Cambridge Assessment volunteers litter picking in yellow high visibility jackets

Cambridge Assessment volunteers litter-picking.

As a global organisation, we take our commitment to sustainability seriously. Our learners are highly engaged in the debate on the environment, and we are wholly committed to being part of a positive sustainable future in which they can thrive.

In 2019-20, we set out on a joint commitment with the University and Cambridge University Press to be net-carbon neutral from energy use by 2048, using science-based targets. In meeting this commitment, our approach this year has focused on a ‘Reduce, Replace and Recycle’ strategy, encompassing both broad business-level improvements and working with our engaged staff networks to adopt smaller incremental, locally based initiatives.


A key focus has been elimination of waste throughout our print and production processes, with efforts centred on improvements in forecasting in order to reduce overproduction. By moving from print-to-stock to print-to-order, waste from a key area has been reduced by over 50 per cent and all but eliminated in our biggest single product line. Waste reduction of over 317 tonnes of paper has been achieved which has saved around 92 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) from eliminated energy to convert that paper to printed media.

By listening to the voice of our customers, we have gained many insights relating to carbon reduction. In one instance a simple change to our despatch contents enabled the removal of one repeat item from the despatch leading to 2.7 tonnes of printed media saving annually. As a majority of this material is distributed outside the UK via air, this has saved an estimated 13.8 tonnes of CO2e through our distribution network.

In order to ensure the safe and secure delivery of physical content to our centres worldwide we use various types of primary and secondary packaging. By changing the specification of plastic films used and reducing the amount of plastic used in this process, we have achieved a 14 per cent reduction in weight of packaging, amounting to a saving of 9.8 tonnes per annum. This small change adds up to a saving of 50.1 tonnes of CO2e per year. Further changes due to go live in late 2020 on a specific product will bring about a further seven per cent reduction (1.8 tonnes) on the same pack weight, again delivering a 9.2-tonne saving in CO2e. Other examples of removing additional outer packaging have saved 1.8 tonnes of plastic annually and combined to save a further 6.6 tonnes of CO2e in the distribution network.


Wherever possible we reconsider how we use materials and look to substitute for sustainable equivalents. In the UK, we are piloting the elimination of plastic outer envelopes to right-sized recycled cardboard boxes. Material replacement will continue into 2020/21 with trials of paper bags replacing plastic script return envelopes. With considerable catering operations at several of our sites, a switch to compostable materials for all our takeaway packaging and removing all plastics and takeaway cups from our service points, has saved approximately 132 tonnes of CO2e per year, the equivalent of driving a car around the earth nearly 13 times.

The introduction of visitor electric vehicle-charging facilities at our global headquarters Triangle was implemented as a proof of concept for a chargeable operating system at other Cambridge Assessment sites. Electrical infrastructure is now provisioned to allow expansion of up to 14 charging points quickly and efficiently, with the plans in place to roll out electric vehicle charging at all of our UK sites. Taking advantage of the reduced occupancy of our buildings this year, we have also been able to invest in efficient lighting technology, introducing modern LED fittings, Passive Infra-Red sensor control and daylight dimming at our UK sites, reducing relative power consumption by up to 70 per cent. A change in lighting and building management controls in our distribution centres has resulted in electricity savings of 7 per cent year on year equating to 82 tonnes of CO2e. Our small solar panel installations at our two distribution centres are generating 74,000 kWh, with a net saving of 19 tonnes of CO2e. Coupled with the installation at our Triangle site which generated 194,000 kWh of electricity this year, we are providing the equivalent amount of electricity to run over 50 households for a year.

Across our catering services, we have made great progress in switching to a ‘buy local’ approach and as far as possible, stocking suppliers who produce locally and who promote additional global benefits; for example this year switching to Reforest tea and triple certified coffee in all our cafes. We actively promote the benefits of sustainable farming and fishing, only serving fish and seafood from a Marine Stewardship Council certified supplier, and moved our menu to 50 per cent plant-based dishes to encourage our people to eat in a more sustainable way. Supported by our engaged and proactive staff Environment Network, we collaborate on information and awareness raising around issues of sustainable food production practices, helping our people to make healthy, informed choices.


Although our move to digital is steady, many parts of the world still require hard-copy content for examinations. With hard-copy scripts still in circulation, we seek the most sustainable disposal methods when the papers and scripts reach the end of their life cycle. In doing so last year, we managed the secure shredding and recycling of 621 tonnes of material. Considering the paper supply chain this has saved 373 tonnes of CO2e, 20 million litres of water and 10,500 trees.

Throughout, we are supported by our Environment Network. Working with the Services and Property teams, the Network has introduced crisp packet recycling and championed the use of compostable packaging for all in-house produced food at Triangle and Progress House. The launch of zero-waste markets in early 2019 has been incredibly popular, giving colleagues an opportunity to shop waste free and conveniently, whilst supporting local suppliers to continue to produce and promote their sustainable products.

Events have been co-produced with our other staff networks, for example, the organisation of an event ‘Families and their environmental impact: positive ideas to bring about change’ for staff. Network colleagues have been instrumental in ensuring that environmental impacts along with sustainability targets are included in project scoping processes across our business units. Their outstanding efforts to promote a culture of sustainability across the organisation have resulted in a Silver University Green Impact award for the Triangle site and two Special Green Impact awards for Sustainability Heroes for the organisers of our zero-waste markets. A further Community Action award was received for our litter-picking group, Litterati, which works in collaboration with Cambridge City Council to clear and recycle rubbish around the CB1 area.

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