Oxford Partnership for Operationalising the Conservation Hierarchy (OxPOCH)

Researcher name: Henry Grub, EJ Milner-Gulland

Period: (start and end dates)  October 2019-September 2021

Funder: OUP John Fell Fund


Outline of research:

It is a huge challenge to integrate the vast array of actions needed to fulfil targets for global sustainability and conservation. The CH is a new theoretical framework created with the aim of being scalable for any organisation, business, institution or government to help them incorporate different sectors at different scales and consistently monitor and report in order to progress towards an overarching common measurable goal. The CH aims to assist progress towards the UN’s SDGs, and has been adopted by the IUCN. For this project, we aim to make this theory a reality (operable), using the University of Oxford as a case study. See Arlidge et al. (2018) in BioScience: https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biy029


We are using the University of Oxford as a testbed for the CH, with the overarching aim of improving this institution’s sustainability. This is an integrated approach – this project brings together all academic divisions, plus university administration, colleges and the student body, as well as external partners and the wider Oxford city: this is a unified approach.

We aim to tackle two key areas of research over the next two years of the project:


1. Food: food consumption is a major contributor to the University’s carbon and ecological footprint.

a. To calculate and display the environmental impact of food consumption across the university.

b. To determine factors affecting food choice by consumers, and using this to meet new impact targets by prompting more sustainable consumption patterns.


2. Infrastructure and Biodiversity: the university’s estate is under constant development but also holds vital biodiversity, both within and outside the city.

a. To calculate the biodiversity impact of University infrastructure projects.

b. To develop a ‘biodiversity net gain’ strategy and collaborate to mitigate against the ecological and biodiversity impacts of University development.


Summary of planned activities:

We aim to reach out across the whole university – and the city – in multiple ways including:

It is imperative that projects for sustainability take a unified and collaborative approach – for this project we aim to engage and reach out in a variety of ways – and we always want more partners and help!

i. Provide opportunities for Oxford researchers and students to assist with our research and collaborate with theirs

ii. Provide example best practice guidelines, for colleges, departments and other parts of the university, to benefit from the experiences of the project partners

iii. Create a unified sustainability platform for all in Oxford university to develop strategies and policies, for monitoring, behaviour change and implementing research findings

iv. Reach out to others within the city, county and beyond, including through our unified platform

v. To engage the general public in particular via our partners in the OUM, Synchronicity Earth, BBOWT, Public Affairs Directorate

vi. To disseminate our work widely internally and externally for maximum impact: our website, literature, events, talks, online impact tools

More information here


Programme outputs:

Sustainability Stakeholder Networking Event, March 2020: Report on Discussions can be read here


A Guide to Understanding & Reducing the Environmental Impact of Food at St Hilda’s

Over the summer of 2020, Crankstart intern and biology undergraduate Niamh Gray worked with the OxPOCH team and the catering staff at St Hilda’s College to analyse the environmental impacts of the food served at the Hilda’s canteen, and then use the Conservation Hierarchy framework, along with the ‘4Rs’ to come up with strategies to mitigate this impact.

Read the Hilda’s handbook here.