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Archive for the ‘Sustainability’ Category

Tackling cold homes – taking action on fuel poverty

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

robert-marchand_small-124

‘The interactions between people, home and energy’ – the Fuel Poverty Research Network (FPRN), co-founded by Dr Robert Marchand at Sheffield University Management School (pictured above), is an ever-expanding group of international researchers aiming to bring domestic energy issues into the spotlight.

Wellbeing is affected significantly by living in a cold home, and many people can’t afford to heat them thoroughly – in fact the annual social cost of cold homes on mental health in a city like Sheffield alone is almost £20million. Robert and his colleagues aim for closer collaboration between their academic community and policy makers, so that government initiatives and funding are appropriate, informed and ultimately effective.

FPRN is now preparing for their third major event, a meeting and parliamentary reception in Edinburgh from 28-30 March 2017. Co-organisers, Energy Action Scotland and Glasgow Caledonian University, have planned an engaging agenda including a reception at the Scottish Parliament with Andy Wightman MSP. Click here for more information and to book your place.

Robert said: “We hope to create positive change through the network – having an impact on the people affected by fuel poverty drives our efforts. Whether it’s the pensioner who can’t afford to heat their home, the GP with a crowded waiting room of unwell people contributed to by energy costs, or the landlord who can’t yet see the value of insulating their property portfolio, we hope to reach all of them.

“The Edinburgh event is testament to the FPRN’s approach to collaboration. With contributions from a member of Scottish parliament, the only national body dedicated solely to eliminating fuel poverty, and relevant academic researchers, it’s an event where we’re can together identify key interventions.”

Find out more about the Fuel Poverty Research Network on their website (fuelpovertyresearch.net) and follow them on Twitter @FuelPovertyRN.

SUMS Prof calls for industry intervention to reduce toxicological footprint

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

Lenny Koh

Scientists are calling for an increase in sustainable and less toxic material in global manufacturing as one way of firms reducing their toxicological footprint and combating climate change.

Research led by Professor Lenny Koh at the Management School and published in Nature Scientific Reports highlights toxicity and its impact on climate change.

By analysing data from the Toxic Release Inventory of the United States (US), Prof Koh’s team identified some key interventions to mitigate toxic chemical release’s impact on climate change – the analysis quantifies the contribution of population growth, changes in consumption volume, consumption structure, production structure and changes in emissions intensity on toxicology footprint. The findings will be helpful for decision makers to understand toxic chemical release and formulate effective mitigation standards and management protocols.

They found that there are many external influences on the US’s toxicological footprint, including economic recession and recovery patterns, population growth, change in consumption volume, production structure and emission intensity, all of which provide a narrative in explaining why and how toxicological footprint fluctuates in the data – for example, between 1999 and 2006 the toxicological footprint of the US decreased by 42 per cent, mainly driven by improvement in emissions intensity in the mining and quarrying sector.

Prof Koh, Director of Advanced Resource Efficiency Centre at the University of Sheffield, said: “We often see carbon dioxide levels and emissions measured, but toxicity also affects the environment and is rarely reported.

“In addition to understanding the drivers of the US’s toxicological footprint dynamics, our analysis assesses the efficacy of different drivers to reduce it in the future. Our results show the prominence the mining and quarrying sector in emissions, so I propose that a sectorial-focused approach should be designed to address reduction.”

Prof Ian Reaney, co-author from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, said: “This study has highlighted the strategic importance of understanding toxic chemical release, emphasising the need for more sustainable and less toxic materials and materials extraction in global manufacturing.”

Prof Klaus Hubacek, co-author from the University of Maryland, said: “This international collaboration provides an excellent base to advance our understanding of efficiency and structural aspects of an economy and their impact on the toxicological footprint.”

Click here to read the paper in full.

Eastern influence: Dr Shaban discusses corporate finance for SMEs in Asia

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

Reader in Finance at the Management School, Dr Mohamed Shaban, is making an impression in Asian finance networks.

His research into corporate finance, with a particular focus on funding availability for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Asia, has seen him deliver a series of high-level keynotes across the continent.

