People & Planet released their University League table this week (15 November). It will be the tenth consecutive league table and ranks all 154 UK universities based on factors such as social justice and climate action.

Three UK Universities, Reading, London Metropolitan and Glasgow Caledonian,  have also divested from fossil fuels. People & Planet said: “Since last year’s publication, three times as many universities have gone Sweatshop Free by signing up to Electronics Watch and we discovered that 28 universities are living wage employers.”.

Last year, Brighton University came in second place, leaving a 79 place gap between it and the University of Sussex who plummeted 38 places (See last year’s article here). This was not a positive result in terms of Sussex’s environmentally friendly reputation, or lack thereof.

However, Sussex’s results have been more positive this year. They are now ranked 67th out of 154 universities, an improvement of 14 places from last year when they ranked 81st.

A university spokesperson said: “Over the past few months we have seen a considerable increase in the number of large-scale developments designed to improve our environmental and ethical performance – which were not launched when the latest survey was taken.” suggesting that actions taken after the survey may have seen an improvement in their ranking.

Such measures include new bike racks, cutting paper towel waste, switching on the UK’s biggest university solar panel project and signing up for a UK cup recycling scheme. The spokesperson also told The Badger: “Although we are pleased to see an increase in our position from last year – having gone up in the rankings from 81st to 67th position, this is just the start of our journey.”

“We take our University operations extremely seriously, and as a University that cares hugely about sustainability we’re determined to make significant improvements to the way we operate going forward.”

The university has also appointed Lionstrust to manage its new ‘Socially Responsible Investment Policy’. The announcement took place “following a collaborative consultation with the Students’ Union and other groups, of a socially-responsible investment policy. This would allow future investments to be positively screened, mirroring the University’s aim to be a more sustainable and environmentally responsible institution.”. This should include managing Sussex’s divestment from fossil fuels, a promise which was made in April 2015 as a result of student campaigns such as Fossil Free Sussex.

The People & Planet University League 2016 stated that Sussex University had invested £30,233 in Shell, £14,908 in BP and £10,443 in Rio Tinto. It also estimated that the University received £5,000 in donations from the fossil fuel industry between 2009 and 2014. The 2017 league shows Sussex had not yet changed this and that nearby Brighton University has £0 invested in fossil fuels.

However, People & Planet gave Sussex a score of 10/10 for their publicly available ethical investment policy. On the other hand, the league scored Sussex 0/60 for its inclusion of specifics in the policy and 0/20 for making a public announcement that it will not invest in fossil fuels and/or arms. The university is making progress though and was scored 10/10 for reviewing its policies and making progress on the objectives.

Sussex scored lowest for its conservation of water, scoring 0/67 for water use per head (staff and students) and 11/33 for its use of greywater. The university scored highest on environmental sustainability; policy and strategy. The league scored Sussex 90/100 for their environmental policy and highly on its environmental strategy.

Brighton has lost ground in the rankings and is now ranked 7th overall, down from 5 places last year, but this still leaves a significant gap between itself and Sussex despite their geographical proximity. The full league table including more details about Sussex University’s results can be found here.

Image from People & Planet.

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