Case study The University of Manchester

EcoAct develops decarbonisation model to support The University of Manchester

The University of Manchester is an environmental leader in the higher education sector, first establishing its social responsibility goal in 2011. Since then, as climate science has progressed so has the University’s commitment to sustainability. It has developed its sustainability strategy to include key environmental actions within a strategic five-year plan.

As part of its overall sustainability strategy, The University of Manchester wanted to be a leader in carbon footprinting. However, with limited guidance available at the time for universities on how to go about calculating their Scope 3 footprint and what to include or exclude within the scope of the footprint, the University sought EcoAct’s help. It was essential for The University of Manchester to have a clear understanding of its value chain emission hotspots, how to tackle these and then establish a robust model on how to reduce emissions.

The challenge

The University of Manchester is an environmental leader in the higher education sector, first establishing its social responsibility goal in 2011. Since then, as climate science has progressed so has the University’s commitment to sustainability. It has developed its sustainability strategy to include key environmental actions within a strategic five-year plan.

As part of its overall sustainability strategy, The University of Manchester wanted to be a leader in carbon footprinting. However, with limited guidance available at the time for universities on how to go about calculating their Scope 3 footprint and what to include or exclude within the scope of the footprint, the University sought EcoAct’s help. It was essential for The University of Manchester to have a clear understanding of its value chain emission hotspots, how to tackle these and then establish a robust model on how to reduce emissions.

Founded in 1824, The University of Manchester, part of the prestigious Russell Group of universities, is a centre of teaching excellence and innovative research. The University is committed to world-class research, an outstanding learning and student experience, and social responsibility. The University of Manchester aims to be recognised globally for the excellence of their people, research, learning and innovation, and for the benefits they bring to society and the environment.

Circle sky;

Working with EcoAct has been hugely beneficial. Their experts have helped us understand our Scope 3 emissions, how to improve our data and how to start reducing these emissions. It has been invaluable to have a team of people we can ask for advice and get a quick response.

Lucy Millard , Environmental Sustainability Manager, The University of Manchester

The solution

To support The University of Manchester, EcoAct began with completing a rigorous peer benchmarking exercise against other universities’ carbon reporting. This allowed The University of Manchester to gain an understanding of what other universities were doing in regards to publishing their carbon footprints and how they were aligning them to certain standards such as the GHG Protocol. Following this, EcoAct created a bespoke auditable tool for the University to update each year with new activity data, to ensure they could keep track of their emissions. EcoAct quality checked the University’s Scope 1&2 emissions and homeworking calculations. This was done using EcoAct’s homeworking emissions carbon calculation methodology. We then modelled their decarbonisation pathways based on the newly calculated carbon footprint which provides year-on-year absolute reduction recommendations to reach the University’s Scope 3 emissions target of net-zero by 2050 and Zero Carbon (Scope 1 & 2) by 2038. EcoAct engaged with key internal stakeholders, both operational and academic, throughout a three-hour workshop where EcoAct explored and explained Scope 3 emissions data, calculations and solutions. The University’s Scope 3 boundary was aligned with the EAUC Standardised Emissions Framework, a framework for sector-wide carbon reporting for the tertiary education sector that EcoAct helped to develop.

The result

  • The University of Manchester is now able to report its Scope 3 emissions and have confidence in the accuracy and auditability.
  • EcoAct identified key areas of improvement for the University, such as supplier engagement and investment primary data.
  • The decarbonisation model can now be used as a key tool for the University to make decisions in relation to emission reduction initiatives.
  • The University can reduce workload by using the decarbonisation tool to calculate emissions with confidence and ensure robust emissions reporting next year.
  • The University won the 2030 Climate Action prize at the UK & Ireland Green Gown Awards in recognition of its work to decarbonise the University's operations.