Following on from a successful conference in Brunei, hosted by the International Finance and Banking Society (IFABS), of which he is vice-president, Mohamed travelled to the island of Lombok, Indonesia, to address the BPK which is the supreme audit board of Indonesia – responsible for auditing state-owned government entities (pictured below, left). The international seminar reviewed the efficiency and financial stability of their local development bank – he spoke on its importance and how it should contribute to local economies by supporting SMEs.

Similar to other emerging economies, the Indonesian economy faces challenges of weak institutions, weak law enforcement, corruption and politically directed lending. The BPK is using Mohamed’s research to conduct an efficiency audit on Indonesian banks.

BPK_Indo-lombok ADBI-Japan 1 China-talk

In October, Mohamed was invited to Tokyo to deliver a keynote speech at an international conference hosted by the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI, pictured above centre), the research arm of the Asian Development Bank. Amongst other research, policy makers and industry experts he discussed the lack of access to lending for micro-SMEs (MSMEs) in Asia – a key area of development as sustainable capacity building becomes core to future prosperity. Mohamed proposed that the ADBI would benefit from creating local units which deal directly with MSMEs; with this, a dialogue between banks and organisations will begin – reducing banks’ perception of entrepreneurs as agents and reluctance to lend, whilst increasing trust, quality and frequency of reporting.

A further suggestion from Mohamed proposes that SMEs employs or train managers, arguing that the entrepreneur lacks managerial experience. Employment of management staff is something he’s seen great success with in industry with organisations seeing a ten-fold growth in profits. This is the focus of Mohamed’s new research project.

Finally, Mohamed gave keynotes to executives from the Chinese banking industry at the 2016 China-UK Financial Talent Education Meeting on Banking (pictured above right). This was organised in October in Guangzhou in collaboration with Guangzhou Tianhe Central Business District Administrative Committee and the UK Department for International Trade. Around 200 senior executives from commercial banks in Guangdong Province attended this meeting. Mohamed’s keynote was on China’s banking sector. He focused on opening new banks to serve SMEs which are significant in Asia, representing up to 99% of business.

Mohamed was also invited to join a high profile panel which was composed of senior executives from Central Bank of China and other major Chinese banks to discuss the global trends in banking and its implications for Chinese financial sector.

By applying his research to these organisations, Mohamed is making a difference to the development of policy and emerging economies across Asia.

Expert comment: 10 ways to keep your house warm (and save money) this winter, by Dr Robert Marchand

Monday, November 14th, 2016

In Britain, people typically switch their central heating on in October and use it daily until March or April. This coincides with the clocks going back, the drop in temperature and Winter Fuel Payments – to anyone who receives the state pension.

Heating homes accounts for over 70% of household energy consumption. So reducing this figure – while keeping homes warm enough – not only cuts energy bills, but helps meet the carbon reduction commitments that the UK government is legally required to deliver.

The most recent figures show that 2.38m households in the UK are in fuel poverty – which basically means that almost 11% of British homes cannot afford to keep warm. But while the scale of this problem is significant, not all the solutions need to be complex and costly. So here are 10 simple tips for keeping your home warm for little or no extra cost – just in time for that severe weather warning.

1. Use your curtains

Heat from the sun is free so make the most of it. Open your curtains and let the sunlight in during the day to make use of this free heat. When it gets dark, shut your curtains, which act as another layer of insulation and keep warmth in your rooms. You should also make sure you don’t have any leaks or gaps so that the warm air can stay in and the cold air stays out – this also helps to reduce condensation.

2. Use timers on your central heating

The Centre for Sustainable Energy advises that programming your boiler to turn the heating on a little earlier – such as 30 minutes before you get up in the morning – but at a lower temperature is cheaper than turning it on just as you need it at a higher temperature. This is because a boiler heats up at a constant speed whether you set your thermostat to 20°C or 30°C. But don’t make the mistake of leaving your heating on low all day – because then you’re just paying for heat when you don’t need it.

