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Sustainability - latest progress

Environmental sustainability is one of the Strategic Performance Indicators of our Strategy 2025, which sets out our commitment to delivering statutory environmental requirements and enhancing sustainability outcomes across the full breadth of the University's activities.

We're committed to continuing our progress to make our activities more sustainable in support of achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Find out below what what we're currently doing and how you can get involved.

Accelerating sustainable change: collaboration at the heart of global Climate Action Framework

Principal Richard A Williams and Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer
Announcing the publication of the Climate Action Framework; Professor Richard A. Williams, Principal and Vice-Chancellor and Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer, Deputy Principal for Global Sustainability.

On Thursday 13 June 2024, the University unveiled a highly collaborative and community-led approach to accelerate progress towards achieving sustainability.

The publication of the Climate Action Framework not only outlines targets for cuts to carbon emissions but, critically, empowers the entire University community across five campuses, and those learning online to advocate, support and embed greener ways of living.

All campuses; in Scotland (Edinburgh, Orkney, and Scottish Borders), Dubai and Malaysia, take a holistic approach, considering the unique challenges and opportunities of each location. The Framework’s multifaceted initiatives span all areas with targets covering direct emissions from energy use along with indirect emissions, including from the supply chain.

By placing community involvement and international co-development at its core, the new framework aligns operations with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It fosters a cultural shift towards sustainability, encouraging everyone from across the university community and its wider partners to participate and make changes.

The Climate Action Framework also emphasises the importance of collaborative initiatives to reduce emissions, maximise sustainability co-benefits, and support a just, inclusive transition. This will include opportunities for community groups to actively engage with the University.

Read the full article

New walking and cycling route

The proposed new road layout with segregated cycle lane along Curriehill Road
The proposed new road layout with segregated cycle lane along Curriehill Road

Plans for a new walking and cycling route connecting our University with the neighbouring community of Currie have reached an advanced stage.

Designs are being finalised for an improved, lit path linking Curriehill Station with our Edinburgh campus. Construction is expected to begin in mid-2025. Once complete the route will be fully adopted under the City of Edinburgh Council’s road maintenance programme.

The project is being spearheaded by our Sustainability team in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council and the walking, wheeling and cycling charity, Sustrans through its Places for Everyone funding scheme.

The path’s design has been informed using survey and consultation feedback, gathered in summer 2023 from community members as well as students and staff.

The route will enhance rail connectivity to the University, helping support a decrease in overall vehicle emissions and improve connectivity for local residents wishing to access the campus’ green space and amenities.

Staff and students can follow the new path project updates.

Read more about sustainable travel.

Good COP, bad COP: what's the point of climate negotiations?

Left to right: Chris Larkins, Emily Stone, Mr Crouzet, Prof. Mercedes Maroto-Valer, Mr Pailler, Dr Lindsay Wilson, Flora Reynolds
Left to right: Chris Larkins, Emily Stone, Mr Crouzet, Prof. Mercedes Maroto-Valer, Mr Pailler, Dr Lindsay Wilson, Flora Reynolds

We heard from current Ambassador of France in Prague and former climate ambassador in Paris, Mr Stéphane Crouzat, who shared his experiences of the last three COPs in Glasgow, Sharm El-Sheikh and Dubai with staff and students on our Edinburgh Campus.

The special talk was introduced by Prof. Mercedes Maroto-Valer, Deputy Principal for Global Sustainability at our University. The engaging discussion outlined the road so far and the steps achieved, or not achieved, at each COP, as well expectations for COP29 (Baku). Also in attendance was Stéphane Pailler, Consul General of France in Edinburgh and Glasgow and previous Deputy Director of Environment and Climate at the Sustainable Development Directorate at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Read more about our community engagement activities.

Edinburgh Science Festival 2024

As part of the Edinburgh Science Festival 2024, Heriot-Watt University teamed up with Dynamic Earth to deliver a series of events that aim to start a hopeful conversation and inspire collective action towards a more sustainable future.

Climate Hope: Building a Better Future

Left to right: Laura Young, Dr Alex MacLaren, Dr Euan Winton, Dr Ingrid Kelling, Dr Melissa Marques McEwan
Left to right: Laura Young, Dr Alex MacLaren, Dr Euan Winton, Dr Ingrid Kelling, Dr Melissa Marques McEwan

The panel event brought together a diverse team of our researchers and teaching staff to explore the latest cutting-edge research and community action that is driving change and leading the way for a more just and sustainable future. Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer opened the event and set the scene by highlighting the importance of collective action in our approach to tackling climate change. Mercedes added that this approach has to be fair and just so that we can bring everyone along on the journey.

