The People & Planet University League 2008: Methodology

2007 People & Planet University League scroll

Once again the People & Planet University League has taken a dual approach — looking both at commitment to systemic environmental management and at performance. We see both as being essential. The performance indicators reveal how well an institution is performing on the ground. The policy criteria demonstrate whether an institution has a systematic means of improving such performance.

Management and Policy

Publicly Available Environmental Policy

Having a publicly available environmental policy is the foundation on which good, long-term environmental management is built. The People & Planet University League 2008 builds on last year’s policy criteria which looked at whether institutions had an environmental policy but not how good that policy was — this year’s League asks about the quality of the policy considering what it covers and whether it is reviewed.

Point Allocation: (10 points)

The institution has a publicly available environmental policy.

The institution has published the environmental policy in the last two years and/or has reported on it in the last year to a senior member of university administration.

The institution sets targets to reduce environmental impact in the following areas:

What’s in a strong environmental policy?

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Full time environment management staff

Without the expertise and championing of full-time professional environmental management staff, it has been repeatedly demonstrated that green initiatives in universities are unlikely to be systematic, well coordinated and resourced, or have significant success. Environmental managers develop objectives and set priorities, with significant, time bound targets, and can coordinate the work to fulfil them.

Thanks in large part to student campaigning, institutions are beginning to recognise this. Many now have full time personnel dedicated to environmental management and some now have more than one member of staff working on environmental issues. In recognition of this institutions now receive extra points for extra staff members.

It is important to ensure staff throughout the institution take responsibility for environmental management. Extra points will therefore be awarded this year if there are formal schemes to involve other staff members — for example departmental eco-rep schemes.

Point allocation: (12 points)

Institution has a part time member of staff with part responsibility for environmental management (e.g. Health & Safety and Environmental Manager). (2 points)

Institution has a part time member of staff with full responsibility for environmental management / full time member of staff with part responsibility for environmental management. (4 points)

Institution has a full time member of staff with full responsibility for environmental management. (8 points)

Institution has more than one full time member of staff working on environmental issues (sliding scale of points). (10 points)

Institution has the formal involvement of other members of staff in environmental management — (extra points awarded regardless of whether the institution got any points on the above criteria). (2 points)

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Comprehensive Environmental Auditing

An environmental review should provide a comprehensive and systematic analysis of the significance of all the environmental impacts of an institution, and recommendations for their improvement. Only by analysing the total environmental impacts — from energy to purchasing and biodiversity — can a university gain a baseline for monitoring, against which to set targets, and assess priorities for improvement.

The People & Planet University League 2008 builds on last year’s audit criteria and also looks at how comprehensive an institution’s auditing is and whether it is reviewed. Extra points are also allotted if the institution is a part of a formally recognised external environmental management system (e.g. ISO14001, EMAS etc). This recognises the rigorousness of such schemes and applauds the institution for laying themselves open to external scrutiny.

Point Allocation: (10 points)

Institution conducted a baseline environmental review. (3 ½ points)

The institution has reviewed the following areas in the last five years:

The institution is part of an external environmental management system (e.g. ISO14001, EMAS, Ecocampus etc.) (2 points)

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Fairtrade University accreditation

Fairtrade University certification is an objective standard, accredited by the Fairtrade Foundation, for progressive Fairtrade purchasing in universities — a sustainable university will consider its impacts not just in the UK but also on the wider world particularly through its purchasing policies. Being an accredited Fairtrade University demonstrates that the university is, at least in part, considering this.

Point Allocation: (3 points)

Institution is an accredited Fairtrade University with the Fairtrade Foundation.

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Ethical Investment Policy

This criteria is an extra addition to last years. It is important to encourage institutions to take a more holistic approach to sustainability. A strong ethical investment policy ensures a university’s investments are conducted transparently and in an economically viable and socially responsible manner not blind to wider social, environmental, and humanitarian concerns. Currently institutions do not include embedded emissions from their investments when calculating their carbon emissions; People & Planet believe these should also be included. Having an ethical investment policy encourages universities to consider the environmental impacts (of which carbon emissions are part) of the way they invest their money.

Point Allocation: (3 points)

Institution has a publicly available ethical investment policy published in last five years. (1 point)

Institution has a publicly available ethical investment policy published in the last two years and / or reported on annually. (1 point)

The university has, on ethical grounds: a) divested, b) invested or c) engaged with companies as a shareholder. (1 point - no extra points for doing more than one)

What’s in a strong ethical investment policy?

