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Public Policy|Southampton

Public Policy|Southampton Launches its Sustainability Action Plan

Published on 17 December 2021

The University of Southampton is proud to be a world-class research-intensive Russell Group university. Working with the public, industry, governments and research institutions we contribute towards addressing some of the most challenging issues facing society today. Through distinctive expertise in key sustainability research themes such as Energy, the Environment, Migration, Transport, Marine and Maritime our University’s researchers, supported by the University’s Research and Innovation Services, deliver effective solutions for a sustainable future for industry and policy stakeholders to adopt and deploy. However, in a large organisation complementary threads of work can co-exist without necessarily being weaved together.

Sustainability Goals Logo

In recognition of the need to bind this rich multitude of activities together, the University has launched its Sustainability Strategy 2020-25 in October 2020. The strategy aimed to provide a framework in which sustainability research, education, enterprise and corporate operations converge. In setting out its ambitious vision to transform the University’s outlook and embed considerations of sustainability in its operations and activities, the University placed itself on a firmer footing to address some of the greatest challenges facing us all. By working closely with academics from across the University and linking their research with policy stakeholders, Public Policy|Southampton (PPS) has an important role to play in helping achieve Goal 5 of the Strategy, namely making sustainability “a cornerstone of UoS’ research and societal impact”.

To support researchers, PPS specialises in facilitating a range of policy engagement activities. These include designing and delivering policy engagement strategies as part of research projects, supporting the submission of evidence in response to Parliamentary Inquiries and Governmental Consultations, producing policy briefs and other communication outputs aiming to translate research outcomes into tangible calls for action in the form of policy recommendations.

In all of its activities, PPS has been acting as a front-runner in proactively taking due account of local, national and international policy developments, and encouraging academics to consider them in the overall delivery of their projects. Most recently, PPS has developed an Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) action plan to help diversify the sources of evidence transmitted to decision-makers and address the dangers of groupthink. The plan sets out key steps to ensure that researchers from underrepresented groups are actively supported in policy engagement activities through adapting its support and communication offers accordingly.

In a similar fashion, PPS is cognisant of the developments affecting the national and international sustainability policy landscapes, and the growing focus on sustainable development particularly since 2015. Naturally, this has led to increased demand for academic expertise to inform policymaking around the various components of sustainable development, neatly categorised in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In line with Goal 5 of the University’s Sustainability Strategy, PPS has developed an action plan to support and highlight the impact of research on the national and international sustainability agendas.

The action plan is rooted in the 17 SDGs and their respective targets. Moving forward, researchers will be encouraged to include a small box around the “Context” section in future policy briefs, where, in less than 50 words, they would be able to highlight the SDG(s)/target(s) that are relevant to their projects. With regards to PPS’s project support offer, (1) emphasis will be placed on highlighting the SDGs context as part of the policy synthesis activity which aims to provide the project team with valuable insights to inform policymaking, and (2) as one of the project’s communications outputs, the project team will be encouraged to write a blog to highlight the project’s envisioned impact on the SDGs and their respective targets. Moreover, PPS will introduce a new training session to familiarise staff and students with skills and techniques for linking research with sustainability. Throughout the 2021/22 academic year, PPS also plans to reorganise its website to reflect its new focus on the SDGs and their targets, and to perform the retrospective work of “stamping” existing policy briefs, projects and submissions to calls for evidence with their respective SDGs and targets.

Through implementing these actions, PPS will be contributing to achieving Goal 5 of the University’s Sustainability Strategy. PPS will collect valuable data about the SDG relevance of our research projects and adapt our communication outputs to reflect the SDGs in everything we do. We will work with the research community to consider the implications of their research on different aspects of sustainability. In doing so, PPS will also be fulfilling its mission to “enhance the local, sub-national, national and international policy impact of research conducted at the University of Southampton” by raising the capacity of researchers and students to engage with internal and external stakeholders on delivering the SDGs.

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