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Sustainable Operations

Our work towards becoming more sustainable starts with our buildings, estates and facilities.

Every day our facilities rely on resources such as energy and water to carry out our research and we also generate quite a lot of waste, so our carbon footprint carries a significant environmental impact. Besides reducing the impacts from consumption, it is important for us to make sure our facilities are climate resilient to future heat-waves, water shortages and other future risks.

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Carbon emissions from buildings

The ICR has a significant energy and carbon footprint from its buildings - approximately 80% of our floor space is laboratories, which typically consume five times more energy for their equivalent floor area than office buildings. This is due to the specialised ventilation, lighting and cooling systems needed for labs, as well as the laboratory equipment such as fume cupboards and ultra-low temperature freezers.

In line with our net zero objective and science-based target, we are committed to reduce our carbon emissions from buildings by 42% by 2030 and 90% by 2040 (over a 2019/2020 base year).

To do so, we will carry out surveys to investigate the potential of renewable energy generation and develop an estates decarbonisation plan for the retrofit of existing buildings. The ICR is already purchasing 100% certified renewable electricity through the grid through joint purchasing consortium with other London universities.

We are developing a Sustainable Construction Project Plan to ensure our buildings are energy-efficient, low carbon and climate resilient.

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Sustainability for the ICR means an overarching focus on waste reduction (such as through behaviour change and procurement initiatives) and moving towards circular economy practices.

Our waste streams include:

  • Dry mixed recycling and cardboard
  • Chemical wastes
  • Construction project wastes
  • Cytotoxic and hazardous clinical waste

During the academic year 2020/2021, the ICR generated 318 tons of waste, we recycled 41% of waste, 36% went for energy recovery and 23% was incinerated.

We are working hard to reduce, reuse and recycle. We are committed to reducing the amount of waste we produce by 4.2% per year until 2024/25 and to recycling at least 50% of site waste by the end of 2025.

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The UK is subject to water stress due to the availability of water resources and the population density. Laboratory processes use significant quantities of water and we also use water for grounds maintenance.

In 2020/2021, the ICR consumed 28,907 cubic meters of water, enough water to fill an Olympic swimming pool 11 and a half times.

The ICR is committed to reduce its water use by 10% per ICR member by 2029/30. We are developing a water reduction plan, water-use audits and putting in place programmes to reduce water consumption.

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Commuting and visiting the ICR

Travel to the ICR is a significant sustainability issue giving rise to greenhouse gas emissions and potentially contributing to local congestion and air quality.

We have developed and implemented a Green Travel Plan which is reviewed on a regular basis. We also carry out a staff travel survey every two years. Our transport aims include:

  • Increase cycling to and from the ICR
  • Increase walking to and from the ICR
  • Increase travelling to and from the ICR by public transport (in particular, by train and shuttle bus)
  • Increase car sharing to and from the ICR
  • Improving our electric vehicle charging facilities at our Sutton site.

As part of working towards our net zero target, we aim to reduce the carbon intensity of commuting by 4.2% per year. We're also looking at reducing carbon emissions from business travel, such as when our researchers travel to conferences, which can have a significant carbon footprint.

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Enhancing biodiversity and nature

At the ICR we have external areas at Sutton which can be used to enhance and complement local biodiversity as well as improving the attractiveness of the campus and contributing to wellbeing.

Working with our partners, including Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals, the Royal Marsden and the London Borough of Sutton, we will continue to place nature and biodiversity at the heart of our decision making and develop at least two new areas of nature-enhancing habitats at our site in Sutton.