3. Move your sofa

It might feel great to have your favourite seat in front of the radiator, but it’s absorbing heat that could be warming your home. By moving it away from the radiator, hot air can circulate freely. The same goes for your curtains or drying clothes – keep them away from the radiator so that you can get the most out of your heat source.

Keeping cosy doesn’t have to cost the earth. Shutterstock

4. Maximise your insulation

When it comes to heat, around 25% is lost through the roof. This can be easily reduced by installing 25cm of insulation throughout your loft. It’s also worth seeing what’s going on in your walls, as around a third of the heat in an uninsulated home is lost this way. Although it’s not as cheap to install as loft insulation, cavity wall insulation could save up to £160 a year in heating bills. It’s also worth checking with your energy supplier to see if they have any insulation schemes running – which can sometimes mean cheap or free installation.

5. Wrap up warm

If you have a hot water tank, make sure it is properly lagged – or insulated. This will keep the water warmer for longer, and reduce heating costs. The Energy Community reckons that insulating an uninsulated water tank could save up to £150 a year – but even just upgrading your tank’s “old jacket” will help to save money.

6. Turn down the dial

This may seem a little counter-intuitive, but bear with me. The World Health Organisation previously recommended a minimum temperature of 21°C in the living room, but Public Health England revised this to 18°C in 2014. And research shows that turning your thermostat down by 1°C could cut your heating bill by up to 10%. So keep the dial at 18°C, save money and avoid the negative impacts of a cold home .

This will do just fine, thank you. Shutterstock

7. Block out the draughts

Even a simple solution such as a making your own sausage dog draught excluder will help keep the warmth in your home. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that DIY draught-proofing your doors, windows and cracks in the floor could save £25 per year. You can do this yourself for very little cost. Self-adhesive rubber seals around doors and windows and door draught excluders are relatively cheap and easy to install. So it’s worth getting those doors and windows sealed before winter properly kicks in.

8. Install thermostatic radiator valves

Research at the University of Salford has shown that installing heating controls and theromostatic radiator valves results in energy savings of 40% compared to a house with no controls. These work by allowing you to programme your heating to come on at predefined times – so you only use energy when you need it. New smart thermostats can also be controlled remotely via your mobile so you can turn on your heating on the way home, ensuring it’s nice and toasty when you arrive.

9. Upgrade your boiler

If your boiler is more than 10 years old, it may be time to replace it with a new, more efficient model. Depending on your old boiler type and house, you could save up to £350 with a new A-rated condensing boiler – which uses less energy to produce the same amount of heat. Plus, if it’s new, you’re less likely to have any issues going into the winter season.

10. Reflect the heat

Radiator panels are relatively cheap, easy to install, and ensure that heat from your radiators warms up your room and not your walls. They work by reflecting the heat back into the room.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Study demonstrates how academia and business can ensure sustainability of resources

Monday, October 17th, 2016

Lenny Koh

Collaboration between business and academia can identify the most urgent research priorities to ensure the sustainability of food, energy, water and the environment, according to a new study.

Companies both depend upon and impact the environment, yet their perspectives are often overlooked by the research community which lacks access to business thinking. Equally, businesses find it challenging to engage with the academic community, and to define researchable questions that would benefit from more detailed analysis.

This study, convened by the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), engaged over 250 people, including Prof Lenny Koh from the Management School and companies such as Asda, EDF Energy, HSBC and Nestlé, to co-produce research priorities that are scientifically feasible and also include outputs that can be practically implemented by the business community.

The project is part of the work of the Nexus Network, a network of researchers and stakeholders coordinated by CICL, the University of Sheffield, the University of Sussex, the University of East Anglia and the University of Exeter, and supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Prof Koh, co-author of the study and director of the Advanced Resource Efficiency Centre at the University of Sheffield, said: “This collaborative research shapes interesting research priorities using the nexus approach on food, energy, water and the environment. The co-design by leading academics and industry provides strategic directions to help address the global natural resources sustainability challenges. With the backing from ESRC, the nexus approach gives a platform to consider these challenges in an integrated way.”

