2 in 5 institutions are unconfident or don’t know whether they will meet their decarbonisation targets

Out of the UK’s 400+ universities and colleges, there are very few easy-to-find examples of carbon neutral campuses. Becoming a green campus is not just the responsibility of estates or sustainability managers; but instead should be a collaborative effort from every stakeholder and every team, at every level, across the institution.

We wanted to understand what challenges and barriers were stopping or stalling institutions from becoming a green campus and understand what – if any – influence sustainability of a campus had on prospective students.

Published: 1st May 2022
Area: Education

What is a green campus?

Taking into consideration all the aspects that prospective students and institutions expect as part of a green campus, experts in education Shakespeare Martineau defines a green campus as

A green campus collects and reports on its energy consumption, is carbon neutral, limits or eliminates food, water and energy waste and only works with like-minded suppliers and partners. The institution works closely with the community, colleagues and students to educate, innovate and drive sustainable improvements, making a positive contribution to local biodiversity and the environment through research, course curriculum and proactive projects.

Key findings

  • Just 1 in 10 institutions are ‘very confident’ they’ll meet the government-set carbon targets
  • 77% of institutions state finance as a barrier from becoming a ‘green campus’ and almost a third (31%) blame a resistance to change within the institution
  • 79% of prospective students want institutions to have clear strategies for climate change
  • Yet with less than half (48%) of institutions agree that factoring climate change into decision making would be important to prospective students.
Sustainability is important to students

We asked 1,000 16 to 19-year-olds planning on applying to college of university how important sustainability is to them – comparing this to the answers of more than 130 HE and FE representatives shows a clear disconnect between want institutions think students want and what they actually desire.

Making real change

In the report we offer examples of best practice, signpost solutions and make calls to increase measurement and senior leadership accountability.

Why does this matter?

At Shakespeare Martineau we are experts in the education sector and – as a business working towards B-Corporation accreditation – we are committed to supporting our clients reach their net zero goals.

Smita Jamdar, head of education at Shakespeare Martineau, said: “Becoming a green campus and hitting sustainability targets is not something that can be achieved overnight. However, every institution, regardless of size, has measures within their remit that can help improve green credentials.

“What’s clear is that the solutions to becoming a green campus lies in cross-institutional activities, such as leadership and management, teaching and learning, research and innovation, and services and facilities. These will be challenging to co-ordinate and implement, but also offer a common, cohesive goal for the whole institution to work towards.

“We believe that transparency and collaboration between institutions and partners such as lenders, lawyers and consultants could be the key to unlocking potential in campuses across the UK.”

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