Sustainable Development


The University has a target to reach net zero by 2038 by embedding sustainability in all our activities and aspirations, and by harnessing the support of our students, staff and alumni and the people in our local, national and international communities.

Sustainable Development Strategy

The world faces unprecedented climate and societal challenges which require all individuals and  organisations to urgently take action towards achieving net zero and a just transition. Through actions set out in our Sustainable Development Strategy 2023-2030 and our wider Strategic Plan we will work towards our vision of reaching net zero by 2038.

Building on work across the institution in recent years, we will now go further and faster to escalate our approach to tackling climate change. Our strategic approach will align to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and dovetail with the needs of our local, national and international communities and the aims of our partners.

Through our staff and students, our campus, stakeholders, and supply chains, we have a significant social, economic and environmental footprint. By implementing the principles of the SDGs within our governance, operations and culture, Abertay will directly contribute to the achievement of these goals.

Read our Sustainable Development Strategy in full.

Our strategy is linked to the goals set out in the Dundee City Council Climate Action Plan.


UN Sustainable Development GoalsAbertay University supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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Abertay University lecturer in call to save planet in Antarctica video diary

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Our Plans

Find out more about our sustainable development plans in detail.

Teaching and learning

Our students are taught the principles of sustainable development, both in broad terms and within the context of their discipline, by embedding sustainability concepts, knowledge and skills into our teaching curriculum and our quality enhancement processes. We encourage creative and innovative thinking and teach our students to carry a sustainability mindset into the world of work.

We support Abertay Students’ Association to engage students in appropriate and effective collaboration, co-creation and sustainability action and we will seek to deliver all teaching in a sustainable way, providing flexible learning experiences augmented with digital support.

Working with Professional Bodies and Associations, external partners, communities, private, public and third sector organisations, we will position the University as an innovative and entrepreneurial ‘living laboratory’ for sustainable development, supporting just transition through the development of partnerships for upskilling and reskilling Scotland’s workforce.

All Abertay students are offered a microcredential on sustainability as part of their studies and our AbLE Academy leads on co-creation of sustainability projects.

Responsible campus operations

To address the challenges of climate change and support our commitment to the SDGs we regularly review the way in which we manage, heat and develop our campus. This work takes in all operations, including how we travel, use resources, and procure goods and services.

Recycling, repair and reuse

The University recycles as much as possible and will always aim to repair and reuse items that can still serve a purpose. We work with partners to upcycle furniture that is no longer needed and have a waste segregation system in place across campus that allows us to recycle the majority of our waste, with items split into mixed recycling, food and general streams. Specialist and uncommon waste like batteries, glass and electrical appliances are also recycled.

Improving awareness of this work among students and staff is a key goal for the University in the short term as we look to support behaviour change and promote recycling.

We will continue to work towards improving our emissions, recycling and recovery/reuse rates across campus and also drive down the carbon footprint associated with our waste disposal.


The University takes a Sustainable Procurement approach to achieving value for money on a whole life basis, generating benefits not only to the organisation, but also to society and the economy and minimising damage to the environment.

Our approach is aligned to delivery of the Scottish Governments Sustainable Procurement Action Plan (SPAP). Read more about Sustainable Procurement.

Energy use

Through a rolling programme of campus renovations, more efficient use of our spaces and the introduction of new technology we will drive down our use of energy and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

A £9m programme of works to improve thermal efficiency in our Kydd Building was completed in 2022, following on from the installation of 250 solar panels which have the capacity to generate more than 60,000 kilowatt hours of carbon-free electricity every year.

Going forward we will review our energy mix and how we can ensure we are in the optimum position to reach net zero. We will strongly promote behavioural change (e.g. switching off heating/lighting) and conduct regular energy audits to identify areas where efficiency can be improved.

In 2023 we introduced new Campus Facilities and Room Bookings systems, helping us gather faster and more reliable information on room usage and informing future decisions on how to cut energy use.


We are reviewing our campus café and catering offer to ensure local suppliers and food sources are considered where possible. All staff and students were surveyed in 2023 on our café provision and gain feedback on areas where we can improve. We encourage staff, students and visitors to bring reusable cups to campus by offering a 20p discount on hot drinks and our catering is plastic-free, with all of our disposable cups compostable.

All coffee on campus is supplied by Coffee Conscience - a Scottish company using fairtrade beans which donates a percentage of revenue to UK community projects – and by the end of 2025 we aim for 50% of our food offering to be seasonal produce and for 60% of options to be vegetarian.

