainability isn’t just about energy saving and recycling, and we have collaborated and supported each other within the group to help promote and deliver local initiatives.

Sustainability can connect higher education institutions together, internally and externally. It touches on almost all activities: operations, teaching, research and partnerships. Students and staff are increasingly expecting their institutions to take responsibility and act on the many sustainability challenges we face. Climate change, air pollution, biodiversity loss, and the circular economy are just a few of the issues that we are expected to address. Universities are in a unique position, where we have a significant operational environmental (and social) footprint, but we also have the people, particularly our students and staff, whose academic and professional knowledge can be utilised to help solve these challenges. Increasingly, senior leadership teams are realising that by bringing these actors and issues together we can meet our corporate objectives, whilst also helping protect the planet and supporting our communities.

With strategic leadership and support from our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jane Harrington, the University of Greenwich is now harnessing this potential. We are enabling our students to become change-making graduates, supporting our researchers to help address the challenges we face, and delivering against ambitious net zero goals and other important challenges.