The supply chain: sustainability’s vital link

By Iain Patton, CEO of the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC)

According to a recent report by Universities UK*, investment in green technologies and more efficient usage of space has reduced the higher education sector’s carbon footprint by almost 1.2 billion kg over the last decade. This has gone a long way towards achieving the goals of the EAUC and our Members but we do recognise we have much more to do if we are to meet 2020 sector carbon reduction targets.

Boosting sustainability is about more than cutting the carbon emissions of an individual university estate. To be truly sustainable, university managers must consider the impact of the entire supply chain. 

There is support available to help you make informed decisions about the sustainability of the equipment or services you purchase. For example, many manufacturers now provide environmental product declarations (EPDs) for their products. These are independently verified documents confirming a product’s environmental impact, based on the manufacturer’s lifecycle assessments (LCA). Creating EPDs requires complete transparency about manufacturing processes, which ensures information is accurate to help you compare products.  

Like we have done at the EAUC, you can also partner with suppliers that have implemented cutting-edge ways to maximise supply chain sustainability. We partner with modular flooring specialist, Interface. Louise Swift, Public Sector Sales Director told me:

‘Interface has pioneered the Net-Works™ initiative to tackle the growing problem of discarded fishing nets in some of the world’s poorest coastal communities by recycling them into yarn, which is then used in the manufacture of new carpet tiles.

Since the launch of Net-Works™ in the Philippines and, recently, in Cameroon, 61,845 kg of nets have been collected, transforming local wildlife habitats. The initiative also offers socio-economic benefits by establishing a community-based supply chain to collect and transport the nets, creating jobs for local people.’

By working with suppliers offering innovative solutions, you too can significantly improve your university’s social impact and carbon footprint. It is important to look beyond the label to see the full picture of your supply chain impacts.


* Efficiency, Effectiveness and Value for Money, February 2015, Universities UK

Independent Education Live

Join our FREE digital event for independent schools

featuring five hours of live panel discussions and interviews with influential leaders