Research and knowledge exchange

The University conducts research and knowledge exchange activities across a broad range of Challenge Spaces and we embed the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals into our projects.

From research with a direct focus on tackling climate change, through to work that addresses societal, political and economic issues surrounding sustainability, our researchers work to advance knowledge across this area and create solutions that have an impact in the real world.

All research projects are aligned to the following Challenge Spaces which address local, national and international priorities.

  • Sustainable Development & Inclusive Living.
  • Security, Equality & Social Justice.
  • Health & Care Across the Lifespan.
  • Creative Industries & Cultural Vitality.

We are committed to working with the University community and external stakeholders to address sustainable development challenges through civic engagement, support for the creation of social enterprises and knowledge exchange and will support students and academics to assess the environmental impact of their activities (research, fieldwork, digital footprint, stakeholder engagement and conferences).


Sustainability is being placed at the core of our travel policies.

Working closely with Dundee City Council, we are progressing a vision for the future of our campus which will be adjacent to the local authority’s new Sustainable Transport Hub, which will be created within the Bell Street multi-storey car park. We envision that the integrated electric bus, car and bike offer facilitated by the hub will be used by staff and students as a primary method of travel to campus.

All staff and students are encouraged to consider online meetings as an alternative to travelling to an in-person meeting, and we have invested in creating spaces for hybrid meetings and teaching. We are working to encourage the use of active travel options and in 2023 increased the value of our Cycle to Work Scheme, allowing staff to select cycling equipment up to a value of £3,000 to be paid back via a cost-effective salary sacrifice system.

Through the University’s cycling officer, both staff and students have the opportunity to engage in cycling activities on campus, including free bike repair clinics and fitness challenges.

Abertay also maintains a Co-Wheels car account, allowing staff to use a car when public transport or cycling may not be practical.

Civic engagement

As an anchor institution in the city of Dundee and wider Tayside area, Abertay has a social responsibility to our community and we are committed to civic engagement. We believe that Universities are critical to the economic, social, cultural and environmental wellbeing of their cities and regions, and sustainable development is at the heart of all of our strategic work. As a responsible partner in Dundee we support just transition, green growth and sustainable economic development for the region.

Find out more about our approach to Civic Engagement.

Get involved

University action

We want to hear from students, staff, alumni and anyone else connected to the Abertay community who is keen to get involved in projects linked to sustainability. If you've got an idea or a project, email to get started.

Abertay is proud to allow all staff one day off per year to volunteer for good causes and we encourage everyone to keep activities with a sustainability focus in mind. Staff can find out more about the Staff Volunteering Day scheme on the University's intranet pages. 

Supporting partner organisations

The University also engages with external organisations involved in promoting sustainability.

Sustainable Dundee is the main partnership of organisations (see below) across the city driving action.

You can visit the Sustainable Dundee website to find out more about the range of actions and activities taking place, and find out how you can get involved.

  • Abertay University
  • Creative Dundee
  • DC Thomson
  • Dundee Climate Action Network
  • Dundee City Council
  • Dundee Heritage Trust
  • Eden Project
  • Friends of the Earth Tayside
  • Hillcrest Homes
  • Michelin Scotland Innovation Park
  • NHS Tayside
  • Poverty Alliance
  • Robertson Group
  • Scottish Gas Networks
  • Scottish and Southern Energy Networks
  • Scottish Water
  • University of Dundee

Dundee's Changemaker Hub is a partnership led by Transition Dundee, The Maxwell Centre, ScrapAntics, Uppertunity and Creative Dundee. The group is working towards a joint vision for a sustainable and inclusive future with and for Dundee’s communities. Through practical support, the Hub will include workshops, creative events and micro-grants to connect and equip local communities with connections, knowledge and tools.

Transition Dundee is a community-led social enterprise which aims to make Dundee a healthier, happier and more sustainable place to live through various climate change themed projects. 

Antarctica: Dr Rebecca Wade's plea for collaborative climate action

Dr Rebecca Wade, a senior lecturer on Abertay’s MEng/BEng (Hons) Civil and Environmental Engineering degree, was one of 88 women in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine) on the Homeward Bound voyage aboard the ship MV Ushuaia in November 2023.

The leadership programme gave the Dundonian climate scientist a unique opportunity to observe the effects of global warming on Antarctica and the Southern Ocean up close.

Watch the video to find out more.

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