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The environment

26 February 2020

At Unite Students we believe it’s Up to uS to reduce our environmental impact, and encourage responsible behaviour in our students and employees. We focus on the areas where we have the biggest impact:

  • Energy and carbon – reducing energy use and carbon emissions that contribute to global climate change
  • Water – reducing water use and wastage
  • Resource use and waste – sustainable use of materials and resources, reducing waste and improving recycling

Our Environmental Policy sets out our commitment to do this by focusing on three areas of activity:

  • Good Management – this is about better managing how and when we purchase and use energy, including buying renewable electricity, demand-side management and on-site renewable generation.
  • Responsible Behaviour – this is about encouraging and enabling lasting responsible living and working habits among our students and employees, such as helping them reduce their energy and water use and promoting recycling.
  • Efficient Buildings – this is about physically improving the energy and water efficiency of our buildings, and making sure they support the Sustainable Behaviour agenda.


The Environment Model












Good Management

We have committed to actions to improve our environmental performance, including:

  • Meaningful carbon reduction: Unite Students were one of the first 125 global companies to commit to developing and implementing science-based carbon targets. In line with the historic Paris climate deal signed in 2015, we will aim to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in line with the level that climate science states is necessary to avoid global warming in excess of 2 °C. We are currently working with the Science Based Targets Initiative to finalise our targets which will be published once they are approved.    
  • Energy Efficiency: We have already invested over £20m in energy efficient LED lighting and controls, and in 2018 began an £11m energy efficiency programme including solar PV, air source heat pump installations, and smart networked heating controls, as the first phase of a planned 5 year energy efficiency programme.
  • BREEAM Excellent new buildings: from 2018 onwards all our new buildings will be built to BREEAM Excellent standards. This will help ensure they play their part in improving the environmental performance of our portfolio.

To make sure we properly manage and reduce our environmental impacts, we have processes and systems based around the requirements of the widely used ISO14001 environmental management system (EMS). This helps us ensure we identify, monitor, manage, reduce, and report on activity that could potentially damage the environment. 

In 2017 we completed detailed energy efficiency surveys of all of our properties and are developing detailed site level plans. From May 2017 onwards we have been purchasing 100% certified (REGO backed) renewable electricity.

Efficient Buildings:

Our existing buildings provide the biggest opportunity to reduce our main environmental impacts of energy and carbon, water, and resource use and waste.

To comply with the energy surveys as part of the mandatory Energy Saving Opportunities Scheme (ESOS), we completed a number of energy surveys of our buildings. We also updated Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) for all our buildings ahead of the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) that take effect in 2018. Over 2016 and 2017 we are undertaking further detailed surveys of every single building to produce individual building sustainability plans that will identify further energy and water saving activity to be undertaken.

We have already started a £21 million LED lighting and controls update, and are working to improve energy efficiency across a range of areas including networked heating and hot water controls, on-site renewable energy, dynamic demand side management (DSM), battery storage, building services controls and optimisation, and building fabric improvements.

Responsible Behaviour

Our award winning sustainable engagement programme (winner at the 2017 Energy Awards and shortlisted at the 2018 Sustainability Leaders Awards) educates and encourages employees and students to adopt lasting responsible behaviours. Developed over the last four years using social change theory, it encompasses a range of activities on a national, local and individual level. The programme has built-in flexibility allowing us to maximise opportunities for behavioural change in each of our properties.

The programme includes the NUS run Green Impact Awards, making use of volunteer student “Green Impact Consultants” and “Green Impact Auditors”, who work with our employee Sustainability Champions to implement actions, run events and help engage their peers on a range of sustainable living topics including energy, water and recycling. 

More information on our sustainable behaviour programme is available here.

Progress to date

More details of our environmental performance are set out in our Environmental policy here, and within our GRI Standard report here.


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“FTSE Russell (the trading name of FTSE International Limited and Frank Russell Company) confirms that Unite Group has been independently assessed according to the FTSE4Good criteria, and has satisfied the requirements to become a constituent of the FTSE4Good Index Series. Created by the global index provider FTSE Russell, the FTSE4Good Index Series is designed to measure the performance of companies demonstrating strong Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) practices. The FTSE4Good indices are used by a wide variety of market participants to create and assess responsible investment funds and other products.”