Design has a critical role to play in addressing the climate crisis. With huge power to bring about change, designers also have a huge responsibility to help save our planet. As the national body for design in the UK, Design Council wants to galvanise the 1.69m strong design community across the UK to commit to a sustainable, climate-first future. We understand the importance of leading by example. This document sets out our pledge to prioritise the welfare of our planet – as well as its people – in all that we do. 

Our definition of net zero 

We adopt the net zero definition used by the UN’s Race to Zero campaign but recognise that we need to go beyond net zero and consider wider issues of biodiversity, finite resources and social equity.  

Our commitment 

We understand that our activities contribute to the climate crisis. We are committed to monitoring and reducing our Scope 1 and 2 emissions and will reduce these emissions year on year to achieve net zero by 2050. We formally commit to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 primarily through carbon reductions and carbon offsetting only where alternatives have been exhausted. We are developing both an interim and long-term plan for reaching this target, and we will report annually against our progress.  Our Chief Executive will be responsible for ensuring we deliver on our commitments. 

To reduce scope 1 and 2 emissions, we pledge to: 

  • monitor and reduce the emissions from our core operations. Where we do not own premises, we will work with the owners to try and achieve this ambition 

  • monitor and reduce our digital emissions footprint 

  • minimise waste and prevent pollution. 

We have started on this pledge by working with xtonnes on an audit of our carbon emissions. We will share our progress and learning, helping to guide the design community – especially freelancers and SMEs – seeking to be more environmentally responsible. 

We understand that we will make the most meaningful and demonstrable impact in Scope 3, i.e. our wider influence with partners, funders, designers and citizens, as well as where we create value up and down our supply chain.  While hard to measure, we will monitor and reduce our Scope 3 emissions. We will focus on our work with the design sector and our flagship projects, such as our Design for Planet festival. 

Influencing the design sector 

We will use our unique role within the design sector to rally the 1.69m strong design community across the UK to adopt or extend sustainable, climate-first working practices. We will: 

  • individually, and in partnership with other organisations, spread environmental information to, and raise awareness among, the design community and commissioners

  • work with the designers across a range of disciplines to better understand, and define, what Scope 3 emissions means for our sector and how, together, we can work together in more sustainable ways 

  • bring together designers from different disciplines to share learning and encourage innovation  

  • advocate for policy and systems change needed to design a more sustainable future 

  • share the knowledge of Design Council Experts leading on sustainable and inclusive design  

  • create and curate resources to empower designers 

  • provide a platform for those who are already creating change to inspire others 

  • showcase the best sustainable and inclusive design to inspire people across the sector 

  • conduct research into the environmental, social and economic value of design 

  • deliver programmes for organisations aiming to achieve net zero

There is much that the design community can do to reshape the way we live. Working together, we can create a pathway to a better future. 

Working with our supply chain 

We are also committed to partnering and contracting organisations that share our values, and using our expertise and influence to drive positive environmental impact across our programme delivery, research activities, and advice to government. 

To reduce scope 3 emissions in our supply chain, we pledge to: 

  • encourage and support, whenever possible, the sustainable use of local resources and local expertise

  • ask all our current and future suppliers for their environmental policies and for evidence of implementation of such policies, and indicate that such performance will be used as criteria for supplier selection 

  • comply with all relevant legislation, regulations and applicable codes of practice.