3. Environmental Auditing & Management Systems

Only by analysing and regularly auditing its different environmental impacts can an institution set targets, assess priorities and monitor trends, performance improvements or gaps.

In recognition of the rigour and accuracy of external environmental management systems, the People & Planet University League awards those universities that have opened themselves up to the external scrutiny of such schemes. In recognition of the incremental nature of accreditation for these schemes, we award points according to progress towards the highest achievable standard in each scheme, as well as taking into account whether or not the standard has been achieved across the majority of the estate and not simply on one campus/department.

environmental management system

(ISO14001, EMAS, Ecocampus, Green Dragon, BS8885)

1a. Does the university have an externally verified environmental management system (EMS), does it cover the whole university estate and what level of accreditation has been achieved.

Score – maximum of 100%

This information is taken directly from the 2019/2020 Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) Estates Management Record here:

If a university has not entered data or has entered data incorrectly, People & Planet must then score this question based on any evidence of audits, and the maximum score possible will be 30%. There is an opportunity for a university to correct or complete data by making an appeal and paying an administration fee. To avoid this, we suggest that university estates and environment staff check the data is present and correct before sending it to be signed off as present and correct by the VC.

The data we use are coded by HESA as follows:

Part of D74d

Environmental management system existence (EEMSE)
Environmental management system external verification (EEMSEXV)
Environmental management system external verification coverage (EEMSEXVC)

  • 01 Acorn BS8555 partial
  • 02 Acorn BS8555 full
  • 03 Eco Campus Bronze
  • 04 Eco Campus Silver
  • 05 Eco Campus Gold
  • 06 Eco Campus Platinum
  • 07 EMAS
  • 08 Green Dragon
  • 09 ISO14001
  • 10 Other

BS8555 and Green Dragon:

If the university is accredited to Green Dragon or Acorn BS8555, we cannot allocate scores based on the level achieved on the certificate (i.e. Acorn has 6 levels) because HESA does not currently collect this information. In 2016 we asked HESA for their definitions of Acorn BS8555 ‘Full’ and ‘Partial’ - they believe these are out of date and are minded to consider revisions for future years. We also asked for clarification as to why Green Dragon levels (1-5) have not been accounted for and HESA believe that this also may be out of date and require revisions for future years. [correct at 1 September 2018 - no revisions yet made].

We will therefore be using the following scoring for BS8555 and Green Dragon systems.

Environmental Management System

Coverage of estate


Green Dragon

Part of estate

Full estate


all levels







Environmental Management System

Percentage of University GIA covered by EMS

Eco Campus



Part of estate

Full Estate














EMAS registered

ISO14001 certified




environmental audits

If the university does not have an externally verified Environmental Management System, it can still score in this section by demonstrating that the university is measuring and monitoring environmental aspects and impacts through regular audits.

Universities will not be assessed on the following criterion if the Estates Management Record shows that the university does have an externally verified EMS.

1b. Has the institution carried out a comprehensive audit of environmental impacts in the last five years?

Score - maximum 40%

The People & Planet University League only awards scores to universities that have audited a minimum of 3 environmental impact areas. This process is a key element of Environmental Management and can form the first steps to an externally verified system.

Areas considered for audit:

  • Waste management

  • Travel and Transport

  • Sustainable Procurement

  • Energy

  • Water

  • Construction & Refurbishment

  • Emissions & Discharges

  • Biodiversity

 Less than 3 audits – 0%

3-4 audits – 15%

5-6 audits – 20%

7 audits – 30%

8 audits - 40%


  • We are looking for evidence which clearly highlights the baseline figures established by the audit in each area.

  • The audit doesn't have to cover every square inch of campus but it must clearly demonstrate that the impacts in that area are being effectively monitored and managed across the university (i.e. that the audit sample has been extrapolated to effectively measure the whole university by way of an indicator).

  • On the university website People & Planet will look for evidence of auditing within the Sustainability Strategy document (or similar) or publicly available reports of the audits highlighting the baseline figures established by the audit and the date when each audit was carried out.

  • Audits of learning, curriculum and research will be assessed in the education for sustainability section

  • Only audits relating to holistic sustainability will be accepted. For example, carbon emissions associated with waste and travel are helpful for carbon management but for environmental management, these audits should baseline waste mass in tonnes and travel survey data should baseline travel habits and modes.