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Using technology to support sustainability with IAD

IAD gold sustainability awards project case study

Institute for Academic Development (IAD) Sustainability Awards team share the successes of their gold project to use technology to support sustainability in 2016. Their actions ranged from reducing business travel by encouraging video conferencing, to putting in place paper-saving measures, resulting in a 30% reduction in paper use.

Our team

We submitted our gold project as a team of four with active support and collaboration from colleagues across the IAD. We had strong support from the senior management team and most IAD colleagues were involved in the project, including deciding its focus. As a group of four we met monthly, but as the gold project occasionally required some extra work, we also met in between. With a team of four it was relatively easy to share tasks between us. We try to do this according to everyone’s areas of expertise and interests.

Where we are now

The Institute for Academic Development joined the Office Awards in 2015, achieving Silver. We were awarded Gold in 2016 for our project around using technology to support sustainability. We decided to take a year off from doing the official paperwork for the Awards in 2017 but we are still active in sustainability. We have revamped our travel policy recently to help reduce carbon emissions and are continuing to explore how technology can enable more sustainable practice. We are planning to actively participate again in 2018, in order to maintain our Gold accreditation.


For our gold project we focused on using technology to promote sustainability at the Institute for Academic Development. We wanted to support colleagues to be more comfortable using relevant technologies and even more aware of sustainability issues. We made the following changes as part of the project;

  • Qualitative and quantitative evidence of culture change in our staff surveys
  • Explored opportunities to reduce travel using technologies such as Skype
  • Reduced paper use by 30% in IAD
  • Approved a new Paper Policy
  • Installed a misprint paper tray for scrap paper (rather than sending it straight to recycling)
  • Digitised course handbooks and leaflets

When initially deciding what to do for our gold project, it was important for us to get the support of our department. We displayed a list of suggestions in our staff area and encouraged colleagues to vote on their preferred option. A very high percentage of colleagues voted, and as the final project was the overwhelming favourite it was nice to know we had the backing of the department.

We started by introducing a policy which committed IAD to reducing printing by avoiding provision of printed handbooks and leaflets for training events, and increasing the use of digital resources in their place.

After the initial consultation with colleagues, we then asked what resources or training they would need in order to save paper. After discovering that some staff lacked confidence using digital technologies, our IT Manager ran a training session about Sharepoint and OneDrive, which many staff attended.

We used many different strategies to encourage staff at IAD to print less. For example, we used a white board above the printer to document monthly paper usage (in # of sheets). Depending on how much was printed, we drew a happy or sad tree. It might sound silly, but the diagram helped remind people why we committed to printing less.

We also put a misprint tray next to the printer to collect paper printed in error. The scrap paper is turned into colourful notebooks for our department.

These measures ultimately led to a paper saving of 30% across the department (we used 48,361 less sheets of paper over six months in 2016 compared with the same period the previous year)!

In general, we are more conscious now about how to communicate the reasons why we are not handing out leaflets or prospectuses anymore to people outside of our department. When we send materials to other departments we add labels to the boxes asking the recipients to reuse the packaging where possible. This idea came out of a useful meeting with Printing Services, who have been participating in the Office Awards since the beginning.

We have also been making more use of technologies such as Skype to reduce travel. We have been asking colleagues elsewhere if it might sometimes be possible for us to Skype into meetings at a distance and this has often been positively received and actioned.

Taking part in the Office Awards has not only led to obvious resource and financial savings, but also to a better working environment. Our printer is located in the main office. It used to be very noisy with constant printing and people queuing. Now there is more peace and quiet and people able to use their time more efficiently. However, the biggest achievement was how much our whole team put into this project and how we worked together to save, and continue to save, such a substantial amount of paper.

Tips and advice

Be creative

Using different technologies is not necessarily the most exciting subject, but we managed to generate interest with fun reminders and activities. Just use your imagination!

Tap into what motivates people

Find ways to encourage the people around you by focusing on the things they care about. Some people might want to know more about the financial savings, others about the impact on carbon emissions. Try to adapt your message to the audience.

Include people in the conversation

Not everyone will be able to join the Sustainability Team, so make sure you communicate what you are doing (and why) to the wider department. Even better, ask for feedback on what changes people would like to see! Giving people a voice means they are more likely get on board.

Give yourself time

The Awards are not an insignificant amount of work, so start early in the year and give yourself plenty of time. Starting early means you’ll be able to take the Awards at your own pace. Its fine to take a break – When you come back you’ll remember how much fun it is to change things for the better!

Give it a try

Just give it a go. Some of the most impactful actions we took were easy and quick to implement. These were things that did not need much planning and resulted in quick wins. For example, we started running a Swap Shop every few months in our big meeting room. It’s been really popular.

Find out more about the Sustainability Awards

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