The panel was hosted and led by Laura Young, (Climate Activist, Environmental Scientist and Ethical Influencer), and we heard from the experiences of the expert panel on how they are driving change within their work and as individuals. Dr Melissa Marques McEwan, (Assistant Professor of Sustainable and Circular Businesses), Dr Ingrid Kelling, (Assistant Professor of Sustainable and Ethical Seafood Supply), Dr Euan Winton, (Assistant Professor of Design), and Dr Alex MacLaren, (Associate Professor in Architecture), discussed the importance of collaborating across disciplines when it comes to sustainability.

Read more about our community engagement activities.

Climate Hope: Hands-on

Creativity is at the heart of climate research being carried out at Heriot-Watt University.

Creativity is at the heart of climate research being carried out at Heriot-Watt University.

Families had the opportunity to get hands on with painting and construction, learn more about sustainable buildings and plunge into the deep to discover some of the ground-breaking solutions that are helping us to build a more sustainable future.

Read more about our community engagement activities.

Grow, Cook and Inspire Event, Borders Campus

A table strewn with cook books, gardening gloves and a sketch of a vegtetable garden

Helen Cross, the author of ‘Grow, Cook and Inspire’, hosted a gardening basics session for students at our Borders campus in March 2023.

Attendees were encouraged to unleash their inner gardener and immerse themselves in hands on planting in the campus allotment. Ruth Craddock, a Heriot-Watt University alumnus, provided an artistic element to the session, asking attendees to create illustrations which focussed on the allotment and the seasons. She hopes to continue working on the pieces and create a mini collection with the students. The caterer for the event was Zolas, a local plant-based baker from Galashiels, who provided delicious food for everyone.

The organisers are planning another event so student can revisit the flowers and vegetables they planted in the spring, and enjoy the fruits of their labour.

Read more about sustainability at the Scottish Borders Campus.

Dubai Campus: My Green Lab

Gold certificate awarded to the Dubai Campus by My Green Lab

Heriot-Watt University Dubai (HWUD) was recently awarded a prestigious Gold certification from My Green Lab (MGL). This recognition, endorsed by the United Nations’ 'Race to Zero' campaign, is a testament to the university's commitment to a zero-carbon future and positions the university as a global leader in laboratory sustainability best practices.

HWUD is the first academic institution in the UAE to achieve this feat and the accreditation was attained following a thorough evaluation process spanning a year-and-a-half.

Rommel Bueno, Building Supervisor, spearheaded the project, demonstrating his leadership and commitment to sustainability. He was guided by Cameron Mehrabanpour, Facilities Manager at HWUD, and worked closely with Muhsin Aykapadathu, Laboratory Manager, and Mohammed Febin, Lab Engineer, who played pivotal roles in the successful implementation of sustainable practices.

Read more about Sustainability at the Dubai Campus.

Malaysia Camps: Green Energy Transitions – Then and now

Mr Khoo Jong Bor (right)

Heriot-Watt WUMSA and the Heriot-Watt Global Sustainability Group arranged a talk on “Green Energy Transitions – Then and Now” from Mr Khoo Jong Bor , Technical Manager Samaiden Group Berhad to educate and provide an insightful exploration into evolution of sustainable energy practice to the community under the initiative of Heriot Watt University’s Global Sustainability Strategy.

Malaysia has set its sights on achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, as part of the Twelfth Malaysia Plan (12MP). To meet this ambitious target, the country has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 45% by 2030, in accordance with the Paris Agreement. With the energy sector being a key driver of both carbon emissions and sustainable development, Malaysia is now focusing on enhancing energy efficiency and reducing reliance on conventional energy sources.

Read more about sustainability at the Malaysia Campus.

Malaysia Campus: Putrajaya Net Zero Emissions Roundtable 2023

Malaysia’s ambition to be carbon neutral by 2050 was the focus of a high-profile event at Heriot-Watt University this year. The Putrajaya Net Zero Emission Roundtable 2023 brought a range of stakeholders together at Heriot-Watt’s Malaysia campus in Putrajaya, south of Kuala Lumpur. The event was organised with the British High Commission in Malaysia to help the country build leadership capacity to identify and implement pathways to carbon neutrality.

