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27 July 2021

Wild volunteering, global ambitions and taking action - a Q&A with our Global Director for Environment, Procurement and Supply

In April, Cambridge University Press and Cambridge Assessment made a joint commitment to be carbon zero for our energy-related emissions by 2048. In this blog post, Helen Griggs, Global Director for Environment, Procurement and Supply for both Cambridge University Press and Cambridge Assessment, talks about her strategic role and some key achievements so far.

What does your role involve?

As a global organisation we have a responsibility to people and planet. That means working sustainably and ethically, reducing our environmental impact and reducing inequality in our businesses, our supply chains and in education and research around the world. The University of Cambridge set a campus-wide goal to achieve carbon zero by 2048, and we share this goal as both Cambridge Assessment and the Press are part of the University. My job is to make that happen with the help of our colleagues. In the last couple of years, I’ve been gathering data to help us set science-based targets, building governance around our environment work, and identifying colleague networks who can help make it happen.

What has happened so far?

We have made a public commitment to champion sustainability as a signatory of the UN Global Compact and our shared strategy identifies sustainable operations as one of our three key aspirations for the next five years. We will become one organisation on 1 August, so it makes sense for us to work together and learn from each other as we work towards being more sustainable.

There are some brilliant initiatives underway – across electricity, print, paper, travel and more – that will enable us to reduce our carbon emissions, in line with our targets. For example, our new environmental data management system means we can report on our carbon emissions in real time. We will have moved 50 journals to online only format by the end of 2022 and we aim for plastic free distribution by the end of 2022 (40% are now sent out in FSC approved paper wrapping).

We’re also helping people understand the issues. Our English Language Teaching (ELT) team has written environmental sustainability into its strategy and is planning activities such as creating environmental awareness content for learning materials. More than 1 in 3 students enrolled on courses studying climate change use a textbook published by Cambridge University Press. We are making progress.

What are the achievements?

One highlight for me is being Chair of the Publishers Association’s Sustainability Taskforce – helping to drive the change we need within the publishing industry to minimise our impact on the environment. As well as being awarded WWF’s highest rating for sustainable timber sourcing, last year we won the Independent Publishers’ Guild Sustainability Award. This award recognises the concrete actions we have taken to make our operations more sustainable, to reduce the impact of our publishing on climate change and increase how sustainable we are, and the energy and enthusiasm of our colleagues.

Cambridge Assessment also recently received a Platinum Green Impact Award for our efforts to promote sustainability at work and the Press won a Bronze Green Impact award, and a certificate of recognition, awarded to teams who have gone above and beyond what was required for their award level. Green Impact is a United Nations award-winning programme designed to support environmentally and socially sustainable practices within academic organisations. We’re really proud of these achievements so far.

You recently volunteered for a team ‘wild work day’ with the Wildlife Trust – how was that?

We loved it! It was fantastic to get everyone together at a nature reserve in Cambridge, UK, which is managed by a UK conservation charity called the Wildlife Trust. Our task was to help manage ragwort, a competitive invasive species in grassland and “ragwort pulling” is a vital technique to ensure that grassland species do not become out-competed. The work we did will help maintain the diversity of the area and protects the more unusual plants. Spending time with each other there, outside of work, getting to know each other while doing something positive for the environment, was extremely worthwhile. We learned so much from the Wildlife Trust leaders and their enthusiasm was infectious – and we want to volunteer with them again.

What motivates you in this role?

I’m hugely passionate about collaboration with other teams, partners and individuals, and working towards embedding environmental thinking in all that we do at the Press and Cambridge Assessment. As we’ve signed up to the UN Global Compact, reporting on our progress annually is also really motivating as we want to be demonstrating positive change year on year. Our future relies on us taking action now to ensure we are sustainable not only for our business but for the benefit of generations to come.

To find out more about our sustainability achievements and ambitions, visit https://www.cambridgeassessment.org.uk/about-us/who-we-are/sustainability/

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