“It links to the mission of the Sheffield University Management School, which integrates sustainability throughout its vibrant environments on research, learning and wider impact. Our involvement in Nexus2020 research is an excellent example demonstrating our sustainability leadership in this field.”

Several themes emerged from this study, highlighting the issues that require more research and better engagement between the academic and business communities. These included research around development of pragmatic yet credible tools that allow businesses to incorporate the interactions between food, energy and water demands in a changing environment into their decision-making; the role of social considerations and livelihoods in business decision-making in relation to sustainable management; identification of the most effective levers for behaviour change; and understanding incentives or circumstances that allow individuals and businesses to take a leadership stance on these issues.

It will be the role of multi-disciplinary groups of researchers and business practitioners to devise the projects that will deliver the solutions to these pressing issues around food, energy, water and the environment.

The damage is already done: Greater environmental risks identified in ‘green’ material

Monday, October 17th, 2016

Lenny Koh

Expertise from a University of Sheffield research team, comprising two leading departments, has used life cycle analysis to find that legislation proposing the replacement of a common material has led to wider use of an even more toxic substance.

Professors Ian Reaney (Materials Science and Engineering) and Lenny Koh (Management School, pictured above) undertook the first comparative life cycle analysis of piezoelectric materials as part of an EPSRC project. Their findings indicate that a replacement for lead zirconate titanate (PZN), recommended by global authorities due to its green credentials, is more dangerous to the environment.

The mining and production process for the recommended replacement, potassium sodium niobate (KNN), releases heavy metals and radioactive materials and has a significant adverse effect on air quality, water quality and the land. By applying life cycle analysis to both materials, Reaney and Koh were able to identify that harmful effects of KNN took hold on the environment prior to using the material – the damage was done before it even reached manufacturers meaning that EU legislators could have been unaware of its implications.

These findings will have a significant impact on global policy and the manufacturing sector. Piezoelectric materials are used in a wide array of products and projects including sensors, military hardware, generators and smart structures – global demand for the material is estimate at $1billion with an annual growth rate ten per cent.

Prof Koh, co-investigator on the research, said: “Our findings demonstrate the pivotal role of life cycle analysis in determining the environmental sustainability of substitutions of materials. Materials scientists, engineers and industry must consider the life cycle impact of materials in design and manufacture before deciding on the preferred substituted choice. Legislative bodies play a leading role in enforcing such responsibility in order to protect the scarcity and criticality of materials resources and prevent unsustainable practices.”

The main findings of this study were recently published by the Royal Society of Chemistry in the Energy and Environmental Science Journal. Lead author on the paper, Dr Taofeeq Ibn-Mohammed, is an ESPRC research associate and works with Professor Koh at two centres linked with the Management School, the Advanced Resource Efficiency Centre and the Centre for Energy, Environment and Sustainability. Of the work, he said: “Overall, the research demonstrates that application of life cycle analysis and supply chain management to a strategic engineering question allows industries and policy makers to make informed decisions regarding the environmental consequences of substitute materials, designs, fabrication processes and usage.”

Professor Reaney, principal investigator on the project, concluded: “The research has strong implications for future legislation concerning piezoelectrics within the European Union and worldwide.”

Do you remember the drought of 1976? Memories of the historic dry summer could influence SUMS research

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

Researchers want to know what you remember about the 1976 drought for an academic project.

On the 40th anniversary of the country’s most severe water storage in living memory, Dr Tina McGuinness from the Management School is part of a national team urging those who have memories to share their accounts.

How did you cope? Did it bring people together in communities? What sacrifices did you have to make? How did it affect your life in Sheffield? The anecdotes will contribute towards a £3.2million project named Drought Risk and You (DRY) which aims to provide new evidence for managing future droughts, drawing on science and experience.

Dr McGuinness said: “In June 1976, temperatures of 30 degrees-plus were recorded for as many as 16 consecutive days in the UK, and many reservoirs dried up as a result – it gripped the nation, and we want to capture some of the memories that endure 40 years on.

