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Laying the foundations for net-zero: An Environmental Ambassador’s reflections on Kellogg’s Beyond Gold Green Impact Award

June 29, 2021

Manann Donoghoe (MPhil Nature, Society and Environmental Governance) is one of two Kellogg student Environmental Ambassadors. In this blog he discusses the work carried out by the Kellogg Fellows, students and staff that led to the College being awarded the Green Impact scheme’s highest award.

On the 24th of June, the University awarded Kellogg College a ‘Beyond Gold’ award – the highest achievement in the University’s Green Impact scheme – recognising progress towards becoming a more environmentally sustainable college. Along with Lady Margaret Hall, Kellogg is now one of only two colleges to attain the award. It comes after several years of sustained efforts from Fellows, students and staff to elevate the environmental credentials of the college and cement it as a leader in carbon emission reduction and environmental impact minimisation. As one of Kellogg’s 2021 Environmental Ambassadors, I’ve had the opportunity to contribute to this auspicious year, witnessing first-hand the ongoing dedication of staff and students to sustainability.

The award comes during an uncharacteristically long year; a year that, although unexpected and unwanted, brought welcomed periods of reflection. Many of us had to rapidly pivot, reinventing our plans and work projects, and for the sustainability team at Kellogg it was no different.

This year we focused on planning – formalising the college’s commitments to improve biodiversity and minimise carbon emissions in Kellogg’s first Sustainability strategy, and inaugurating the annual collection of energy and water use data in our first carbon emissions audit. Together, these two documents begin a more serious commitment to carbon emissions reduction, setting both a precedent for the future of sustainability within the college and an ambitious benchmark for other colleges.

What I think is most notable about these documents is their emphasis on structures. While it’s true that individual choices and behaviours matter for emissions reduction – of course they do – it’s structures that ultimately constrain or accelerate our progress as an institution. Structures guide the choices of staff and students, creating the conditions in which environmentally sustainable actions become easy – logical. By incentivising lower impact activities, they cultivate an ethos that reproduces sustainable behaviours from Kellogg’s highest bodies to the actions of individual students.

The University recognised this in their March Sustainability Strategy. The document revolves around changes to four structures which they refer to as ‘enablers’: governance, reporting, funding, and offsetting. These structures are like the foundations of a building, providing a solid base upon which progress towards sustainability becomes normalised, enabling a quicker and smoother transition towards net-neutrality.

At Kellogg we’ve done the same. In our sustainability policy we’ve committed to institute transparent processes of monitoring, reporting, and evaluation of our energy, gas, and water use. For the areas that are harder to quantify – including food waste, supply chain impacts, and travel emissions – we’ve committed to establishing systems of measurement. This information is crucial, informing our future emissions reduction targets and laying the foundation for a roadmap towards becoming a more sustainable college.

We’ve also invested in sustainability governance. With the advent of the Sustainability Committee, Sustainability Fellow, and Environmental Ambassadors, sustainability advocates are now nestled into key decision-making bodies across the college. Equipped with the Sustainability Policy, these individuals and committees will help to ensure a sustainability voice is present in all our actions and events.

Reflecting upon my time as environmental ambassador, I know we still have a long way to go. It will be important to build upon this work, establishing key actions to ensure our carbon emissions steadily decline to net-zero by 2035. Yet, I’m buoyed by our efforts so far. With the work of our sustainability teams, recognised in this Beyond Gold Award, I’m confident Kellogg will continue setting the standard for college level sustainability within the University.

Find out more about sustainability and Kellogg