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Further education 'could do better' on social responsibility and sustainability

18 January 2018

Published yesterday, the third annual Sustainability in Education report shows just 1% of respondents felt their institution was doing all it could to progress environmental and social responsibility.

Covering the further and higher education sector, the study shows that one in three respondents said sustainability is a strategic priority for their institution.

This is an increase of 7% on the 2016 report, but there was concern over lack of resources to deliver results in many institutions.

Restrictions on budgets were reported by 71%, who expected these to stay the same or be decreased.

This shows a "clear disconnect" between strategic and social responsibility within the sector, said the statement announcing the report's publication.

Further results show that 13% of further and higher education institutions do not have a carbon reduction plan.

The largest motivator proved to be the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) initiative, which saw 75% of respondents state that their institution had engaged with this.

Estates and facilities departments are continuing to lead on environmental and social responsibility, but this has been shown to be increasingly including other departments such as commercial services, finance, communication and marketing, as well as student unions.

In addition to lack of funding, the absence of senior management commitment and strategic direction, along with lack of staff resources, were the major barriers facing the implementation of environmental and social responsibility initiatives.

Regarding future agendas, the most important were shown to be climate change, CO2 reduction and management for respondents.

The research was completed by the National Union of Students, Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges, University and College Union, Association of Colleges and the College Development Network.

Based on a sample of 500 staff members from universities, colleges and students' unionts, 63 respondents were identified as leading staff members on environmental and social responsibility.

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