Sustainability: our sector’s current best chance of responding to the urgent demands of climate science – new report
A cross-sector partnership advocating for a more urgent and more co-ordinated approach to sustainability in our universities and colleges is today reporting on the first year in use of its free Sustainability Leadership Scorecard (SLS) tool. AUDE (the Association of University Directors of Estates) and EAUC (the alliance for sustainability leadership in education) have launched the first annual Sustainability Leadership Scorecard Report, to give an overview of the UK and Ireland Higher and Further Education sector’s activity and performance on sustainability.
In an era of growing public/student support and activism around climate and environmental issues; UK parliament debates and rolling declarations of “climate emergency” from public institutions (including more than 90 local authorities and universities such as Bristol and Exeter); and clear guidance from the UN via its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on how we can organise and prioritise a response, there are multiple drivers behind the sector’s focus on sustainability.
The Sustainability Leadership Scorecard was launched last year and has been developed to ensure institutions can track their sustainability progress, celebrate their successes and improve their weaknesses. It is interactive, encourages collaboration, and is aligned to the UN SDGs in its approach. It draws information from HESA EMR data for universities, and a breadth of sector tools as well as allowing institutions to individually submit their sustainability performance across areas including leadership, health and wellbeing, procurement, research, student engagement and adaptation.
The first annual Sustainability Leadership Scorecard Report launches today and summarises data submitted by 45 institutions in the UK and Ireland. Institutions using the tool are clearly able to point to concrete gains from use of the tool, whether in terms of benchmarking to similar institutions, gap analysis, or better high-level reporting of sustainability information. Key findings in the report:
Craig Nowell, AUDE Chair and Director of Campus Infrastructure at the University of Exeter said:
“The SLS is a practical working tool designed especially for the HEI sector to promote member participation. It is collaborative in nature, encouraging learning and a sector culture of benchmarking and continuous improvement. An ever-increasing scrutiny of our sustainability performance and cross functional and sector collaborations, particular in the face of national and international environment and climate change campaigns, will become the new norm.
To every vice chancellor, director of estates, sustainability professional and climate scientist I’d say this: ‘We have a collective responsibility to review our current policies, strategies and work together to minimise carbon and scope 3 emissions, where feasible, and gather ideas on future actions to make a step change to mitigate the impact of our activity. Our students tell us loud and clear the importance they place on sustainability – establishing the SLS as the instrument of choice in your institution is our sector’s current best chance of responding to the issues we face.’ The flexibility of the SLS as a tool, its ‘whole institution approach’, and the way it supports everyone to link activity and strategy are just some of the reasons why I’d encourage a full take-up of the SLS across UK higher education.”
Iain Patton, CEO at EAUC, said:
“Universities and colleges are looking for ways to become more resilient and show foresight in an increasingly volatile environment. Their students are also increasingly looking to them to make a socially responsible and sustainable contribution to the world. The value creation and risk mitigation that integrating sustainability holistically brings, shows why it is the solution to these requirements. But it is difficult for institutions to know where they are doing well and where they need to improve. This tool was created to show what a perfect ‘sustainable institution’ might look like, to inspire institutions to strive for better, and to highlight what they need to work on to progress. And it is free, because we want to support the sector on this journey.
We are pleased to be launching the first annual report and look forward to seeing the sector progress as a whole. We would encourage all institutions to use this tool and start to assess where they are doing well and where they need further support.”