Conference of Colleges releases Sustainability Report

The Conference of Colleges, a forum for the colleges and permanent private halls (PPHs) at Oxford to deal with matters of shared interest and common purpose, have published a report on 21st May detailing a range of sustainability practices in place across the collegiate University. The report showcases the numerous actions that the colleges and PPHs are taking to reduce impact, manage resources in a sustainable way, and to conserve and enhance biodiversity. 

The objective of the report is to share information and good practice around environmental sustainability in order to encourage positive change and wider engagement amongst the collegiate community.  

The report details a total of 494 actions reported across 44 Colleges. 54% of these actions were around energy saving, 21% on waste reduction, 9% biodiversity enhancement, 6% water saving and 10% other actions, such as food. The full report is available on the SU website, and details which colleges have undertaken specific actions in each area. 

The report is part of a scheme of work being delivered by the Conference of Colleges Sustainability Working Group chaired by Professor Kathy Willis, Principal of St Edmund Hall with students represented by Ben Farmer, VP Charities and Community at Oxford SU. 

The group’s next step is to undertake baseline audits across the colleges looking at waste (food, plastic, paper), water use, energy use and biodiversity with the aim that targets could then be set against these findings. A modified timeline for these next steps is available in the report, replacing the original timeframes that were impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and associated lockdowns. This made it impractical to carry out audits across college estates, as the data outputs were not representative of a ‘normal’ college environment.

Ben Farmer, VP Charities and Community at Oxford SU said: ‘I am delighted to see the publication of this report from the Conference of Colleges and have been pleased to represent students on this important issue in the working group. Students have played a key role in getting lots of these actions delivered by colleges and its vital colleges continue to work with student representatives to continue this work. At Oxford SU our focus is now supporting the Conference working group to collect baseline data and set targets.’ 

‘The need to take action to tackle the environmental crisis is real and urgent. College must step up to this challenge by making active commitments and investing in sustainability changes. We will be working with Environment and Ethics reps in Common rooms and Oxford Climate Society’s Decarbonise Oxford campaign to amplify and empower students to hold their college to account.’

The work by the Conference of Colleges complements the University’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy, which was published earlier this year and approved by the Council on 15 March 2021. The strategy committed the University to net biodiversity gain and net carbon zero by 2035 and focused on ten priorities with actionable commitments for each.