Cummins: Boosting sustainable behaviour in the workplace

“The expertise and industry experience that the University brings is something that has added to my own knowledge and has enabled me to approach the topic in a way I hadn’t previously considered.”

Ammaarah Ravat, Compliance Engineer at Cummins

In September 2021, global power technology leader Cummins relocated from their Manston site to a state-of-the art office at Discovery Park in Sandwich. From there, they work with colleagues globally on design and innovation solutions, including hydrogen and low and zero carbon power sources, which are used to power hospitals, schools, marine vessels, buses and trucks in over 190 countries.

The challenge

Ammaarah Ravat posing in front of her office window in a white shirt and dark trousers.

Since moving to the new office, Compliance Engineer, Ammaarah Ravat has been just as interested in coming up with sustainable solutions closer to home. As a Sandwich Site Champion, she took it upon herself to embrace the Cummins PLANET 2050 strategy and improve the sustainability of the Discovery Park site. She had the enthusiasm, but lacked the specialist expertise required to make the project a success. That’s when she decided to reach out to the University of Kent.

The approach

Ammaarah first tapped into the University of Kent’s expertise at the Kent R&D Tech Conference in 2022. “The conference was brilliant! Whilst there, I dropped into Dr Rob Barker’s lecture related to sustainability but didn’t get a chance to talk to him. Then I signed up to a student research study which was advertised on campus and it just happened to be one that Rob supervised.”

Following an initial discussion, Rob recommended Ammaarah attend the Net Zero Deep Dive workshops led by him and fellow University of Kent academics to help businesses take steps to achieve their net zero goals. At these workshops, she spoke to Alix Overton and Chloe Skingle; PhD students with a wealth of experience working with industry, who helped Ammaarah plan two key strands of work covered by the Community Renewal Fund vouchers available.

“Cummins and the University of Kent have a history of partnership across a range of disciplines, whether it’s degree apprenticeships, employee development or knowledge transfer. I had a great experience with the University through the 2022 i-Teams project and was excited by the prospect of being able to work again with the University on a topic close to my heart.”

The first part of the project focussed on recycled waste in the Cummins office. Chloe carried out a visual bin audit on site to identify what staff were putting in the general waste and recycling bins, and found that much of what was going in the recycling bin shouldn’t have been in there. To remedy this, Chloe helped Cummins to set up a tetrapak collection point at the Discovery Park and proposed other techniques Cummins can use to improve staff recycling habits.

The second strand of the project examined not only the behaviours of Cummins staff, but those of the Discovery Park as a whole. Alix worked with Ammaarah to design a survey on travel to work and met with the Discovery Park to discuss how they could extend its reach to other 150 tenants. When the survey closed, Alix curated the responses and wrote a proposal which, if put into action, could reduce CO2e per employee from an average of 3.4 tonnes to 2-2.5 tonnes per year.

The result

The project has been a great example of how small steps towards sustainability can make a big difference. Over 130 people responded to the travel to work survey, highlighting some key areas for improvement and ways in which the Discovery Park can use its influence to change the habits of its tenants. Ammaarah and team have shared these insights with colleagues at the Discovery Park and Stagecoach to address complaints around bus times, interest in travelling via e-bike and what can be done to encourage lift sharing.

Now that Cummins have evidence to show that recycling is an issue on site, they are exploring the best way to educate and incentivise staff to change their habits. They plan to use the bin audit approach to monitor the impact of any initiative they put in place and expand their tetrapak recycling to the wider Discovery Park community.

“Collaborating on net zero initiatives and realising them at Cummins Sandwich has enabled me to approach the topic to the wider Discovery Park; through Alix and Chloe, we were able to address important topics like active transport to work and streamlining waste and recycling streams across the entire site for the benefit of the 3,500 people in the Discovery Park Sandwich community, not just the Cummins office. I’d encourage other businesses to undergo the same experience if you’re looking to make a difference to your workplace and the people that surround it.”

Dr Rob Barker and his team have also been working with Duke Voyagers Shipyard and WebComm on net zero projects. Find out more about them in the videos below.

Webcomm: driving sustainability in the manufacturing industry


The Duke Voyagers Shipyard: Decarbonising the yacht-building industry

About the Community Renewal Fund

The UK Community Renewal Fund was designed to provide £220 million in additional funding to help places across the UK prepare for the introduction of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. The University of Kent and the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce were awarded £625k for the ‘Net Zero Pathway for Change’ Project, which included the University-led Net Zero Deep Dive Training Programme, the Innovation Intervention Vouchers, and the Student Business Innovation Challenge. The use of the vouchers were limited to priority areas of Swale, Thanet, Canterbury and Gravesham.

This funding is no longer available but our dedicated business and innovation gateway team are regularly developing new ways to support the funding of innovation projects between our academic experts and the business community. To speak to our team about the opportunities available, get in touch here.