Sustainability at the College

As a College with an emphasis on the sciences and a focus on the future, Churchill College takes its  responsibility to climate and sustainability seriously.

As a College, we have clear overarching sustainability ambitions. We have set priorities and Key Performance Indicators to ensure we are always making progress. We benefit from the insight and knowledge of our Fellows, and the skills we have invested in to make sure we have the best people taking our sustainability work forward.

In the academic year 2022-2023, the College was awarded the Green Impact Project Platinum award for the fifth year in a row. It also achieved its goal of sending no non-hazardous material to landfill, reduced chemical cleaning products by 20%, and new compactors have enabled a four-fold reduction in the number of truck journeys to collect waste. The College generates over 200 tonnes of waste a year, which is entirely recycled or used to produce power.

During this time, 72 Storeys Way was refurbished and natural gas has been replaced with air source heat pumps, and solar  panels added to provide electricity. Solar panels have also been installed on North Court and a seventh of the electricity used by the College is now generated through on-site solar power.

Churchill College’s sustainability strategy focuses on:

  • Carbon and Energy
  • Landscape and Ecology
  • Built Environment and Operations
  • Travel
  • Responsible Investment
  • Procurement

We are proud of the progress we are making towards these goals. Read on for more details below, or catch up on our latest sustainability news.

View latest sustainability updates

Read Sustainability Strategy in full

Carbon & Energy

Our commitments

Our aim is to reduce scope 1, 2 and 3 carbon emissions to zero.  Scope 1 emissions are those the College produces directly; scope 2 are those the College indirectly produces, and scope 3 are the emissions relating to our choice of purchases etc.

Our KPIs:

  • Utilising the University’s science-based targeting approach for carbon reduction, reduce all energy related carbon emissions to zero by 2038, with scope 1 and 2 emissions at zero by 2030.
  • Progress towards elimination of natural gas usage with elimination of natural gas consumption by 2030 (measured in kW/h per year) using innovative and forward looking solutions wherever possible.
  • Commence monitoring of environmental conditions and energy usage across College in working with innovative student and Fellow-led projects for data collection.


What we've done
  • Adopted the University’s Science-based targeting (SBT) approach for carbon reduction which provides a framework for consistent forecasting and measuring of carbon for the College.
  • We have removed several properties from fossil fuel usage through the switch to zero carbon fuels and investment in widespread insulation.
  • We have not installed any new or replacement gas or oil-fired installations since 2019 with all new installations operating using heat pump and other greener technology.
  • We use our estate to generate power with major investment in solar power generation targeting over two thirds of our demand. A number of projects have already been completed and further details can be found in our case studies section.

Case study

Using in-house talent to harness solar power at Churchill College

We have completed the second stage of a multi-phase project to generate 750,000kWh of solar power on site per year by 2026. This project is made possible by the work of our skilled in-house teams who are trained in the installation and maintenance of solar panels and their input ensures we deliver high quality, economically viable projects.

Read more


An aerial view of the North Court solar array at Churchill College

Landscape and Ecology

Our Commitments

Our objective is to limit all negative ecological impacts and instead have a strongly positive effect on biodiversity and natural landscapes.

Our KPIs

  • Reach and maintain 1,100 trees on the campus by 2024 from the base level of 840.
  • Introduce and maintain a rolling programme of wildlife and landscape training and education
  • Obtain Hedgehog Friendly Campus Accreditation in 2022/23.
  • Develop wildlife ponds at two or more campus locations seeking educational and volunteering input wherever possible in 202/23.
  • Develop and maintain a biodiversity plan and species register informing local and national conservation stakeholders.
  • Expand meadowing and wildlife habitat to cover an additional five acres on campus by 2025.
What we've done
  • A 10% increase in the total tree numbers on site with a strong emphasis on native species.
  • Continuing our work to support our plant conservation work through our Plant Heritage National Collection Holder status.
  • Eliminated all pesticide and herbicide usage.
  • Establishment of several beehives.

A College gardener prepares a hedgehog survey tunnel. The prism-shaped tunnel is made of black corrugated plastic and has an insert with a bowl of food in the centre. Either side of the food are sheets of white paper, with strips of masking tape either side painted with an animal-safe ink made from organic charcoal and vegetable oil,.

Case Study

Planting for Biodiversity

We have been working to further improve the biodiversity of our site with the introduction of several additional acres of tree planting, native wildflowers and bulbs.

In 2021 alone this rolling project succeeding in planting over 30,000 bulbs and wildflower plants due greatly to the hard work of over 150 volunteers from across the College community. The project is ongoing but we have already seen species of flora and fauna return to the site or appear for the first time. We have joined a wider collegiate ecology survey and have seen significantly greater species diversity on site.

An additional acre of of native bulbs and wildflowers planted in 2022.

College tree survey

College plant audit uncovers 292 species

Built Environment and Operations

Our Commitments

Our aim is to reduce the environmental impacts of our operations and buildings.

