Policy and Strategy

An environmental policy provides a formal, public and permanent demonstration of intent regarding performance. A sustainability strategy or action plan is crucial for enabling sustained, strategic improvement in environmental performance, backed up by senior management and with adequate resources.

Policy, targets and reporting are key drivers of performance improvement across the sector and the People & Planet University League rewards universities with environmental policies and associated strategies which set specific and time-bound targets or performance indicators covering all major aspects of environmental management.

Simply complying with environmental legislation is insufficient. Universities are only awarded maximum points in this section if their policy or related action plan or strategy sets SMART(Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon or Actionable, Realistic or Relevant, Time-bound) targets for improvements in all eight key areas of environmental management.

Publicly Available Policy

1. Does the university have a public sustainability policy that has been published or reviewed and updated within the last 5 years?

Score 50%


  • People & Planet will look for the policy on the university website and will accept similarly named documents e.g environmental strategy

  • The policy must be clearly signed off at a senior level of the university structure in the last 5 years. The policy must clearly include date of publication and university staff role or committee responsible for the policy.

  • The policy must contain a commitment that the policy be reported on annually to a senior level of the university governance structure, and contain evidence that the policy has been reported on within the last 12 months.


Targets and Strategy


2. Does the university work to an environmental sustainability strategy, setting SMART targets for reducing environmental impact [across 8 key areas]?

Score 50%

At least 5 of these areas must be met to start scoring.

  • Construction & Refurbishment

  • Emissions & Discharges    

  • Community involvement    

  • Biodiversity    

  • Waste management    

  • Travel and Transport    

  • Sustainable procurement    

  • Water    

8 out of 8 criteria met - 50%

7 out of 8 criteria met - 40%   

6 out of 8 criteria met -30%

5 out of 8 criteria met - 20%

Fewer than 5 - 0%


  • Where an environmental management system (EMS) has been used to set the targets in Question 2, it is not sufficient to use the EMS report to score for this question. These targets must be hosted in a place that is easily accessible to students, such as a sustainability strategy or similar.

  • SMART targets (Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon or Actionable, Realistic or Relevant, Time-bound) e.g. a baseline has been measured and a time-bound target has been set for when the goal will be achieved.   

  • Some universities have concluded that they do not produce any emissions or discharges. If this is the case, People & Planet will look for a target that reviews this conclusion at semi-regular intervals or when university activity changes. It is important that universities are re-visiting all key areas of sustainability as their estate grows and changes as we cannot conclude that zero emissions and discharges will always be the case for any given university.   

  • Energy and carbon are usually included within sustainability strategy targets, however for the purpose of the     People & Planet University League, they are accounted for  within both the Environmental Management and Carbon Management sections of the methodology.            

  • We will only score strategy documents that have been published, or reported on within the last 5 years as the strategy should be in date, i.e. “strategy for 2012-16” would now be out of date.   

  • Reconstruction and refurbishment in Scotland: SFC’s Capital guidance requires institutions to achieve standards equivalent to BREEAM ‘very good’ for refurbishments and ‘excellent’ for new buildings in respect of design, procurement and post-construction. The SFC have confirmed that this requirement doesn’t exclude Scottish universities from conducting environmental management audits for existing buildings.
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