“EDUCATION IS THE MOST POWERFUL TOOL WE CAN USE TO CHANGE THE WORLD”
Although the celebrated man may have been thinking primarily about politics when he said this, it can just as easily be applied to the great learning institutions in an environmental context. This is what Regent’s University London is achieving by putting in place an Environmental Management System (EMS), certified to the standard 14001, providing international recognition of the university’s environmental performance. They have also attained the Energy Management System certification ISO 50001 through Green Element Ltd, their environmental management consultants. These standards cannot be achieved without the co-operation of everyone involved, from the directorate, the academic staff and the students to the gardeners, cleaners, support contractors, and so on. Everyone must be inspired to co-operate, and this is where Green Element comes in.
William Richardson, the Managing Director of Green Element Ltd, visited Regent’s University in 2012 with two main objectives. To convince the Finance Director that any fees involved would soon be outstripped by savings, and to enthuse and convince all members of the University of the importance of the project and the relative ease, with professional guidance, with which gaining the standard can be attained.
Regent’s University is London’s only independent, not-for-profit university, with a highly cosmopolitan community based in royal Regent’s Park and Marylebone. Their physical position of lying in the heart of one of the largest cities in the world and beside the 166 Hectares of beautiful Regent’s Park renders the importance of their enlightened decision to consider their environmental credentials even more relevant, and significant emphasis is placed on the biodiversity and sustainability of the university’s gardens as well as all the other aspects.
The university’s mission statement states that “Regent’s students are at the vanguard of ideas. They combine creativity with entrepreneurship, inspiring others”. With students from 140 different nationalities, their community is truly international. It provides a cultural richness without boundaries that exchanges perspectives, shares experiences and promotes dialogue, so what institution could be better placed to have significant global influence both now and in the future with graduates who are highly sought after internationally?
Green Element is aware that financial considerations are fundamental to any organisation, and that very often the prospect of ‘greening’ a business is a leap of faith, so the initial step is to explain what an EMS (Environmental Management System) is and how it is expected to operate. An effective EMS leads to the ISO14001 standard providing international recognition of environmental practices, and maps out a framework that an organisation can follow, providing assurance that any environmental impact is being monitored and improved. The EMS covers waste reduction, energy, water, transport and bio-diversity as well as culture, legislation and office premises and is divided into six phases: environmental policy, planning, implementation & operation, checking and corrective action, management review and continual review.
The first stage of the project involved the production of a detailed initial Impact Environmental Report showing the current status which highlighted areas of improvement and facilitated recommendations. Motivating the staff at the University to co-operate with implementing the suggestions was key - clearly any environmental project must motivate people but not impinge on their work. With the support of the University directorate and staff the ISO 14001 standard was achieved.
In 2012-13 there was significant investment in energy reduction (although this turned out to be partially due to a meter failure) and waste management improvements which demonstrated the high level of top management commitment within the organisation.
Between 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, with guidance on improving efficiency and careful monitoring by Green Element, further significant savings in consumption of electricity and water have been achieved which is shown in the following chart:
There are sometimes some unforeseen benefits from such detailed examination of data. As you can see from the above chart in this case it was discovered that gas consumption and spend had improbably increased between 2013-14 and 2014-15. It was then discovered that there was a failing corrector on the main meter, of which the University was unaware. As the graph below shows the newly installed online eScio system proved to be an invaluable tool in monitoring usage; had this problem not been remedied the false readings would have perpetuated.
Whilst reviewing all the bills, Green Element also discovered that the University had been charged the Climate change levy tax on its buildings, which is incorrect due to the fact that Regent’s is a University with accommodation. This has resulted in a saving of £65,000 which is a welcome financial boost in addition to the savings already achieved through efficiency and good environmental practices.
Green Element produces regular extremely detailed reports on all aspects of the process. The graph below, based on the main Regent’s Park Campus, comprising the majority of space and students, illustrates the detail they expect to present in order to fine tune the results.
The University has also attained the Energy Management System certification ISO 50001 and Environmental Action Plans have been developed for the majority of buildings and grounds, and working practices; these plans are measured against the targets set in line with rolling improvements. Improvement targets are set year on year - the chart below illustrates the achievement in reductions in air travel, and the target for the next period to investigate whether business road travel has a significant environmental impact:
Regent’s University is lucky to be situated in extensive grounds which form part of the overall environmental picture, and the gardens are managed to respect biodiversity and sustainability; wildflower meadows have been planted to encourage insects, birds and mammals, bat boxes set up to contribute to bat conservation, and where possible native trees are introduced to the gardens.
To help protect the small, isolated and vulnerable hedgehog population in Regent’s Park, the University collaborates with The Royal Parks Foundation on two hedgehog surveys a year. This improves understanding of their habitats and the best ways to protect them. Green roofs have been installed on two university buildings, which are full of bees throughout the summer months and are starting attract wild flowers.
Green Element are passionate about what they do and what they can achieve for any organisation. They make it their business to ensure that the process of developing environmental standards, coupled with continuous improvements and the annual audit necessary for maintaining the ISO14001 Standard, does not disrupt their core business. They also realise that the financing of any project is of major importance to an organisation. The costs of the process include their management consultancy fees, annual external audit fees and in most cases the installation of modern technological facilities and £55,800
Despite the outgoings, the overall net savings made by Regent’s University since obtaining the ISO14001 standard amounts to £110,823
Not only have Regent’s University seen significant financial benefits but they have developed a more sustainable relationship with the environment and are inspiring the next generation to appreciate the importance of nurturing this relationship, whilst making all those people involved, from directors to cleaners, students to gardeners, feel good about their personal contribution to securing a better future for the world.
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