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Energy sources

Universities have a clear responsibility to rapidly reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, to help prevent further climatic destabilisation. Carbon reductions will not be achieved by energy conservation measures alone and it is therefore vital for universities to invest in renewable and decentralised energy. This criteria awards points according to the percentage of energy an institution gets from ‘green’ electricity (defined as those sources which have a zero carbon loading), on-site renewable generation and from on site Combined Heat and Power Plants (an addition to last year). The criteria acknowledges the importance of Higher Education sector support in promoting the production of renewable and decentralised energy in the UK.

Point allocation: (4 points)

% energy derived from Renewable sources (‘green’ electricity and on-site renewable generation) (awarded between 0-3 points depending on percentage).

Institution has CHP (1 point)

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Percentage of waste recycled

By not recycling, universities are wasting money through contributions to landfill tax, and contributing to pollution and climate change. Institutions are ranked according to the proportion of total waste mass they recycle.

Point allocation: (4 points)

% of waste mass/by weight an institution recycles. (awarded between 0-4 points depending on percentage)

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Carbon emissions per head

Combating climate change, and cutting carbon emissions, is the predominant environmental challenge of today — the latest science shows the need for at least 80% carbon reductions in the UK by 2050. Measuring a university’s carbon emissions is therefore a key environmental criterion. All universities should be aiming to reduce their carbon emissions.

People & Planet has chosen to measure the carbon dioxide per head for each university. That is, the total kg of CO2 equivalent emitted from energy use (oil, coal, gas, grid electricity, steam/hot water) divided by the population of the university. Population is calculated according to a ‘full time equivalent’ measurement, for both staff and students.

The criteria only quantifies direct emissions from energy, heating and electricity — it excludes significant other indirect emissions, for example from procurement, travel or flying. And it does not take account of varying circumstances on campus such as old or newer buildings, more energy-intensive research, or the extent of campus-provided accommodation. Alternative indicators such as CO2 per metre squared of building space or per pound spent are equally open to such criticism.

Point allocation: (4 points)

Institution’s carbon emissions per head (0-4 points awarded depending on their carbon emissions)

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5 a), 6 a) and 7a) Improvement in performance indicators

Points are also awarded according to the extent of improvement institutions demonstrate in relation to the three performance criteria that were included in last year’s People & Planet University League. It is important to applaud institutions who demonstrate considerable improvement — they are clearly working to tackle their environmental impact. No institution performed so well last year that they don’t have scope for improvement.

Including points for improvement is also a recognition of the diversity of institutions within the Higher Education sector; differences in circumstances will mean some institutions find it more difficult to perform well in the performance related indicators than others — including points for improvements recognises those institutions who face more difficult circumstances but are still making improvements.

Point allocation: (6 points)

Improvement in % energy derived from Renewable sources. (+2 points for an increase or -2 points for a decrease)

Improvement in % of waste an institution recycles. (+2 points for an increase or -2 points for a decrease)

Improvement in carbon emissions per head. (+2 points for a decrease or -2 points for an increase)

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Water consumption per head

This is an additional performance related criteria — it was not included in the People & Planet University League 2007. This year Estates Management Statistics should be congratulated on collecting a wider range of information than last year; therefore increasing the amount of environmental information available. As a consequence of this we have decided to add another performance criteria this year; we hope to include other performance related criteria in future years.

Each person in the UK currently uses about 150 litres of water every day. This has been rising by 1% a year since 1930 — a consumption level which is not sustainable in the long-term — on current trends over the next 20 years humans will use 40% more water than they do now. Some universities are beginning to take steps to reduce their water consumption by installing grey water systems for example — we applaud these initial efforts and encourage other institutions to follow suit.

Point allocation: (4 points)

Institution’s water consumption per head. (0-4 points awarded depending on their water consumption)

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Grade boundaries were set after the scores were collated.

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Which universities are assessed?

People & Planet has assessed 129 UK universities based on the full membership of Universities UK.

How has the information been collected?

Research for criteria 1-3 and criteria 5

Information for criteria 1-3 and criteria 5 was gathered by The People & Planet University League 2008 Questionnaire which was submitted to universities as a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act / Environmental Information Regulations. The responses to this questionnaire were analysed by a team of student researchers.

Research for criteria 4

Fairtrade University accreditation information was supplied directly by the Fairtrade Foundation.

Research for criteria 6-9.

The remaining four criteria relate to on-the-ground environmental performance outcomes. This information comes from Estate Management Statistics (EMStats), obtained through a freedom of information request to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and computed by People & Planet.

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People & Planet would like to thank the student research volunteers for their dedication and rigorousness. Thanks also to all the university staff who have diligently and, in many cases, enthusiastically assisted our efforts. Lastly thanks to HEFCE for providing us with the Estates Management Statistics.

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