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:
- Just under one fifth (18%) of institutions received an overall performance rating of gold, with over a third (36%) receiving a rating of rating of silver. But the overall sector score for institutions is bronze, showing clear room for improvement in the sector as a whole.
- ‘Estates and Operations’ is the highest performing area with institutions reporting strong progress on creating a sustainable estate, but they are reporting less progress on ‘Partnership and Engagement Activities’, as well as ‘Learning, Teaching and Research’.
- Linking activities to the curriculum is reportedly the hardest area for the sector to achieve and this area is performing poorly compared to others. This is an area institutions must seek to prioritise.
- Small teaching institutions and colleges performed above sector average for the category ‘Leadership and Governance’.
- Within the category ‘Leadership and Governance’, it is reported that institutions are struggling to mitigate the risk category the most. This refers to issues around responsible investment and divestment from fossil fuels. We would encourage institutions to come up with an action plan to tackle this issue.
- The reporting also tracks institutions’ contribution to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The sector is reportedly impacting most positively on SDG 5 Gender Equality, SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities, SDG 12 Responsible Consumption and Production and SDG 13 Climate Action.