Our environmental sustainability strategy

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Climate change and cancer

At Cancer Research UK, we exist to beat cancer. The impact of climate change is already starting to be felt across the cancer pathway, including in equipment and medicine supply chains, and within the research workforce, and may increase. This could make it harder to prevent as many cancer cases as possible, diagnose cancers sooner and develop kinder treatments. 

Our ambition is to be operationally leading on environmental sustainability in the UK charity sector whilst achieving our mission to beat cancer. Our operations impact the planet in a wide range of ways, but our first environmental sustainability strategy focuses on carbon emissions – the most direct cause of climate change.  

Our environmental sustainability strategy sets out the path we’ll take over the next three years to help us achieve this ambition. 

Our environmental sustainability strategy sets out five objectives: 

  • To reduce our direct and indirect carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 from our 2022/23 baseline 

  • To achieve net zero emissions by 2050 

  • To achieve a 7% average year-on-year reduction of our emissions from 2023/24 until 2030 

  • To embed environmental sustainability in all that we do and influence our partners to do the same 

  • To set further goals beyond emissions reduction as we progress 

We have submitted emission reduction targets for verification to the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi). 

Read the summary

Read the detailed strategy



Michelle Mitchell OBE, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK

“We know beating cancer is a long game, and our environmental sustainability strategy is an important part of our wider long-term strategy and how we continue to act as a responsible organisation.” 

Michelle Mitchelle OBE, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK 



Our long-term approach

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Research approach and laboratories

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Electricity and travel

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Fundraising events

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Retail shops

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Investments and pensions



Our progress so far

We're taking action everyday. We’ve already successfully reduced emissions by 16% from our 2019 Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) report. We’ve achieved this through a number of initiatives across labs, shops, events, in our head office and with our staff, including: 

  • In 2023, we found new homes for over 24 million pre-loved items of clothing that were sold through our shops and superstores. 
  • our 2024 Race for Life medal lanyards will be made from recycled plastic bottles. 
  • 195 members of our staff have volunteered to champion sustainability across their teams. 
  • 2 out of 7 of our laboratories run through Cancer Research Horizons have achieved LEAF silver award and all of them are working towards achieving LEAF gold award in 2024/2025. 
  • 100% of our shops and offices are run by renewable energy. 
  • Over 75% of our shops have been upgraded to LED lighting. 

Learn more about our progress by reading our environmental sustainability strategy.

Access the summary

Access the detailed strategy



How our staff volunteers are making our operations greener


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Print that’s better for the planet 

Since April 2023, we’ve switched 57% of our print activity to recycled paper stock. More than 8 million of the roughly 11 million print materials we produced for mailing and door drop packs were produced on recycled paper. 


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Saving plastic in Cambridge 

Scientists at the Cancer Research Horizons antibody laboratory in Cambridge used to grow bacteria in plastic flasks and throw these away at the end of their experiments. Now, they’ve switched to using glass flasks which can be washed and re-used – avoiding 518 single-use plastic flasks a year and roughly 36kg of virgin plastic (including packaging). This is also saving emissions from the vehicles used to deliver plastic flasks to the lab. 

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Recycling electronic devices 

In 2023, our internal sustainability network set up four donation sessions at our head office for staff to donate their unwanted electronic devices to our tech partner, KoCycle. Our staff donated leads, cables, chargers and adapters, which were all recycled. We’re looking to run these again in our Oxford office this year. 



Contact us

For more information about Cancer Research UK's first environmental sustainability strategy, alternative document formats of our reports or answers to any questions you may have, you can speak to our friendly Sustainability and Environmental Social & Governance (ESG) Reporting team.

Email the Sustainability & ESG team