Our KPIs:

  • Reduce water consumption by 20% by 2030.
  • To send zero non-hazardous waste to landfill by 2025 incorporating the implementation of an innovative recycling strategy to provide protocols for the management of waste materials across all operations notably including catering, housekeeping and construction.
  • Eliminate all single use items such as paper cups and plastic cutlery by 2022/23. This may include the selection of higher cost but higher quality items with longer lifespans.
  • Ensure carbon budgeting is applied consistently across medium and large projects and adopt mechanisms for simpler carbon budgeting for smaller and reactive projects and operations in 2022/23.
  • Minimising paper usage as far as possible with an 80% reduction against 2018/19 levels by 2022/23.
  • Develop a Sustainable Food Policy that aims to minimise the indirect biodiversity impacts of the food that we purchase. For example, through adopting Marine Stewardship Council standards within 2022/23.
  • Reduce power used for lighting as far as possible with installation of LED fittings and motion sensor activation to remaining all viable spaces by 2022/23. Note approximately 98% of lights are already LED.
  • Reduce the use of chemical cleaning products and bleaches by 20% by 2022/23.
What we've done
  • We are consistently recognised at the National Union of Students’ Green Impact Awards with Platinum level awards.
  • We have made a wide range of changes in our use of materials often involving simple switches such as moving to concentrated, plant based non-bleach cleaning products.
  • All of our waste is already recycled or used to generate power but we are adopting waste compaction to majorly reduce the number of collections and significantly reducing the number of refuse lorry journeys.

picture of recycling bins


Case study

Waste Compaction

In a single year the College generates over 100 tonnes of waste which is entirely either recycled or used to produce power. None of our waste enters landfill. The College continues to encourage all of our community to minimise waste, through careful choice of packaging and trying to ensure that the correct bins are used for the correct materials.

In 2022 the College adopted the use of compactor machines. The machines compact the waste so that three tons of waste can be collected per machine per collection. Prior to this, over 600 waste collections per year took place. By using compactors waste collections have dropped four-fold. This reduction in vehicle movements significantly reduces heavy vehicle traffic on site, reduces air pollution in the local area and further reduces carbon emissions from our supply chain.


Our commitment

We aim to provide viable and accessible sustainable travel options for staff, Fellows and students for travel to work, travel at work and travel for work which results in a reduction of carbon emissions.

Our KPIs

  • Electrification of operations vehicle and plant fleet by 2025 and installation of EV charging points serving a third of all parking spaces by 2024 to encourage the use of more sustainable alternatives to petrol and diesel vehicles.
  • Implementation of improved options for staff and students to travel between College and University sites via sustainable transport notably electric vehicles and bicycles before 2023.
  • Implementation and supply of technology to support remote working and attendance at events and meetings in 2022/23. Notably including installation of improved video-conferencing and hybrid meeting facilities and the provision of support on how to use them.
  • Introduction of a Sustainable Travel Policy incorporating our agile working policy and environmental impact travel assessment which encourages and supports our community to make greener traveling decisions both on land and by air.
What we've done
  • We only use electric tools, plant and vehicles across a significant majority of the operation including within Gardens, Maintenance and Housekeeping teams.
  • The College site has fifteen electric vehicle charging stations.
  • We are considering the use of other electric vehicles such as E-Scooters for use on the Churchill Road and potentially within Cambridge. Our growing photo-voltaic power generating capacity means these could be charged without the use of fossil fuels.

A row of bicycles in the snow, with College buildings in the background. A light dusting of snow sits on the bikes and on the surrounding hedge.

Case Study

Churchill College has operated a bike-lending scheme for staff and students who need to get about town for some years. Any staff or student member can ask the Porters at the Porters Lodge for the loan of a bike, and take one out, along with a cycle helmet and bicycle lights if needed.

As part of the Churchill Road redevelopment project, facilities to encourage College commuters to choose bicycle use over driving are currently being explored.

Male student puts on his helmet. He is standing among the bike racks at the front of College. In the background is the Squash Court covered in red and green Boston Ivy.

Responsible Investment (including Environmental, Social and Governance)

Our commitments

The College has already eliminated meaningful fossil fuel exposure and holds no active funds with more than 1% exposure and is committed only to:

  • invest through investment managers whose aims are consistent with the College’s investment objectives targeting net zero carbon in our financial investments by 2038
  • engage with investment managers to encourage pro-active participation in coalitions with other investors on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues
  • seek to ensure that human wellbeing, environmental sustainability, energy efficiency and biodiversity are respected and advanced
  • use its influence along with other Colleges to place active pressure on the banking sector and seek best practice in terms of environmental impact from its bank.
What we've done

While relatively young and with a small endowment compared to other more established colleges, Churchill College believes it is important that its endowment is managed in a way that encourages decarbonisation and mitigates against the risks associated with climate change, in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement and the Glasgow Climate Pact.

As a ‘Universal owner’ (a very long-term investor who has an interest in the long-term health of the financial system as a whole and takes account of the long-term impact of its investment decisions on the economy and society) the College also has a role to play in influencing other investors, agents and actors who are involved in financial and property investments and seeks to collaborate with others to enable wider sectoral change.

We have an internal Ethics committee that ensure our processes abide by these commitments. This Committee also has a role to play in approving donations to the College.


Our commitment

We aim to positively influence the sustainability performance of suppliers and the sustainability credentials of the goods and services that we purchase.

Our KPIs

  • Extend compliance with Churchill College Procurement Guidelines to all purchasing teams and provide appropriate training and guidance to purchasers/procurers to ultimately reach ISO 20400 standards for Sustainable Procurement.
  • Ensure procurement of goods consistently includes ESG factors such as social sustainability, carbon and locality within scoring criteria within 2022/23. This may include a focus on key supplier accreditation such as Fairtrade.
  • Develop and implement a supplier engagement programme to promote continual improvements by both suppliers and College purchasers. Programme to focus on four key long-term suppliers in 2022/23.
What we've done
  • We are committed to engaging with our full supply chain in an environmentally and socially responsible way. This means that when procuring any goods or services we ensure that the whole supply chain are able to evidence their commitment to sustainability.
  • We adhere to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs guidance on sustainable procurement for a number of different sectors (e.g. cleaning products, electrical goods, furniture, etc.).
  • We always look to simplify and localise our produce supply chains. This work has resulted in our forming direct commercial relationships with a number of local farms generally in Cambridgeshire and neighbouring counties.