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Carbon Reduction Plan

Scope 3

Approved by Sustainability and Resources Committee 13 June 2022. This plan is new.


In 2022, the University published a target of achieving Carbon Net Zero for Scope 3 emissions (those associated with external income and expenditure) by 2050.  This is one of the University’s headline KPIs.  Milestone KPIs have not yet been published for Scope 3.

What are we trying to achieve?

This plan focusses on the reduction of Scope 3 emissions. Scope 3 emissions are the emissions associated with everything which the University purchases, including goods and services, outside of energy, and its own activities, including teaching and learning and research, enterprise and innovation.  This means that areas like business travel and daily commuting for staff and students are also included.

Areas covered by Scope 3

Carbon reduction chart covering our built environment including biodiversity, energy, construction and water to help achieve our carbon net zero scope 1 and 2 goals by 2030. To achieve carbon net zero for scope 3 by 2050, we will take into consideration t

Challenges of Scope 3


The first challenge of Scope 3 is accurately measuring emissions.  The exact scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions of suppliers, and therefore the proportion associated with specific goods or services, are not readily available.  It is therefore necessary to use a tool to calculate the approximate scope 3 emissions, using the financial value of the goods and services as a proxy.  Staffordshire University uses the Higher Education Supply Chain Emissions Tool (HESCET) to get an approximate value for Scope 3 emissions. 

In addition to the values from the HESCET, the following also have to be assessed, normally by means of a survey

  • Staff commuting to work
  • Students commuting to campus from home or accommodation
  • International student travel at the start and end of each semester
  • Exchange visits by students and staff

In addition, the University has further scope 3 activities associated with investments, where money is invested by fund managers either directly or indirectly on behalf of the University:

  • Cash and other investments
  • Pension scheme investments


The second issue with Scope 3 emissions is the scale of the issue.  The following chart compares the 2021-22 known Scope 3 emissions (hence ‘partial view’) to the scope 1 and 2.  Those that omitted are those associated with the University’s investments and the travel emissions associated with international students.  Note that scope 1 and 2 emissions represent only 13% of the total while Scope 3 is 87%.

Emissions 2022-23 (partial view)


Underlying nature of the University’s business

The University operates a global business, with both collaborative academic partnerships overseas, and international students travelling to the UK to study.  The University’s educational model is also based largely on in-person teaching in buildings which contain a high level of specialist equipment, especially IT and AV.  The University is also a large consumer of digital services including storage in the cloud and software as a service (SAAS).  Reducing consumption is therefore only a partial potential solution to the issue of scope 3.

Overall approach

The University’s approach to carbon reduction for scope 3 can be summarised as follows:

  1. Work with staff and students to reduce consumption where possible, using engagement events
  2. Create policies, targets and operational priorities for all areas – ensuring that the reduction of carbon emissions for scope 3 is recognised by the managers of those areas as a priority
  3. Use the Sustainability Reporting Group as a vehicle for monitoring progress across all areas, again ensuring that there is responsibility at operational level
  4. Focus specifically on the tangible areas of Sustainable Procurement and Sustainable Consumption (Food and drink) where relationships with suppliers can be developed to better understand their supply chains.  As well as using procurement exercises to explore better options.
  5. Incorporate consideration of scope 3 emissions into the wider University strategy, particularly around the development of the estate.  Work with colleagues to improve utilisation rates within the existing estate.
  6. Incorporate consideration of scope 3 emissions into the next iteration of the University’s Strategic Plan, to be developed in 2026/7.
  7. Work with external bodies such as the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC), Higher Education Procurement Association (HEPA – part of the British University Finance Directors’ Group), Association of University Directors of Estates (AUDE), The University Caterers Organisation (TUCO) and the North West Universities Procurement Consortium (NWUPC).
  8. Recognise that the most impact which the University may have is through its Responsible Investment policy – influencing where funds are invested, whether that is the University’s own cash deposits, or the assets of pension funds.

Carbon off-setting is not actively considered as a primary route to carbon reduction for scope 3 and would only be considered as a back-up, when all other options have been explored.

2022-23 results

The total known scope 3 emissions were ~28,000 tCO2e, compared to just over 4,000 tCO2e for scopes 1 and 2.  The Scope 3 emissions are broken down as follows.  As stated above, the emissions that have been omitted are those associated with the University’s investments and the travel emissions associated with international students.


Next steps

As well as undertaking the steps set out in the operational priorities for each area of activity, the HESCET tool will be run again using the results for the year ended 31 July 2024.  The staff and student travel survey will be conducted again in the latter part of 2023, and this time will include travel by international students in visiting the UK to study.

Based on the 2023-24 HESCET results, milestone KPIs will be set for scope 3 emissions to 2027.

in the UK for Quality Education

Sustainable Development Goal 4, Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2024

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Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2023

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of Research Impact is ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Very Considerable’

Research Excellence Framework 2021

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Research Excellence Framework 2021

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