University of Glasgow ranks poorly in eco-friendly ratings

Credit: Andy Arthur

Erin Gallagher
Writer

The University of Glasgow has recently ranked poorly in university ratings of eco-friendliness by an Oxford-based environmental campaign group.

People and Planet, a nationwide student organisation which campaigns for human rights and environmental protection, has ranked Glasgow University 129th out of 150 universities in their most recent annual league table. Glasgow was rated the lowest of all Russell Group universities in the UK, and scored the third lowest of all universities in Scotland.

The table uses information from the Higher Education Statistics Agency as well as published data from individual universities. 13 different factors, such as energy sources, ethical investment, and carbon management, are taken into account and weighted.

Glasgow ranked significantly lower than other institutions in the city. Glasgow Caledonian University placed at 28 and Glasgow School of Art was ranked at 103.

The University of Glasgow received a score of 23.7% – drastically less than Nottingham Trent University, who ranked highest with a score of 76.2%. Glasgow’s highest score was 50/100, in the “Environmental Sustainability; Policy and Strategy” category. This focuses on whether the institution has a publicly available environmental policy which had been published in the last 5 years and was regularly being reviewed.

The University of Glasgow’s score was lowered due to the lack of a comprehensive plan of action to implement a policy that focused on eight key areas identified by People and Planet.

Likewise, Glasgow received a score of 0% in four other sections: sustainable food, waste, recycling, and carbon reduction. Glasgow has no publicly available sustainable food policy, no published recycling scheme for waste, and have been deemed by People and Planet to have not achieved a reduction in their carbon emissions. Glasgow University Climate Action Society (GUCA) stated that they are interested to hear how the University intends to improve their rating, particularly in these areas. GUCA also stated that they are unhappy with Glasgow’s unsatisfactory scoring compared to other UK universities.

Glasgow scored 45% in the workers’ rights and water reduction categories, their second highest scores which were poor in comparison to other institutions. Edinburgh University, for example, scored 75% in the workers’ rights category, which takes into account factors such as their fairtrade status and whether universities pay the living wage and their fairtrade status.

A spokesperson for the University of Glasgow said: “The University takes sustainability and environmental issues extremely seriously. Last year the University conducted a thorough review of its performance in this area and following consultation with relevant stakeholders on campus developed a Sustainability Strategy and Action Plan. This was approved by the University Court in June 2016. Subsequently both a Sustainability Governance Board and a Sustainability deliverance Board have been established to oversee improvements in performance and encourage a whole-of-institution approach to sustainability.

“The University is aware of the need to improve the quality of information that we present on our sustainability webpages, and colleagues will be working on this over the coming months. Our main focus however will be on delivering the sustainability strategy as this will make the real difference.

“Our campus is 140 years old and whilst we are doing all that we can to reduce our carbon footprint – with successful initiatives such as the District Heating Scheme – making old buildings eco-friendly is challenging. However sustainability and environmental future-proofing will be vitally important in the development of our new campus and will be part of the planning for all of our new buildings.”

Coordinator for GUCA, Isabella Nilsen, stated: “We look positively at some of the actions the University has taken in recent years in order to become more sustainable, such as committing to divest from the fossil fuel industry following our campaign. Nonetheless, there are still many things which the university can do in order to improve their ranking, like for instance improving food sustainability, recycling and becoming more energy efficient.

“Furthermore, very little of the funds which the university committed to divest from the fossil fuel industry have actually been moved so far – and we would like for the University to not forget or ignore this commitment as this can also make a positive change. “