The University of Manchester

Sustainable Development
Goals 2021/22 Report

The United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are our world’s call to action on the most pressing challenges and opportunities facing humanity and the natural world. As one of the world’s leading research institutions and the UK's first university to have social responsibility as a core goal, we’re tackling the SDGs in four inter-related ways: through our research, our learning and students, our public engagement activity and our operations. 

This is a short version of our much larger report, which is aimed at a wide range of local, national and international audiences across the public, private, NGO, policy and education sectors. We hope it stimulates further ideas, actions and collaboration opportunities and partnerships so that, together, we can play a full role in tackling the world’s SDGs by 2030. 

Dr Julian Skyrme
Director of Social Responsibility

Professor Nalin Thakkar
Vice-President for Social Responsibility 



THE Impact Rankings logo
purple background
world map
uk map



Total entrants 1240 | Countries 98



Total entrants 768 | Countries 85



Total entrants 450 | Countries 76

2019-2021 UK RANKINGS




1st UK university to place social responsibility as a core goal


We produce 4% of the UK's research across the 17 SDGs

Study icon

5,625 study units delivered linked to the SDGs

Zero carbon

Zero carbon campus commitment by 2038

Accredited employer

Accredited employer for
Living Wage, Race, Gender and LGBTQ+ equality

Cultural institutions

1 million+ public visitors to our Cultural Institutions

1. No poverty

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

African Cities Research Consortium  

Researchers from our Global Development Institute are leading a £32 million African Cities Research Consortium funded by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office as part of UK Aid. It will work with international partners to generate new evidence to catalyse integrated, sustainable, inclusive approaches to urban development. 

An ariel shot of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) city scape
2. Zero hunger

Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

Take a Bite out of Climate Change 

Our Take a Bite out of Climate Change partnership aims to share the scientific consensus about how food and agriculture contribute to climate change. It funds easily accessible information and fun activities for citizens such as Climate Food Flashcards, Farming for the Future workshops and the free e-book Food and Climate Change - Without the Hot Air

A person from company 'LettUsGrow' examining fresh produce growing in an Aeroponic Vertical Farm
A representative of the 'Take a bite out of climate change' project explaining an activity at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition
3. Good health and well-being

Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

Humanising Healthcare 

Our Humanising Healthcare initiative embeds community service and engagement within dentistry, pharmacy and optometry programmes. It supports students to deliver essential healthcare and education to communities as part of the curriculum and encourages global volunteering and the development of civic values and skills in the future health workforce.  

 Representatives of the First Language Project (an initiative in Humanising Healthcare) and students interacting at a stall
4. Quality education

Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

Diversifying the school history curriculum 

The collaborative History Lessons research project found that young people were keen to learn more inclusive histories but teachers needed additional support and new resources for a more inclusive curriculum. From this we developed Our Migration Story with The Runnymede Trust and University of Cambridge, creating multiple award-winning web resources, lesson plans and classroom activities exploring the opportunities and the challenges faced by Britain’s migrant communities.  

Three students in the University library discussing a more inclusive curriculum
5. Gender equality

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Students’ and women’s rights 

Our students started a Misogyny Is Hate campaign leading to the government directing police to record crimes motivated by a person's sex or gender for the first time. Our Students’ Union also runs Reclaim the Night resulting in around 2,000 women marching the streets each year to raise awareness of sexual harassment and gender-based violence.  

Students holding up a banner reading 'Misogyny IS Hate'
6. Clean water and sanitation

Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

UK river microplastic pollution

Researchers from our School of Environment, Education and Development have found a direct link between the disposal of untreated wastewater with raw sewage and microplastic contamination of river habitats. Having highlighted the alarming levels of microplastic pollution in UK rivers and the evidence of poor regulation, our academics are now calling for urgent action by governments and regulators to protect our rivers. 

Researchers from The University of Manchester, standing in a river collecting samples of water.
5. Affordable and clean energy

Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

FutureDAMS Approach  

As part of our world-leading FutureDAMS programme we’ve produce a guide to propose a series of steps and principles for conducting public, private and community stakeholder engagement in decision-making around water–energy–food–environment (WEFE) interventions. This is underpinned by the principle that better decisions are generated when a broad range of stakeholders are included in a genuinely participatory manner.  

Drone short of Detroit Dam, Detroit, Oregon, United States
8. Decent work and economic growth

Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

ID Manchester 

ID Manchester is a trailblazing new innovation district in the city of Manchester. It is a 50:50 joint venture between the University and Bruntwood SciTech and has the potential to create more than 10,000 new jobs in the next 10-15 years by providing specialist infrastructure to unlock and commercialise R&D innovation and create sustainable growth and employment opportunities.  

