Laboratories are businesses and frequently managers demand that a business case be made to support changes.

Too often business decisions unintentionally damage human and planetary health or impact the most vulnerable.

For more information on how the purpose of business can be changed through leadership and innovation visit Forum for the Future

Laboratories contain people and many activities conducted by people are quite general: transport to work, light, heating, food, water use and waste disposal. There is great scope to improve the carbon footprint of laboratories by behaviour change in these areas alone.

Change can be hard, the number of changes that may be desired can be daunting and require cooperation across the laboratory.

Key Advice:

Form a Green Team within the workplace with representatives from all areas if possible.

Identify the areas you want to change.

Keep goals simple.

There are now a number of frameworks to help businesses change to a more sustainable way of working.


The Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework, developed at Sustainable UCL, is a programme advising on actions which lab users can take to save plastics, water, energy and other resources. Laboratories are awarded either a Bronze, Silver or Gold level depending on how many sustainability actions they take.


LEAN is a group of UK universities that all share a similar motivation, reducing the environmental and economic impact of their laboratories. They believe that the higher education sector should collaborate to achieve the same goals more efficiently and comprehensively. Whilst LEAN is a system operating within the institutions involved, the aim is also to assist other universities in implementing their own Green Labs initiatives.

Investors in the Environment

Investors in the Environment (iiE) is a national environmental accreditation scheme. It is designed to help organisations save money, reduce their impact on the environment, and get promoted for their green credentials. Upon successful implementation of the iiE criteria, members are awarded a recognised stamp of certification. In March 2022 RCVS announced that it had achieved Bronze level membership with Investors in the Environment (iiE). Read more here

International Organisation for Standardization (ISO)

Economic, environmental and societal dimensions are all directly addressed by ISO standards such as BS EN ISO 14001 :2015. These standards aid companies and organizations looking to implement sustainable development goals.

Case Study

Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust (RD&E) and the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare (CSH) offered clinical staff the opportunity to examine their workplace culture and systems and run projects to improve their sustainability, quality & efficiency. The Histology Lab participated in 2018 and you can read about how their Green Team fared here.