The CAST Sustainability Charter: Our ongoing commitment to a low-carbon research culture in 2024

As a leading research centre looking at the importance of people at the heart of climate action and policymaking, we recognise that academic research can be a high-carbon activity. It can produce significant emissions from flying to conferences, project meetings, and fieldwork. This perception can impact how our work is received, and public trust in our research may be undermined where our activities are seen to conflict with our ethos and aims.  

The CAST Sustainability Charter, launched in 2020, sets out our ongoing commitment to confront the environmental impact of our work and seek out transformative solutions, whilst acknowledging that the circumstances and values of individual team members are not identical. 

The Charter covers the actions we take in our day-to-day work such as minimising travel, avoiding flying for domestic and European travel, as well as our role as advocates within our institutions.  

Several members of CAST team together at the ICEP 2023 conference.

Members of the CAST team at the ICEP 2023 conference in Aarhus, Denmark.

In June 2023, several of the CAST team travelled to Aarhus, Denmark for the International Conference on Environmental Psychology (ICEP). The majority travelled by train in an exciting two-day journey across Europe through eight major cities.  

In line with our research on lifestyle changes, we ensure that vegetarian catering is standard at our events and meetings and aim for at least 50% wholly plant-based options. 

We also prioritise reducing consumption and try to integrate sustainability considerations into all purchasing decisions. These commitments were a key part of planning our recent CAST Showcase 2024 event, where we launched our key messages report: ‘Catalysts of Change: People at the Heart of Climate Transformations’ based on five years of social science research on climate change. We also discussed and celebrated our first five years with around 120 guests from partner institutions and policy networks.  

We chose a community venue with excellent public transport links and strong sustainability credentials and ensured that all catering was vegetarian with wide plant-based options. We also took steps to minimise paper use and printing at the conference and worked with small suppliers with a commitment to sustainability for design and production work. 

The CAST Sustainability Charter not only covers our direct environmental impact, but also our role in advocating for change in higher education (recognising we are constrained in what we can do as an organisation). Several members of CAST are involved in advising our institutions on climate action.  

For example, our CAST Director Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh MBE sits on the University of Bath’s (our centre hub) Climate Action Framework Advisory Board, and on the Senate, to help ensure environmental issues are considered in organisational decisions and to advocate wherever possible for change.

The CAST team and attendees networking at the CAST Showcase 2024 exhibition space at the Coin Street Community Centre.

The CAST Showcase 2024 exhibition space at the Coin Street Community Centre.

As CAST continues its research, we will explore additional areas for improvement, such as supporting people to make low-carbon travel choices (e.g. via financial incentives or extra time to travel); better understanding the sustainability implications of working from home vs in the office; and reducing the environmental impact of our IT and data storage.

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