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Sustainability at The Open University in Ireland

The Open University in Ireland (OUiI) is committed to achieving ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, through a programme of measures to reduce and mitigate the adverse environmental impact of our activities.

The Open University in Ireland embraces the Climate Change Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 (  and Ireland’s Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021 which sets target for net-zero emissions by 2050, imposes climate change reporting duties on public bodies, and requires that they must write proposals/policies for mitigating climate change.

In 2022 The Open University in Ireland established the Sustainability Working Group. This group has the following responsibilities:

  • To have an overview of activities across the OU in Ireland that contribute to the strategic goal on sustainability.
  • To review guidance and policies, providing critical feedback and advice to ensure relevance for the context in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
  • To support the appropriate cascading and sharing of information relating to sustainability to all colleagues in Ireland.
  • To help develop and monitor business plan objectives relating to sustainability, and to monitor progress against the OU in Ireland’s sustainability KPIs, developing new KPIs as necessary.
  • To communicate successes in carbon emission reductions to key stakeholders, internally and externally including government departments. 
  • To identify and promote opportunities for training and upskilling in sustainability practices for all staff.

image of deforestation

Sustainability initiatives and ways to get involved:

Free Carbon Literacy training (Staff and Students)
As part of our commitment to achieving net zero, the Open University offers free Carbon Literacy Training to all OU staff and students. This free course gives participants a solid awareness of climate change and the climate impacts of our everyday actions and allows delegates to map their own carbon footprint and gain an understanding and motivation to reduce personal and work-place emission.

two people at a plant wall

Sustainability Planning, Action & Reporting Kit (SPARK)

At the OU we are committed to working together to identify the sustainability impacts of our work and to prioritise activities that will have the greatest positive impact – for our students, staff and for society. Our strategy, “Learn & Live”, demonstrates our commitment to social and environmental justice. This aims to embed sustainability through all that we do, making sustainability everyone’s job.
SPARK was developed to support impactful and effective delivery of our sustainability ambitions across the whole University enabling us all to live the OU values to be inclusive, innovative and responsive. SPARK supports Unit Plans to integrate sustainability actions, ensuring we reduce our negative environmental impacts and increase our positive activities. Visit our internal SPARK page to find out more.

litter in the sea

Responsible Futures (A framework & accreditation mark for embedding sustainability in learning)

Responsible Futures is a whole-institution supported change programme and accreditation mark by SOS-UK to embed sustainability across all aspects of student learning.

The externally assessed accreditation mark (audited by students) assists tertiary education institutions in helping students gain the skills and experience needed to thrive as global citizens. The OU became member of the Responsible Futures Programme in 2022, as this framework maps out the organisational innovation and enhancement required, spanning top down, middle out and bottom-up level change, to achieve whole institution engagement with sustainability learning.

a group of people speaking

Research: Open Societal Challenges  

The Open Societal Challenges (OSC) programme utilises societal challenges and opportunities as a collaborative engine, to bring together teams with diverse skills to tackle these challenges and invest in societal impact.

OSC aims to empower all its research teams to mature their ideas in tackling some of the key societal challenges of our time within an environment where new interdisciplinary teams can form and achieve their long-term aims for research outcomes and impact.

The OSC programme has launched and the OSC platform will be available in Autumn 2023. Find out more about OSC and our Sustainability Research on the OU Sustainability website.

a pair of hands doing some weeding

Go Green  
Go Green is a university-wide initiative to reduce our impact on the environment. Fronted by our mascot Neville, the Great Crested Newt, we aim to achieve environmental and financial savings across the University by empowering staff to take action on energy, waste, water and travel.

a man cycling

Staff cycle to work scheme
The Open University has a partnership with Cyclescheme for the Tax-free Bike Scheme initiative aimed at getting more people on their bikes to work. The scheme is available for staff in the UK and Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland also has its own separate scheme. Further information can be found at Cyclescheme ROI.

For more information on how to get involved with sustainability at The Open University, please visit the main sustainability webpage.

a field of solar panels

Free Sustainability Resources on OpenLearn:

A range of free materials on sustainability can be found here OpenLearn Sustainability Hub

Get in touch

Kevin Donnelly, chair of the OUiI Sustainability Group

David Sargent – Go Green lead for OUiI

Jonathan Malone, Go Green champion for OUiI