pro² is an EPSRC Network+ which aims to make the transition from prototype to product of digital devices easier and more accessible to all. Embedded into our network’s mission is a belief that our activities should be beneficial to society. We are therefore committed to carrying out our mission in a way that is environmentally sustainable. We recognise that we are facing a global climate crisis and diminishing natural resources unsustainably and that action must be taken now to reduce environmental harm.
This document outlines our network’s values with regard to environmental sustainability and the actions we are taking to reduce our own impact. It was published in February 2024 with input from the pro² Steering Group. It is not a final document and will continue to evolve over time.
Below we have listed some of the key actions we are taking to ensure that pro² activities are environmentally responsible. This is not an exhaustive list but rather highlights some of the areas we see as significant to our network. You can read about each of these in greater detail in the following sections.
Research and Collaboration: the pro² network seeks to fund projects that align with our values, especially those that aim to be socially and environmentally beneficial. For further information on the sustainability work being undertaken in our funded research, please visit the ‘Why pro²?’ page on our website.
Travel: we minimise our carbon footprint by holding meetings and events virtually unless we see significant benefit to a face-to-face format, when we leverage a hierarchy of sustainable travel options.
In-person activities: from catering at events to promotional materials, we aim to choose suppliers that are both environmentally and socially responsible. We encourage reuse and reduction of waste in all pro² activities. Wherever possible we avoid single-use products.
Digital: there is growing awareness of the impact of digital activities on the environment; even something as simple as sending an email has a carbon footprint. We are educating ourselves and taking action to ensure that our digital activities are also environmentally sustainable.
Monitoring and Evaluation: to ensure that we meet our sustainability goals, we are regularly seeking ways to reduce our carbon footprint. We will monitor our compliance with the commitments made above and review our actions for opportunities for improvement.
3. Research and Collaboration
We believe that technology can have huge benefits to people and the environment. In our mission to make the production of digital devices easier and more accessible, we see a great deal of potential for achieving social and environmental benefits, from the scaling up of assistive technology to support people with disabilities to the production of digital devices that support more environmentally sustainable agriculture.
The main challenges facing the pro² network have been categorised into themes, each led by two members of the steering group. Sustainability is a golden thread running throughout all themes, with each lead considering how their theme activities can be carried out in the most sustainable way. We are also developing connections with sustainability focused networks and research groups, with a view to exchanging expertise and encouraging collaboration.
To ensure that our sub-awardees share our values, we have incorporated environmental and social sustainability into our funding applications. Applicants are required to complete EDI and environmental sustainability statements, describing the specific measures they plan to take in these areas. We can also provide post-award support to further develop these plans.
Environmental and social responsibility has also been considered in our code of conduct for network members. As we continue to grow the pro² network, we hope to align ourselves with others who share our values in these areas in order to create a community of mutual support and enthusiasm where knowledge and best practices can be exchanged.
The majority of pro² meetings and some events are held virtually. This has multiple benefits, including the reduction of carbon emissions related to travel and the inclusion of attendees who may not be able to attend an event in-person due to factors like disability, cost, or caring responsibilities.
However, some events are more conducive to in-person formats, such as those that involve a focus on digital device demonstrations, collaboration facilitation and networking. Where travel is necessary in these scenarios, we encourage the adoption of a ‘travel hierarchy’ in which more sustainable forms of transportation are prioritised over those with higher emissions and travelling shorter distances is prioritised over longer ones. Below is an example of a travel hierarchy, ranking modes of travel from best at the top to worst at the bottom.
Zero-carbon travel: walking or cycling
Low-carbon travel: public or shared transport like a bus, train, ferry or shared vehicle (carpooling)
High-carbon travel: private vehicle or flight
5. In-person activities
We’re committed to offering catering at our events that is both socially and environmentally sustainable. We will primarily offer plant-based food and drinks to keep our carbon footprint small and choose suppliers that meet our standards for environmental and social responsibility.
We will strive to follow the principles of a circular economy in which waste is seen as a resource, by encouraging the reuse, recycling and sharing of consumables wherever possible. This might, for example, include renting equipment for sub-award research rather than buying it outright. We also aim to avoid single-use products. When purchasing things like items to give away at events or printed materials we will consider their usefulness and longevity, avoiding items that will quickly be thrown away.
There is growing evidence to show that digital activities and devices have a significant impact on the environment. The ‘digital carbon footprint’ includes the emissions involved in device manufacture, use, and disposal as well as the energy consumed to access digital tools and services, such as websites, social media, cloud computing, and so on.
To reduce our own digital footprint, we are avoiding purchases of unnecessary IT equipment and seeking to reuse or prolong the lifespan of existing equipment, improve the efficiency of tasks carried out using IT equipment and reduce email traffic.
As the research around digital emissions develops, we will continue to learn and change our practices according to the latest guidance.
7. Monitoring and Evaluation
Accurately measuring an organisation or network’s carbon footprint is a difficult task, especially when you aim to include your digital or scope three emissions (this includes indirect emissions associated with supply chain, raw materials and other sources).
Despite these challenges we will continue to work with our institutional sustainability team to stay up to date on accessible ways we can accurately measure our carbon emissions, and make changes accordingly. We will also consider the environmental impacts of the research we fund through our sub-awards with an aim to reduce impact wherever we can. We are open to feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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