“The stories are a valuable component of our research, and they need to be considered when looking at solutions for future droughts. How did it affect you, your family or your work? We want to hear the positives and the negatives – from enjoying watching kids playing in the sunshine, to struggling to keep the family hydrated. Your account of that summer could have an impact on how we cope with future droughts.”

The four-year DRY project, which brings together researchers from eight universities and institutes, aims to ensure that the country is better prepared for another extreme water shortage.

Dr McGuinness continued: “Climate change, often leading to extreme weather, is a huge global challenge and we require action from everyone to cope with future crises. This is an opportunity for people to contribute with their narrative of June 1976.”

This study will focus on the impact of drought on seven river catchments, including the River Don which Dr McGuinness is leading on. These are the Cornwall River Fowey; River Frome (Bristol); River Pang (Wiltshire); Bevills Leam (Fenlands); Afon Ebbw (South Wales); and the River Eden (Fife).

The research team is led by UWE Bristol and also includes the University of Sheffield, Loughborough University, NERC’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Harper Adams University, University of Warwick, University of Exeter, University of Dundee and Climate Outreach.

Contribute memories via the following routes:

  • Add your story as a comment on this page: http://bit.ly/dry-1976
  • Tweet your images and memories of past and current droughts, and local water-use: @Project_DRY
  • Contact us if you would like to join our workshops: +44 (0)117 32 87024

 

Find out more about the project online at dryproject.co.uk and @Project_DRY on Twitter.

Postgraduate students place highly at International Graduate Competition

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

Hear from our four students who came a fantatsic second in the HEC Montreal International Graduate Competition, as well as one of their mentors Professor Tim Vorley:

Environmental credentials grow at SUMS

Friday, May 6th, 2016

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As part of its commitment to environmental behaviour, the Management School has been awarded a Green Impact Bronze award.

Green Impact is a sustainability accreditation scheme, run in over 50 universities across the UK. It involves both staff and students, bringing them together to green their institutions and create positive change. Dr Sonal Choudhary, lecturer in sustainable management (pictured above), founded the Management School departmental team in 2015 and it has grown quickly, both in size and visibility.

Aligning neatly with the School’s dedication to socially-responsible behaviour, Sonal has led the team to great success – not only securing the bronze accreditation, but also raising awareness of opportunities to save energy and recycle around the school.

She has been nominated for the Community Action Award at the Green Impact awards ceremony on 20 May 2016 for her work on a first-year module, Business Challenges. In 2015, Sonal set the Eco Challenge (linked to the NUS’s Switch Off campaign) to six teams of undergraduates who were tasked with reducing energy and water consumption in student housing, as well as increasing recycling activity. The teams worked closely with the NUS’s environmental advisor and saw great success in particular flats – in fact, their efforts led to a five per cent reduction in energy usage and more awareness around sustainable ways to recycle.

A student member of the Management School’s Green Impact team, Jad Soubra, has also been nominated for the Best Team Member award for his contribution as Green Impact auditor. Taking on the role in a voluntary capacity, the BA International Business Management third-year was inspired by Sonal’s Corporate Social Responsibility module.

Jad said: “The module, which involved analysing the detrimental effects of corporations on the environment and discussing what is being done to lead the business world towards socially responsible future, furthered my existing passion for sustainable development and the climate change movement, so when the opportunity to take part in Green Impact presented itself I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. I was also both very excited and proud to hear that this was the first year of the Management School’s involvement in the scheme and requested to work with the School’s Green Impact Team.

“The training was enjoyable and informative. Initially we were introduced to the Green Impact scheme and how it operates. To prepare us for the year ahead, we were divided in teams and asked to complete some situational tasks which we were likely to come across when working with our Green Impact Teams. We also had skills building sessions on Team Management and Behaviour Change. Since the majority of my other teamwork experiences have been with my peers, I have found it very interesting working directly with Management School staff. I also found it motivating to be given the platform to help generate positive change within my department. I have come out of this role with far more knowledge, skills and competencies that I am certain will help me in the future.

“Firms all over the globe are increasingly concerned with the environment and how to minimise their harmful impact and many seek to employ those who share these values. My work with Green Impact has proven my interest in and dedication to this cause and will continue to do so in the future.”