Heriot-Watt University Malaysia is proud to be a part of this initiative and hopes that this event will help to identify ideas and opportunities to support a green economy, sustainable markets, and a wider programme of decarbonisation towards a carbon-neutral Malaysia.

See the Putrajaya Net Zero Emission Roundtable 2023 summary on YouTube

Read more about sustainability at the Malaysia Campus.

Climate Advocacy course: a toolkit for a sustainable future

While humanity is already witness to the damaging effects of climate change, the power to prevent catastrophic climate change sits with us all. Our ability to tackle climate change is determined by the actions we take and the decisions we make. At Heriot-Watt University, we acknowledge the pressing need for immediate action and recognise our duty to our students, staff and the communities in which we operate.

We are developing a course to enable our global community to not just take action in charting a path to a safer future, but to do so with confidence. Through the provision of comprehensive knowledge grounded in scientific evidence and a commitment to fostering values of equity and compassion, we aim to create a global network of informed and empowered climate advocates.

The Climate Advocacy course seeks to equip each member of our community with the essential tools to effect positive change. Through the cumulative impact of individual changes big and small, we can collectively contribute to averting a climate catastrophe.

The development of resources will be an on-going process, in which everyone is invited to share their thoughts, experiences and expertise. Every module release will be paired with a process of feedback and consultation. To make a programme that is for you, we want to make it with you.

To get involved please email

Sustainable catering on campus

Green Kitchen

Hospitality Services’ catering outlets at our Edinburgh Campus have obtained the Green Kitchen Standard in recognition of their best-practice in waste management and energy use reduction.

Since 2015, Hospitality Services have reduced their electricity consumption by 40% and their gas usage by 30%, thanks to a phased replacement of gas appliances with electrical and more efficient models, with our year-on-year carbon emissions reduction targets of 5% having been met since 2015.

Food waste weights have also decreased over the same time period, thanks to a comprehensive food waste management plan which ensures that stock is rotated and food is cooked to order.

The Green Kitchen Standard is administered by The Soil Association/Food For Life and is valid for a year, with scope to score even higher on our next annual assessment.

Read more about sustainability at the Edinburgh Campus.


Our Hospitality Services and the Global Environmental Sustainability Team are working with Klimato to help reduce the carbon impact of the food we serve at our Edinburgh Campus, starting in Elements from Thursday 18 April 2024.

Climate-impact labels displayed on individual ingredients and popular sandwich choices will improve transparency about the relative emissions generated by particular food items, whilst helping inform you to make a sustainable meal choice. The labels aim to open a conversation around sustainability across our staff and student body.

The City of Edinburgh Council are kindly supporting this trial, as part of their Plant-Based Treaty Action Plan. Like Heriot-Watt, the council does not seek to remove freedom of choice but instead increase the availability and visibility of sustainable food options.

Klimato will also help Hospitality Services and the Sustainability Team to better understand the carbon emissions which are embedded within the supply chain of our food, helping us take the first steps toward addressing these.

Read more about sustainability at the Edinburgh Campus.

Digital Strategy: sustainable technology

We are digitally transforming Heriot-Watt with projects and initiatives to support Strategy 2025 and beyond.

The Digital Strategy consists of four pillars with two digital foundations to deliver our digital-first vision.

  • Outstanding student learning experience
  • Leading Research and Innovation
  • Operational Effectiveness, and
  • Seamless Lifelong Learning

Underpinned by robost, secure and sustainable infrastructure, alongside digital skills and capabilities in development.

Digital carbon footprint and sustainable technology use at Heriot-Watt University

The University use of digital technologies currently, and increasing into the future, makes the sustainable use of those digital technologies an absolute imperative. We may not be able to reduce our carbon footprint for digital, but we absolutely must limit it. We do need to recognise that the use of digital technologies drives environmental research within the University and also efficiencies elsewhere that may reduce our carbon impact.

In many instances it’s impossible to separate the digital from our physical estate so Information Services and Estates need to work hand in hand. Sustainable technology is only one strand of our work to become a net-zero institution.

The carbon impact of digital technologies is huge and growing at an exponential rate, which has been accelerated further by the rapid digitalisation forced by the covid-19 pandemic

Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC)

'Exploring Digital Carbon Footprints'