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Oxford Brookes Case Study

09 September 2014
Keeping Oxford Brookes top of it's class - Oxford Brookes used its EcoCampus platinum status to achieve ISO 14001 certification. 

One of the UK’s leading modern universities, Oxford Brookes has gained an international reputation for teaching excellence and innovation. However, staff and students needed to improve their education with regard to environmental impact and a step-by-step environment management system was introduced. Targets were set in transport, energy, water and waste management and ISO 14001 enables them to achieve these objectives.

Oxford Brookes University believes in creating a positive impact amongst staff, students and the environment.

An environmental education

For Oxford Brookes University, achieving certification to ISO 14001 was a gradual process, involving a cultural evolution to ensure that improving environmental performance becomes embedded in the behaviour of everyone within the organisation.

Gaining certification to ISO 14001 requires commitment and dedication for any organisation that has not systematically addressed environmental management. The University made a decision early on that it wanted to develop its systems internally, engaging in-house staff rather than turning to consultants.

A step-by-step approach

For this reason, the University first signed up to the EcoCampus scheme, which provides a step-by-step approach, designed specifically for academic institutions.

Joining EcoCampus in 2007 allowed the sustainability team to work with staff across the University to develop a structure for environmental management and ultimately brought the organisation to the point where they felt able to apply for certification to ISO 14001.

For the University, achieving certification provides an important demonstration of its commitment to environmental concerns. Harriet Waters, Sustainability Manager at Oxford Brookes sums up the rationale:

“Responsible environmental performance is an increasingly important issue to our stakeholders - and it is discussed very publicly, with a league table published each year that summarises the environmental performance of universities. Having the certification allows us to broadcast our commitment to the issue.”

A framework for improvement

It is the systematic management process of the standard that is significant. Implementing this allows the University to set a clear framework - to identify specific goals and then plan to achieve the improvements.

The very first stage in the process was to set up an environmental team, engaging with staff members whoalready had an interest or expertise in the area. These team members were asked initially to agree a methodology to identify the key areas of environmental impact and then to establish how these are measured with a view to planning improvements.

Setting priorities

For Oxford Brookes, transport is a priority issue and an area where work had already been started. The key was to integrate this work with other target areas such as energy and water consumption, and waste management. Harriet Waters again:

“We have established a number of targets, many of which are quite long term. For example, we now have a target to reduce carbon emissions from energy consumption by 50% by 2020. Implementing the standard allows us to plan how this will be achieved and to monitor progress.”

Implementing the system requires significant input from staff, and training was an essential element of the early stages.

“We always knew that training was very important and using the standard we were able to implement a comprehensive programme without it becoming too daunting.”

Working with the auditors

At every stage of the process NQA, as the certification body working with EcoCampus and then also providing the certification for ISO 14001, was there to give advice and measure progress.

“The auditing process is always really useful and a positive experience. The audit days are very intensive, but our auditor always gives us proactive suggestions, which is something we particularly like. Our NQA auditors are good at focusing on the really important issues that make a material difference to our performance.”

Following the step-by-step approach, the University started with gaining ISO 14001 certification for one campus in August 2011. Having achieved this goal, the ambition is to have all three sites certified to ISO 14001.