Watch this space for news from the awards.

Comment: Lifetime ISA – there’s a big part of the ‘next generation’ it will do little for. By Prof Josephine Maltby

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

By Prof Josephine Maltby Chair in Accounting at Sheffield University Management School. Originally published on The Conversation.

The mission statement for the 2016 budget delivered by George Osborne is to “put the next generation first” – a group he referenced 18 times in his speech.

The new lifetime ISA is fundamental to achieving this. Osborne touted it as “a completely new flexible way for the next generation to save”. But a closer look at the terms and conditions of the new ISA shows there are many it will not benefit.

So, what is it?

Starting in April 2017, savers aged between 18 and 40 who open the new lifetime ISA and put in up to £4,000 a year will get a 25% top-up from the government until they reach 50. That means a maximum of £128,000 in personal savings that will be topped up to £160,000 if you start at 18 and continue for the 32 years the ISA is available.

After the first 12 months of saving, investors can use the lifetime ISA balance to buy a house, provided it is a first-time purchase that costs no more than £450,000. And balances from the current Help-to-Buy ISA can be transferred across. After the age of 60, savers can withdraw funds “for retirement” free of tax. It is not clear whether that means the saver has to actually retire or just needs to be over 60.

Any withdrawals by savers under 60 who aren’t buying a house (unless they are terminally ill) will have the government top-up (plus any interest on it) deducted, and also suffer a 5% tax charge.

Inflexible

It is questionable how useful this new lifetime ISA is for the next generation. First off, it is not very flexible. Savers needing to draw money out before they reach 60 will be penalised if it is not being withdrawn for a first-time house purchase (or terminal illness). There is a dearth of opportunities for short or medium-term saving, and the budget offers no solution.

The Treasury’s own Policy Costings are also vague about what it will cost. The Treasury admits that:

The main source of uncertainty is the behavioural impact, because the cost of the top-up is extremely sensitive to it. In particular, assumptions are made about: the number of people choosing to use the lifetime ISA; how much they choose to save; and when they choose to withdraw.

There is little information that can be used to inform these assumptions and the behaviour is dependent on a variety of other factors, which amplifies the uncertainty.

Based on these uncertainties, the Treasury says it could cost £850m to service these ISA savings by 2021 – but this might be less or it might be more.

It all depends on the number of next generation members who can afford to use it. The £4,000-a-year maximum would be challenging for people on the median household disposable income, which for 2014-15 was £25,600 according to the Office for National Statistics.

On the other hand, as the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the UK’s fiscal watchdog, points out, wealthy parents could give their over-18 offspring an annual £4,000 for the ISA, attracting the £1,000 a year top-up.

Knock-on effects

The lifetime ISA joins up with the Help-to-Buy Scheme, currently viewed as having boosted UK property prices – by an average of £8,250 according to a 2015 Shelter study. The OBR warns that the new ISA will only increase demand for the relatively fixed supply of UK housing. It estimates that this could lead to an additional 0.3% increase in house prices.

Up, up and away – house prices, that is.
shutterstock.com

The ISA has another possible function, as a first step in a move towards an ISA-based regime for pensions. Instead of getting tax relief on pension contributions (as you do now), people using a pensions ISA would contribute from income after tax, but get their retirement income from it tax free.

Critics claim that this change may deter savers, as well as creating confusion while the new auto-enrolment scheme is still bedding down. The Association of British Insurers has been very cautious in welcoming the new ISA, commenting that it “must not be a back door to a pensions ISA”. But there is agreement in the industry that the new ISA is a likely step in that direction.

The new lifetime ISA also looks like a move toward asset-based welfare. This is where welfare policies are made not simply because they are helpful for as many people as possible – like social housing or nationalised health services. The lifetime ISA is aimed at a particular set of relatively affluent individuals who can afford to save for the long term.

Many of the next generation will never be able to save; some won’t be able to start at 18 (and maybe not even at 40) and some won’t be able to leave a lot of money in an ISA for the long term. George Osborne’s new lifetime ISA has little to offer those members of the next generation.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.