Concordat for the Environmental Sustainability of Research and Innovation Practice

The UK research and innovation (R&I) sector have co-developed a voluntary environmental sustainability concordat. The concordat represents a shared ambition for the UK to continue delivering cutting-edge research, but in a more environmentally responsible and sustainable way.

About the concordat 

The aim of the concordat is to ensure research and innovation continues to play a critical part in understanding how our planet is changing, while helping the sector to act responsibly to protect and promote our environment 

By signing this concordat, signatories:

  • recognise the need to change how we conduct research and innovation as well as promote wider solutions
  • agree to take shared action now and in the future to reduce and eliminate our own negative environmental impacts and emissions and achieve the transition to sustainable practices.

This concordat has been produced in collaboration with representatives across the research and innovation sector (including universities, research Institutes, catapults and funding organisations) so that the sector can deliver a shared ambition as part of meeting the global challenge. 

Aims of the concordat 

Signatories agree to work individually and collectively to ensure the future design and practice of UK research and innovation is environmentally sustainable.

The aims of the concordat are to:

  • have visible and credible leadership for environmental sustainability at all levels within institutions and across the research and innovation sector – from organisational leaders to individual researchers and from those funding the ideas to those delivering impact
  • ensure research and innovation is carried out in an environmentally sustainable way, aligned to the science of climate change and ecology and signatories are transparent about environmental impacts of research and innovation and are open to collaboration and shared learning
  • establish new ways of working so that institutions, researchers, and innovators continue to achieve a global reach and deliver world-leading impact in research and innovation using a climate conscious, low carbon approach, taking advantage of new ideas from across all disciplines, wider enterprise, and new technologies
  • ensure net zero or near-net zero carbon infrastructure is being used to deliver research and innovation (with scientifically robust carbon sequestration where absolute zero carbon is not possible)
  • support robust decisions made in resourcing research and innovation projects and data, based on circular economy principles and life cycle costing, with the need for responsible sourcing demanded all through supply chains
  • promote a shift to the greater use of reusable products, innovative developments in single use materials and to have reduced the use of fossil fuel-based products being used and disposed of by those carrying out research and innovation to only those areas where there is no viable alternative.

By achieving these aims, the UK will retain its global influence in research and innovation, continuing and enhancing the strong partnerships and collaborations that exist and aiming to inspire organisations, researchers, and innovators around the world to follow in the UK’s footsteps in how we conduct research and innovation in an environmentally responsible way.

Priority areas for delivery 

Signatories to this concordat agree to the following six areas where they commit to taking action at a whole institutional level and collectively across the sector to deliver real change by 2050:

  1. Leadership and system change

  2. Sustainable Infrastructure

  3. Sustainable procurement

  4. Emissions from business and academic travel

  5. Collaborations and partnerships

  6. Environmental impact and reporting data 

How to sign up 

Organisations can show their support for the concordat at two levels: as a signatory or as a supporter. 

Signatories: Signatory organisations agree to all six priority areas that are outlined in this concordat.  

Supporters: Supporters of the concordat agree with the aims and many of the priority areas included in the concordat, however they are not able to commit to being a full signatory at this time. Supporters can become signatories at any time, as and when they can agree to the commitments in the concordat.

Signing up to the concordat is a commitment to the concordat's aims, and signatories are not expected to follow the terms on the day of signing. 

To sign up, your organisation must:

  1. Submit this form to sign up to the Concordat as either a signatory or supporter. Responses to this form are managed by the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC).

  2. Ensure that a letter is published on their website to within 6 months of becoming a signatory. This should be signed by the head of organisation, for example the Chief Executive, Head Director, or Vice Chancellor.

  3. Include concordat references in appropriate and prominent organisational strategies, documents and practices. This may include environmental/ climate change strategy, corporate responsibility reports, objective seeting or your annual report.

  4. Ensure the annual reporting referred to in priority six of the concordat is published and is open and transparent. 


Management of the concordat 

Wellcome are hosting the concordat on behalf of the sector. The Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC) are providing the secretariat function for the concordat's signatories. Data collected is managed in line with EAUC's privacy policy. 

Organisational data provided will be published on this page as well as in relevant reports about the concordat's reach, implementation and impact. Personal data collected will be shared solely between Wellcome and EAUC for the purpose of managing signatories. 

Content review

In recognition of the need for continuous improvement, after five years of operation the wording of the concordat priorities and guidance will be reviewed. The content review will ensure that the wording reflects the current landscape, appetite for change and capabilities of the sector, factoring in any developments in good practice, technology and approaches that are likely to emerge at pace through this transition, for example nature-based solutions. 

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