Sustainability: Carbon reduction and Net Zero strategy & policy

Net Zero mission statement

This mission statement outines our ambitions for Net Zero, why it matters to us and how we will deliver on it. It applies to the College and the wholly owned trading subsidiary company, RCPath Trading Limited, which includes the activities of our Events@No6 conference centre and RCPath Consulting.

Why is Net Zero important for the College?

The College is a professional membership organisation concerned with all matters relating to the science and practice of pathology, which is inextricibly linked to the consequences of climate change on our global health. With our global reach of over 11,500 members worldwide it is important that our operational activities are congruent with our scientific and professional work. With this in mind, the College aspires to reduce and minimise the environmental impact of its activities and to advocate for the health of our planet, by collating and disseminating examples of good practice in pathology, and educating and inspiring members to adopt these practices.

What does Net Zero mean for the College?

Achieving Net Zero means ensuring our carbon emissions are in balance with the emissions we can remove from the atmosphere. In practice, Net Zero will mean we focus our efforts to achieve the greatest impact, which will involve a mixture of avoiding emissions, implementing more efficient working practices, and using renewable energy. However, we recognise that Net Zero will require us to offset carbon to compensate for unavoidable emissions, and go beyond carbon neutrality by continually reducing the amount we need to offset over time.

In summary, moving towards Net Zero builds on our progress so far to deliver environmental and financial benefits, and support the needs of our various stakeholders.

Starting Net Zero journey

We have now established our initial carbon baseline for the year ending 30 June 2022; the carbon emissions are estimated at 1,036tCO2e (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent for the six main greenhouse gasses). Around 72% of our baseline emissions relates to purchases of goods and services, with a further 13% relating to energy consumption for our Alie Street premises. In addition, the baseline includes emissions from travel and commuting, and the impacts of staff working from home. Although these categories represent a small proportion of our current carbon impact, it is important that everyone in the College can contribute to our Net Zero goal.

Our journey involved forming a project team, having Net Zero briefing sessions to bring everyone on the same page, identifying our significant impacts, crunching the data to identify our baseline. With this in place we held engagement sessions with our environmental group to identify possible actions to reduce emissions from office and home energy use, travel and procurement, delivery of examinations and catering and we are already implementing some of the ideas. We then prioritised these ideas, and considered other organisational changes, including expected growth to model our Net Zero roadmap to 2032. Our quantified and evidence-based roadmap shows we have identified actions to provide a 38% reduction in the baseline emissions.

Where are we heading?

The COVID 19 pandemic certainly demonstrated that we can work differently through innovation while maintaining an excellent service to our community of members and trainees and supporting our employees. A shift to hybrid home-office working has reduced energy consumption from heating our office space, as well as reduced the need for travel as we became accustomed to online communication tools. 

Our ambition is that our absolute emissions are 42% below our 2022 emissions by 2032 as an interim target with the view to achieve Net Zero by 2040.

How are we developing a credible approach to Net Zero?

We are at the start of our Net Zero journey. As we progress along the Net Zero road we will adapt to changes in technology, information, personal behaviours and the expectations of the stakeholders that we serve.

Central to our approach is the carbon management hirearchy which focuses our efforts and resources on the actions that deliver the greatest benefits from real reductions in line with science-based targets; and we will develop internal systems to provide robust controls over the process. This approach will ensure that the proportion of unavoidable emissions in our baseline will reduce over time; and thus, the need to offset remaining carbon will decline over the duration of our Net Zero roadmap.

Our approach also acknowledges that the inclusion of indirect carbon emissions, such as the purchase of goods, services and equipment, and other investments in our carbon footprint will expand over time as our carbon accounting methodologies mature. Therefore, with the changing nature of all Net Zero journeys, we are committed to recording and monitoring our emissions to ensure the key reporting principles of transparency, comparability, comprehensiveness, and materiality are adheered to.

The carbon reduction plan and Net Zero strategy and policy was formally approved by the Trustee Board at their meeting in March 2024. Daniel Ross, Chief Executive, is the sustainability lead for College operations, and we will be advertising in the next couple of months to recruit from among our members and trainees a sustainability lead for the practice of pathology.

The work that the College has undertaken so far on sustainability is presented in the following section. 

Our progress to a more sustainable College


Office and College operations

Kitchen and food waste