Project Description

As well as using the Conservation Hierarchy for managing the private sector’s direct negative impacts on nature via development and supply chains, it can also be adapted for improving the overall sustainability of any institution’s operations.

To exemplify this, the Oxford Partnership for Operationalising the Conservation Hierarchy (OxPOCH) is experimenting with the Conservation Hierarchy as a framework for improving Oxford University’s ecological footprint. OxPOCH is using the Conservation Hierarchy as a framework to guide actions towards this overarching outcome, with a focus on two high impact areas:

1. Food consumption
2. Land and biodiversity management

The project unifies all academic divisions, university administration, colleges and the student body, as well as external partners and Oxford city, to achieve these environmental objectives…

Food consumption

Food consumption – particularly meat and dairy – is a major contributor to the University’s ecological footprint. Individual consumers can create significant changes to their carbon footprints by changing their diet, yet consumers may struggle to make informed sustainable food choices because they lack the knowledge and facts.

Recognising this, OxPOCH aims to reduce the environmental impact of the University’s food consumption by understanding and shaping consumer’s food choices, using a Conservation Hierarchy approach to guide individual actions. To achieve this OxPOCH will:

1. Calculate and display the environmental impact of available food choices in University halls and canteens, using an innovative eco-labelling approach, to inform consumers about the relative environmental impact of different meal choices.
Our new eco-labelling initiative, run in conjunction with the LEAP project will aim to quantify, display and traffic-light impacts of meals in halls and canteens by four environmental measures:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions (in CO2 equivalent)
  • Biodiversity impact (species extinction impact)
  • Water usage
  • Toxic chemical usage

2. Measure the effect this information intervention has on consumer behaviour, and determine what factors affect consumers’ food choices

3. Use these factors to experimentally ‘nudge’ or prompt consumers to choose more sustainable foods, including eating less meat
Behavioural nudges will be framed within the steps of the Conservation Hierarchy (e.g. the 4Rs), and the broader Conservation Hierarchy of the University, enabling a nested approach to reducing the University’s carbon footprint and ecological impact.

OxPOCH has an inter-disciplinary core team, who are working throughout University departments and partner organisations

EJ Milner-Gulland

PI; MPLS Division

Henry Grub

Coordinator; MPLS Division

Brian Cooke

Medical Sciences Division

Joseph Poore

Oxford Martin School

Richard Grenyer

Social Sciences Division

Bart Ashton

Lady Margaret Hall

Nick Brown

Linacre College

Daniel Grimley

Humanities Division

Kaya Axelsson

Oxford Student Union

Harriet Waters

Estates Services

Adam Bows

Estates Services

Wendy Shepherd

Gardens, Libraries & Museums

Prue Addison


Julia Baker

Balfour Beatty

Cheli Sinclair

Synchronicity Earth

Sam Sinclair

Biodiversify Ltd

We are collaborating widely to bring about measurable change
It is imperative that sustainability projects take a unified and collaborative approach. We’re engaging and reaching out in a variety of ways:

  • Providing opportunities for Oxford researchers, and particularly students, to collaborate with our research and join our partnership
  • Providing best practice guidelines, for colleges, departments and other parts of the university, to share past experiences
  • Reaching out to non-university others within the city, county and beyond for collaborative research
  • Engaging the general public via our partners in the OUM, Synchronicity Earth, BBOWT, Good Food Oxford and the Public Affairs Directorate
  • Disseminating our work widely, internally and externally: via this website, literature, events, talks, online tools (including gaining international impact via the
  • 2020 UN processes)