Staff and Student Engagement

The university community contributes significantly to its overall environmental and social impact.

Universities that play an active role in engaging students and staff in sustainable behaviour change will be able to make continual improvements in holistic sustainable development more smoothly, cheaply and quickly.

Engagement can have a wider and more significant impact when behaviour and values     experienced by staff, students and visitors to the university begin or embed long-lasting change throughout a person’s life.

Staff and Student Engagement Strategy

The student and staff experience of sustainability at a university is a significant opportunity for the culture shift that we need for social and climate justice.

People & Planet recognise that engagement work could be committed to and reported on within the Environmental Management System. In this criterion we are awarding universities 30% for pulling together the components of student and staff engagement into one place so that they might measure, track and continually progress this vital aspect of the university sustainable development opportunity and make this vision, the targets and progress accessible to the university community and general public.

1. Does the university publish a strategy for student and staff engagement in sustainable development?

Score - 30%

People & Planet recognise that student and staff engagement and communication is often a component of other strategic work:


  • Carbon Management Plan

  • Sustainability Strategy

  • Biodiversity Management Plan

  • Community engagement plan

  • Education for Sustainable Development


The strategies should include the following aspects:

  • Outline of the areas through which the university engages or proposes to engage staff and students for sustainable development    

  • Baselines, or ways of measuring progress toward targets for student and staff engagement    

  • The student and staff engagement strategy/ plan or summary should have been updated or published within the last 5 years and be in date    

  • A mechanism for reporting on student and staff engagement and tracking progress    

  • An implementation plan for student and staff engagement activities including:    

  1. staff or teams responsible

  2. budget and resources allocated

  3. targets and time-frames

  • People & Planet will look for  publicly available student and staff engagement     strategies/ plans / summaries (or similar name) on the university website.    

  • 15% will be awarded for strategies that only cover staff engagement or only student engagement.


Student and Staff Engagement Actions

Score - maximum 15%

2a. Are the university sustainability policy and strategy and other student engagement opportunities for sustainability a component of every student induction? - 5%


  • If universities conduct student induction through residential accommodation services, they should also demonstrate how students living in private accommodation are reached.    

  • People & Planet will look for evidence on the university website    

2b. Does the university actively support an annual Go Green Week or Environment Week? - 5%

  • People & Planet will look for evidence of activity within the last 12 months on the     university website.    

2c Does the university provide funds for student-led sustainability projects? 5%

This question refers to grassroots, practical projects developed and implemented by staff and students.

  • The funds must be from the university rather than from student union - unless the university has funded the student union to be the administrator of the funds    

  • People  & Planet will look for details of how to access the fund and of  the projects currently funded within the last 12 months    

3. Do all staff inductions cover university sustainability policy, strategy and areas for staff to engage?

Score 10%


  • People & Planet will look on the university website for an overview of the staff     sustainability induction process currently in place and how it engages with all new staff.

Trade Union engagement

4. Are invitations extended to recognised Trade Union representatives by way of membership at committees to which the sustainability strategy, carbon management plan and other relevant strategic areas of sustainable development are reported?

Score 10%

  • Trade union participation in university sustainability strategy offers a mechanism for both Trades Union input for sustainability issues and decision-making and the platform for further sustainability achievements.    


  • People & Planet will look for recognised trades union representatives  within the membership of committees to which the sustainability strategy and carbon management plan and other relevant sustainable development decisions are reported.    

  • People & Planet would expect that where there is more than one trades union recognised (i.e. academic, support and facilities staff ) the membership would include a representative from each.    

  • Observer membership does not count.    

Student representation

5. Is there student representation on university committees concerned with estates, planning, finance and strategic decision making?

Score - 25%


‘The governing body needs the appropriate balance of skills, experience, diverse backgrounds, independence and knowledge to make informed decisions. Some constitutional documents specify governing bodies must include staff and student members.’

Committee of University Chairs Code of Governance for Universities.

It is a requirement in most cases that students are represented at the governing body level of every university, therefore People & Planet will not give marks to universities for this.

We are looking for student representation above the implementation stage, yet below the university council stage. It is important that students are represented at the strategic planning, finance and resource allocation stages - in meetings where they are able to participate in strategic decision making and the shaping of the university.


  • People & Planet will look for at least 2 committees with full membership positions for students.    

  • People & Planet will look for student membership on each of the university governance finance committee, estates committee and other relevant strategic decision making committees.    

  • Student involvement in  the oversight and engagement of the sustainability strategy or carbon management plan will be accepted as equivalent to membership of a committee.

  • People & Planet will find this information on the university website.    

  • People & Planet will disregard student membership that is 'observer only'.    

  • Student representation doesn’t have to be limited to student union sabbatical officers.    

Students’ Union


6. Is the Students’ Union or Students’ Association working toward continual improvement for environmental sustainability by mapping, auditing and tracking annual progress of its impact areas?

Score - 10%

  • People & Planet will look for an overview of this scheme on the Student Union or university website    

  • Green Impact Student Unions is among the schemes accepted. People & Planet will look for evidence of frameworks on the university website and check the membership with the SOS-UK.

As the majority of students’ union or students’ associations operate from university managed estate and facilities as part of a formal agreement, the university can support the student organisation to further sustainability improvements by providing expertise on environmental management and the analysis necessary to measure and reduce a set of impacts, e.g. energy consumption baselines and statistics, as well as resources, such as space, time or grants for sustainability initiatives to be undertaken by or in collaboration with the university.


The Higher Education Code of Governance

Green Impact Students’ Union

Students for Co-operation