The Crick sets 2040 net zero target

The Francis Crick Institute aims to reduce its operational carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 and has set a target to be net zero carbon by 2040.

The need to take sustainable action has never been clearer; the world is changing, natural resources are depleting, and the climate is in crisis. 
Rajnika Hirani

The Institute’s new Sustainability Strategy, published today, has been developed in direct response to the challenges faced by the world from the climate and environmental crisis. 

The strategy sets out a framework over the next 5 years to focus investment on tackling the climate emergency and to strengthen the Crick’s commitment to reducing the environmental impact of its operations.

There are six priority themes, each with clear actions for making fundamental change without compromising on research quality and output.

  • Energy: The Crick is taking measures to reduce carbon emissions by implementing a carbon reduction programme to reduce both carbon emissions and energy consumption in line with the UKGBC framework for Net Zero Carbon buildings. The Crick aims to achieve a 15% reduction in overall annual energy consumption by 2028, a 50% reduction in scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 2030, and has set a target to achieve net zero carbon by 2040.
  • Waste: Laboratory work traditionally produces a lot of waste that’s difficult to reuse or recycle. The Crick is aiming for a 15% reduction in waste, including an 80% reduction in food waste, and for 85% of waste to be recycled by 2028.
  • Nature: To make the most of the Crick’s footprint, the Institute will provide support for biodiversity and resources for local wildlife. The goal is to increase accessible green spaces and keep CO2 levels below 900ppm for 95% of occupied hours.
  • Water: To reduce water use across the building and make the Crick more sustainable, a new monitoring system will be implemented. The goal is a 6% reduction in water use by 2028.
  • Travel: The Crick’s target is a 15% reduction in carbon emissions from work related travel by 2028 and for 95% of staff to continue to commute by sustainable transport.
  • Materials: Laboratory materials often have energy-intensive production processes, so the Crick is committed to procuring materials and products responsibly and in line with the needs of researchers, whilst minimising the demand for new materials, the distances travelled and the embedded energy. One of the goals is a reduction in single-use plastics, including zero single-use plastics used in catering.

Rajnika Hirani, the Crick’s Head of Sustainability, said: “The need to take sustainable action has never been clearer; the world is changing, natural resources are depleting, and the climate is in crisis. 

Against this backdrop, we must act now to reduce our environmental impact. The challenge at the Crick is how to implement a sustainability strategy now and for future generations within available financial, social, and environmental resources.”

Plastic tubes in a plastic box

Considerable progress has already been made towards the Crick’s targets:

  • In FY22/23 the Crick achieved a 21% reduction in carbon emissions against the baseline year (FY19/20). This is a direct result of carbon reduction measures such as reducing air changes in specialist lab areas, upgrading stairwell lighting to low energy LEDs, and optimising the efficiency of the data centre cooling system.
  • The Institute sends zero operational (non-scientific) waste to landfill.
  • 60 members of staff from across the building have volunteered to champion sustainability across their teams.
  • The building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system has heat recovery coils that recycle the heat produced and use it to heat incoming air.
  • Motion sensors allow meeting room air conditioning and lighting to be turned off when the rooms are not being used.
  • 72% of waste is already recycled or reused.
  • The Crick has several ‘brown roofs’ which are intended to recreate the natural planting conditions of the site. 
  • 95% of staff commute to work using sustainable modes of transport.
  • Up to 12,800 litres of treated water is saved per day due to new reverse osmosis water units.

Sam Barrell, Deputy CEO of the Crick, said: “The Crick has always had a commitment to sustainability and to reducing the environmental impact of our operations. We are strengthening this commitment over the next five years, ensuring that sustainability and good environmental practice are integral to our decision-making at every level.  

“Our initiatives and actions need to be effective both in facilitating our science and in ensuring that sustainable development is central to our mission of driving benefits for human health.”

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