Dr Heidi Smith: Focus on behaviour change to embed sustainability

Dr Heidi Smith

At Swansea University, sustainability and wellbeing have been linked with employee benefits and reward because we want to embed sustainability into life here.

Swansea is currently ranked ninth in the Guardian University Green League, and we are proud of our many achievements so far; however, we recognise that the process of embedding means keeping our people focused on behaviours that boost sustainability and wellbeing on an ongoing basis. Our ‘Swell’ programme helps us achieve this.

We introduced Swell, which stands for sustainability and wellbeing, as a new staff benefit in November 2016. It is best described as an employee engagement and behaviour change programme, run in partnership with Jump. It motivates and rewards employees for adopting positive behaviours such as recycling, reducing plastics, travelling sustainably, volunteering and  keeping active.

Since the launch of the initiative, more than 1,400 employees, accounting for 47% of our 3,000-strong workforce, have participated.

Employees are organised into departmental teams and can earn points through a website and app. An annual awards ceremony celebrates successes and rewards top performing teams and individuals, and when participants hit certain thresholds, such as earning 4,000 points for their team through recycling, they can choose from various rewards that promote wellbeing and sustainability. These perks include £5 vouchers for our campus sports centre and arts centre, as well as eco gift vouchers.

Top teams win £50 or £100 to donate to one of four popular local causes: Welsh mental health charity Gofal, support network Caer Las, Swansea-based Discovery and our local Wildlife Trust. These donation rewards help build a sense of community at the University and beyond.

Swell has seen more than 140,000 positive actions logged since its inception, resulting in 250,000 miles travelled sustainably, 64,000 kilograms of CO2 saved, and 36,700 disposable cups avoided.

Dr Heidi Smith is head of sustainability and staff wellbeing at Swansea University