Original Research

Enablers and inhibitors of efforts to reduce Scope 3 emissions – The case of an ODeL university

Thelma Louw
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 18, No 1 | a1104 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v18i1.1104 | © 2022 Thelma Louw | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 June 2021 | Published: 20 January 2022

About the author(s)

Thelma Louw, Department of Quality Assurance and Enhancement, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


Background: The reconfiguration of the South African higher education landscape in 2003 and 2004 had a significant impact on the University of South Africa (UNISA) and Technikon SA (both distance education institutions) which merged to form the ‘new’ UNISA.

Aim: The aim of this conceptual study is to explore the extent to which the policies of the post-merger UNISA are enablers or inhibitors of efforts to reduce its Scope 3 carbon emissions.

Setting: Staff commuter patterns between the main campuses of UNISA and the policy environment that has an impact on such travel.

Methods: The aim is achieved by means of a case study methodology that considers the relevant policies of the university and applicable results of a 2018 UNISA staff travel demand survey to determine whether the policies are incongruous with the institution’s attempts to reduce its carbon footprint in general, and its Scope 3 carbon emissions in particular. The impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on defining a ‘new normal’ for the university’s operations, and the impact thereof on staff commuting, have been discussed.

Results: The study revealed that despite being an Open Distance E-Learning (ODeL) institution, the university has not put a coherent policy framework in place that undeniably supports its efforts to limit or reduce its Scope 3 carbon emissions. This was brought into stark focus by the measures the university was forced to put in place as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown regulations in South Africa, to ensure the continuation of its business.

Conclusion: The conclusions will assist UNISA - and other universities which have had to revisit their operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic - to define a true ‘new normal’.


travel demand management; Scope 3 emissions; telecommuting; distance education; sustainability


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