Artist impression of the ID Manchester development
5. Industry, innovation and infrastructure

Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation

Innovation research 

We’re part of Health Innovation Manchester – an integrated ecosystem to discover, develop and deploy new solutions to improve the health and wellbeing of Greater Manchester’s 2.8m citizens.  

Citylabs 2.0 building with trees surrounding it
10. Reduced inequalities

Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries

Equity and Merit Programme  

Our Equity and Merit Programme supports the brightest minds from some of the least developed countries in Sub-Saharan Africa – Ethiopia, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe– to develop skills for the sustainable development in their home countries. Thanks to funding by the University and the generosity of our donors, more than 300 international students have completed master’s programmes with us.  

Equity and Merit scholar leaning against a building
11. Sustainable cities and communities

Goal 11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Air quality 

Our Policy@Manchester publication On Air Quality explores how air pollution affects public health, economic outcomes and acts to widen existing inequalities. Some of the recommendations include extending projects such as the Manchester Urban Observatory and citizen science projects like Britain Breathing to provide accurate on-the-ground information about poor air quality, which disproportionally affects already-disadvantaged communities. We’ve also helped create the Clean Air for Schools Framework which engages and educates the next generation to help them and their families make cleaner air choices. 

Students in a primary school class room participating in the Clean Air for Schools Framework
12. Responsible consumption and production

Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Want Not Waste

Want Not Waste is a student-run, zero-waste shop on campus, supported by the University to grow from a small stall operating out of our Students’ Union, to owning its own independent unit. They’ve also developed a series of online resources to foster a community of knowledge sharing and inspiring pro-sustainable choices. 

Dried fruits and grains in jars
13. Climate action

Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Towards net zero

The University has pledged to support Manchester’s climate change target for zero carbon by 2038. This involves reducing carbon emissions from a 2018 baseline of 54,000 tCO2 to at least 21,000 tCO2 by 2025 and placing carbon impact at the heart of strategic decision making in the University’s new strategic plan.  

Students walking through Brunswick Park on The University of Manchester's campus
Life below water

Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources

Ocean warming and shark survival

Our undergraduate students have assisted a study into the effects of warming ocean waters on the small-spotted catshark embryo’s freeze response: a technique whereby the embryo stops moving so that predators won’t detect them. The research found that with a 5°C water temperature increase there was a seven-fold decrease in the length of time the embryos froze for in the presence of a predator stimuli, indicating that as oceans warm, many shark and ray species may reduce in number due to increased predation. 

Small-spotted catshark embryos
15. Life on land

Goal 15: Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss

Species conservation  

Our Manchester Museum Vivarium is dedicated to the conservation of reptiles and amphibians. We recently partnered with Panama Wildlife Charity (PWCC) on non-invasive research and conservation education involving local communities in the Santa Fe National Park in Panama. This led to a world first in 2021: one of the world’s rarest toads, the Harlequin Frog, was successfully bred in captivity outside its country of origin, at our museum. We also curate a world-famous FrogBlog and deliver a digital Learning with Lucy conservation programme for schools. 

A leaf frog at Manchester Museum's Vivarium
16. Peace, justice and strong institutions

Goal 16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies

In place of war

In Place of War (IPOW) is a global spin-out charity from research in our School of Music and Drama. IPOW works with grassroots organisations in refugee camps, war-affected villages, towns under curfew, cities under occupation, and refugee communities - using creativity in places of conflict as a proven tool for positive change. IPOW enables communities and grassroots change-makers in music, theatre and across the arts to transform a culture of violence and suffering into hope, opportunity and freedom. 

Gang member involved in the In Place Of War project at Lavender Hill Cultural Space. The project worked with past and current gang members in Lavender Hill, South Africa, to understand how creativity can make a difference.
17. Partnerships for the goals

Goal 17: Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development


We lead and participate in global (The Energy Poverty Observatory), national (The Productivity Institute) and regional (#BeeWell) partnerships to advance our impact against the sustainable development goals.  

Our University's sector-leading policy engagement institute, Policy@Manchester, connects researchers with policymakers and influencers, nurturing long-term policy engagement partnerships and impact.   

Colleagues at The University of Manchester discussing climate change research

To see the full extent of our work and bibliometrics surrounding the Sustainable Development Goals, download our full report.

Visit our website for more information