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Sustainable operations

Sustainable operations

Our Operations teams, covering Estates, IT Services, Procurement, and Commercial Services, manage and reduce our energy, emissions, water consumption and waste production.

Our Estates Department also looks after our 135-acre parkland estate, which includes a variety of habitats and streams and a rich plethora of flora and fauna species - check out our Living Studio for more information.

We’re embedding sustainability into everything we do, from designing new buildings to purchasing appliances, selecting cleaning contractors, and sourcing kitchen ingredients. Notable initiatives already in place include:

  • 100% zero-carbon electricity supply
  • Zero-waste-to-landfill
  • 4x solar panel (PV cell) arrays
  • Rolling LED light installation programme
  • Majority electrically powered fleet
  • On-site electric vehicle charging points and bike storage facilities
  • Regular campus bus service linking offsite accommodation and train station
  • Chemical free cleaning
  • 3-star Sustainable Restaurant Award
  • Reduced meat menus with emphasis on plant-based meals
  • Fossil fuel divestment from our endowment investment portfolio
  • Charitable donation of old IT equipment, clothes and other goods

Decarbonising our estate

Our greatest challenge will be decarbonising our Estate in line with our 2035 and 2040 net zero commitments.

Whilst we’ve been continuously improving the energy efficiency of our buildings, switching to sensor-operated LED lights, and prioritising sustainability in construction projects like Chestnuts, we still need to replace remaining gas boilers with heat pumps and single-glazed windows with double and triple glazing. This long-term programme, estimated at £50-100m over 10-20 years, includes our heritage Grade-1 listed Founder’s Building,  which is subject to much stricter planning laws and regulations and will require lots of existing innovation to succeed.

To shape our 10–20-year investment plan and to aid transparency, we’ve established an Environmental Footprint Database of all our energy consumption, emissions, waste production and water use.  From 2023/24 we'll begin annually publishing this information alongside our Financial Statements.

Case studies

We are regenerating the Victorian villa ‘Chestnuts’ to serve as the home for Royal Holloway’s new Health Studies Department.

This expansive 19th-century house, which has a floor area of approximately 550m2, has had various uses over the last 120+ years, but until recently was in a state of disrepair and structurally unstable.

This has provided a brilliant opportunity to minimise the building’s environmental footprint, whilst preserving its cherished heritage and authentic features. To achieve this, we are:

  • Reusing and recycling original materials where possible
  • Maximising natural lighting through open spaces and skylights
  • Encasing the internal space with an airtight membrane and high-density insulation
  • Employing mineral wool fibre insulation without petrochemicals
  • Cladding the building with sustainably sourced timber larch
  • Replacing all existing windows with new high-performing designs that are still aligned with the building’s heritage aesthetics
  • Installing an Air Source Heat Pump and heat recovery systems

The Sustainable Restaurant Association’s (SRA) Food Made Good Standard is the hospitality sector’s leading sustainability certification.  Awarded to food and beverage businesses meeting criteria in sourcing, society and environment, it’s a respected standard customers and stakeholders can trust.

In July 2022, Royal Holloway’s Commercial Services achieved a 3-star rating – the highest possible achievement.

The University was commended by the SRA for its sustainability initiatives and commitment to ethical best practices. High scores were achieved, notably in feeding people well (91%), wasting no food (89%) and supporting global farmers (85%).

As a member of the London Universities Purchasing Consortium,  Royal Holloway prioritises responsible procurement.

Our suppliers must adhere to our Supply Code of Conduct, which covers:

  • Social compliance, prohibiting forced or underage labour, ensuring suitable working conditions and fair treatment of workers.
  • Ethical compliance and economic development, including acting with integrity, complying with laws and regulations, and supporting of fair trade.
  • Environmental compliance, including avoiding environmental harm and taking actions to reduce environmental impact.

As a leader in this field, we’re also an affiliate of Electronics Watch, an independent monitoring organisation collaborating with public sector organisations to promote and enable responsible procurement and safeguard workers’ rights in electronic supply chains.

In January 2024, we completed a multi-year migration of our ageing virtual server infrastructure onto new hardware. This has significantly reduced our data centre footprint and associated power usage, resulting in an estimated energy saving of approximately 54% (45.65KwH down to 19.3KwH) and a financial saving of around £196,000 over 5 years. This upgraded infrastructure is integral to supporting core IT Services, from the website to WI-FI, facilitating professional services, teaching and research.  

With the completion of this work, we are now moving onto similar rationalisation and upgrades within our data centre that should deliver similar, if not greater, improvements in our environmental footprint. We are also undergoing a review of all our key suppliers and looking at their sustainability credentials and how we can work with them to reduce our combined environmental impact.

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