Update to SFC Outcome Agreement Guidance on Leadership in Environmental and Social Sustainability

23rd October 2018

New Scottish Funding Council Outcome Agreement Guidance requires all universities and colleges to develop individual 'creative and innovative' approaches to demonstrate leadership in embedding environmental and social sustainability across the whole institution

In October 2017 the Scottish Funding Council first published a section on Leadership in Environmental and Social Sustainability within their 2017-2019 Outcome Agreement Guidance for both Universities and Colleges. This was developed in collaboration with the EAUC-Scotland team, with our news article on this update available here.

Outcome Agreements set out what colleges and universities plan to deliver in return for their funding from SFC, and are developed for a three year period and updated annually with the support of an SFC Outcome Agreement Manager. The Guidance sets out the priorities for SFC, and the Scottish Government, with Outcome Agreement development led by senior leaders and planners within each institution.
The recently released Outcome Agreement Guidance 2019-20 for both the University and College sectors contains an update to the section on Leadership in Environmental and Social Sustainability, which has been developed by EAUC-Scotland and SFC in collaboration.

Rebecca Petford (EAUC-Scotland Programme Manager) said:

EAUC-Scotland are delighted that this update to the Outcome Agreement Guidance highlights the need for creative and innovative sustainability ambitions tailored to the unique strengths and context of each individual college or university.

The Guidance recognises that other institutional ambitions such as access, equality and health do not sit outside of sustainability aspirations but form part of them, with a focus on staff, student and community wellbeing vital for demonstrating leadership in environmental and social sustainability. Sustainability is not just for the estates team but a whole institutional issue, and should be embedded within everything from the strategic plan to individual module descriptors, HR policies, and procurement decision-making.

We are committed to working with both the Scottish Funding Council and individual universities and colleges to support their unique sustainability journeys.

The text within the guidance is reproduced in full below.


Leadership in Environmental and Social Sustainability

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 set ambitious targets for carbon reduction in Scotland, and led to the requirement for Colleges/Universities and other significant publicly funded organisations to submit a mandatory Public Bodies Climate Change Duties (PBCCD) Report on an annual basis. To capitalise on this activity, the climate change targets and sustainability ambitions for each college/university should also be outlined in their outcome agreement. Climate change targets should be framed within a current emissions reduction plan. SFC acknowledges that each college/university will be at a different stage in their environmental sustainability journey. This stage will have been determined by their access to resources and the opportunity, past and present, to engage in sustainability activity in order to build knowledge capacity. SFC expects that sustainability ambitions will be creative and innovative, capable of application within the college/university and able to deliver sustainable impact that is meaningful to each college or university and their wider communities.

In order to demonstrate leadership in promoting environmental sustainability, SFC expects each college and university to develop approaches and report activity that evidences their corporate commitment to tackling wider environmental and social sustainability challenges, both in mandatory reporting and as part of their own sustainability ambitions. These ambitions and targets should be detailed within wider strategic documents or through a dedicated sustainability strategy or action plan, and recorded in their Outcome Agreement (including providing links to relevant documentation), and should demonstrate either a whole-institutional approach or describe activity that is working towards a whole-institutional approach. SFC expects that evidence of progress against the strategy will be provided from a variety of operational activity such as approaches to governance in sustainability, climate change adaptation and mitigation activities, successful senior management engagement, curriculum links, estates decision-making, student/staff engagement, general wellbeing initiatives and meaningful community links or though other business areas, either in part or across all areas. Support will be available through the EAUC’s programme, and progress should be reported through PBCCD Reporting submissions and the Outcome Agreement process.

SFC anticipates that the diversity that exists within each college and university in terms of population cohort and learning activity will provide opportunities to deliver the type of environmental and social sustainability leadership that is transformative in design and unique to each individual college or university and its wider community. Some of this wider community may include partnerships across other universities and colleges. This activity should also provide colleges and universities with the appropriate evidence to complete the recommended section on ‘wider influence’ in PBCCD reporting.

Potential longer term outcomes of note to SFC as a result of this activity will be to strengthen the competitiveness of the sectors, reduce financial and reputational risks, create innovative opportunities for growth, provide a better learner experience for both students and staff and ensure that students develop the understanding of environmental and social sustainability required for the workplaces of tomorrow.


The Sustainability Leadership Scorecard, recently released by the EAUC and ARUP, provides an ideal platform for institutions to collate the progress they are making on sustainability progress across the institution, set targets for the future based on their unique situation and partnerships, and track progress to meet their sustainability ambitions.

Please contact the EAUC-Scotland Team with any questions or comments.
Update to SFC Outcome Agreement Guidance on Leadership in Environmental and Social Sustainability image #1 Update to SFC Outcome Agreement Guidance on Leadership in Environmental and Social Sustainability image #2