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University of York ‘lags behind’ in sustainability stakes

24 February 2012

A report by the University of York’s Sustainability Forum states that, if the university were to be awarded a degree in sustainability, it would only manage a ‘lower second’.

The report was presented to members of the York Environment Forum at their February meeting by Professor Colin Campbell, who said that the University of York ‘lagged behind’ best performers and had slipped from 35th position in the People and Planet Green League in 2009 to 83rd by 2011.

Based on a comparison of published data available on university websites, Professor Campbell’s report criticises the University of York on a number of counts:

  • little information about sustainability on its web pages
  • no apparent sustainability strategy or administrative structure
  • no commitment to sustainability through endorsement or declarations
  • unambitious carbon targets and little evidence of planning for carbon reductions beyond 2020
  • low targets for renewables – only 10 per cent of energy to be generated on site
  • no targets at all for waste management, procurement and biodiversity
  • no evidence of an attempt to introduce sustainability into the curriculum
  • lagging behind the best in the sector in sustainable technology and having the most sustainable buildings

The report, published in December 2011, also identifies a deeper institutional problem, which it calls ‘the lack of importance that appears to be attached to this issue [sustainability] compared to other identified strategic objectives, such as excellence and internationalism’.

However, there is some praise for the university in the report, too. Its authors salute the planting of 45,000 mainly broad-leaf trees on the campus at Heslington East and single out the comprehensive analysis of the university’s carbon footprint by the Stockholm Environment Institute, which has one its UK bases at the University of York, as ‘ground-breaking’.

Read the full report here: University of Yorks Record on Sustainability- A Comparative Perspective

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