you are well aware that the University published it's Sustainability Strategy Year 1 document on 15th of October this year.
Available here: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/about/sustainability/stories/sustainability-strategy-launched-1.810028
A document that was long anticipated and that we and many others in supported on its path of creation.
In the last two CNU meetings and further discussions with the engaged University community we have written a first response letter to this strategy. This was finally submitted to the Strategy steering group last Friday (7 December) and they have responded with thanks this morning and promised a detailed response.
Without further do we would like to share our letter below.
Your CNU team.
Our letter in full (7 December 2018):
We therefore read the University’s new strategy with great anticipation and interest and found much to be excited about. We welcome the bold agenda set out in the new strategy and the way in which its authors clearly appreciate the need to embed sustainability through all parts of the university’s workings, from education, to the campus estate, to its influence in the city and the wider economy. The chosen theme of the SDG’s as a scaffold for the strategy is appropriate and usefully highlights key areas in need of attention. We can provide some more detailed comments on each section of the strategy at a later stage; but our comments here focus on the process of strategy development.
Building engagement with the Strategy
Whilst we are intrigued by the University’s novel approach to opt not to establish a clearly defined team or ring-fence a specific sustainability budget but instead to embed sustainability into existing governance structures (thereby avoiding the risk of the issue being siloed as a separate and isolated ‘Green’ concern). However, we are concerned that without clear direction and leadership from UEB the issue of sustainability could once more be side-lined by competing priorities and demands upon people’s time.
We are encouraged by the new document’s focus, its broad view of sustainability and its scientific approach to setting targets that are necessary to meet the sustainability challenges we face (i.e. where we must head), we do still have some concerns that the University’s approach as it stands is too vague and does not have a worked out plan for how to achieve its goals (i.e. how to get us there). A key conclusion of CNU’s recent report is that achieving sustainability depends not only on having the right targets but on how we go about changing institutional systems and cultures to draw on the skills and knowledge of all our members to enable them to contribute to the solution.
Over this first six months following the launch in October, a clear process needs to be established which details how students and staff members can contribute to the development of the strategy. It is important that this process has skilled professional input in terms of facilitation and recording to ensure as many people as possible are engaged in strategy development. For example, the 5-year strategy development for the University is led by a professional team headed up by Dr Tony Strike. Involving this team would ensure a professional and integrated approach is taken, which is appropriately resourced. This could also integrate the sustainability process fully with other elements of the University’s upcoming strategy from 2021.
It is our view that an approach similar to that of The University of Leeds whereby we produce both a ‘strategy document’, outlining how staff and students will be resourced and mobilised to make change, should be accompanied by an ‘action plan’ which sets out a series of ambitious annual goals and targets for each of the key SDG’s and how these will be communicated. It is also important that the progress towards the goals be publicly and transparently reported on an annual basis and that the strategy should be revised should we fail to meet our targets.
In order for the University community to best contribute ideas, goodwill and expertise to the strategy’s development, we strongly encourage the publication of a clear timed action plan for year 1. In order to track progress, this plan should contain what is to be done, who is responsible and by when a certain outcome should be achieved.
We stand ready to help in any way we reasonably can with the next stages of this process. We would welcome a conversation on how we can best offer support.
We thank everyone who has been involved in the development of the strategy to date. Its ambitious aims, and willingness to ask the difficult questions, provide a strong foundation for the vital work ahead.
With best wishes,
Carbon Neutral University Network Coordinator Group"