The RCP's commitment to environmental sustainability

The RCP is committed to minimising the environmental impacts of its operations and is continually seeking innovative ways to improve its sustainability.

As a royal college and employer

The RCP began divesting from fossil fuel companies more than 5 years ago and published a new climate policy at the start of 2020, setting a deadline of 2023 for it to end its investment in fossil fuel companies. In April 2021 it announced that it had already achieved this.

The RCP opened its new northern home, RCP at The Spine in 2021, built in partnership with Liverpool City Council, the RCP’s seven floors of the 13-floor building offer one of the healthiest workspaces in the world. In 2024 the internal floors of The Spine in Liverpool became WELL Certified™ at the Platinum level through the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI). The building, designed by AHR Architects, is the only venue in the city to hold the prestigious title.

As a new build, RCP at The Spine gave the RCP the opportunity to incorporate sustainability throughout the building while it was being designed - much more straightforward than having to retrofit sustainability into our 1960s headquarters in Regent’s Park, London.

The RCP was the first royal college to receive Carbon Trust Standard in recognition of its commitment to sustainable working. The certification, in 2018, followed a reduction of 30% in the RCP’s total carbon footprint over the previous 3 years.

While the energy crisis forced the organisation to move away from using electricity from 100% renewable energy in 2022, the aim is to return to this as soon as possible. Meanwhile, work began in 2022 to upgrade the plant and electrical infrastructure at Regent’s Park to make it more energy efficient and reduce the building’s carbon footprint.

In 2019, the RCP received a Silver award from its waste disposal provider, First Mile for recycling 144,480 kg of waste (including 4,925kg of cardboard, 9,125kg of paper, 18,000kg of glass and 6000kg of junk) and offsetting 62.2 kg of CO2.

Also in 2019, CH&Co, the RCP’s caterer, was awarded three stars by the Sustainable Restaurant Association for its commitment to using local and seasonal produce, reducing the environmental impact of transport, serving sustainably caught fish, improving energy efficiency and reducing food waste.

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Within the NHS

Each year, the NHS produces more carbon emissions than all the planes taking off from Heathrow combined. That contributes significantly to global climate change and presents a huge and imminent threat to health, and therefore service demand.

The RCP’s 2017 report, Breaking the fever: Sustainability and climate change in the NHS gave an overview of the impact of climate change on healthcare in the UK. It also explored how physicians and the NHS can contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Our Less waste, more health report explained how health professionals can positively influence societal health and wellbeing by making simple changes to the procurement and disposal of medical supplies.

In 2020 we submitted evidence to the NHS Net Zero call for evidence, which was seeking ideas on how the NHS could reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

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As a public health promoter

The RCP has a long history of promoting public health through evidence-based policy. Physicians and medical professionals have a key role to play not only in managing ill health, but also in supporting people to live healthier lives.

40,000 deaths a year are attributable to exposure to outdoor air pollution which we know plays a role in many of the major health challenges of our day.

The RCP’s 2016 report, Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution set out the dangerous impact air pollution has on our nation’s health. It offered a number of major reform proposals setting to tackle the problem of air pollution and emphasises how the public can do their part to reduce pollutant exposure.

The RCP is a founding member of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change which brings together doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to advocate for better responses to climate change that protect and promote public health.

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Campaigning to make sure UK climate and sustainability policy protects population health is one of the RCP’s four policy and campaigns priorities for 2023-2026, chosen in consultation with RCP members and RCP Council.

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