The University of Edinburgh has been ranked 44th out of 151 universities in People & Planet’s 2015 University League table.
The ranking, which assesses the environmental and ethical performance of universities, takes into account universities’ responses on a lengthy survey covering topics such as ethical investment and environmental auditing.
However, out of the 151 universities eligible to take part in the annual survey, 69 did not participate this year.
On 4 August 2014, the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC) and Association of University Directors of Estates (AUDE) issued a joint statement raising concerns with People and Planet’s methodology.
The statement said: “We are concerned that the Green League 2014 will not drive the innovative and positive change it used to, and risks reducing sustainability to a narrowly and prescriptive defined tick box agenda.”
The two associations further suggested changes to the timing of the survey, and noted that year-to-year changes were perceived as “time-consuming and detrimental to the credibility of the results.”
A meeting between EAUC, AUDE, and People and Planet later resulted in a deadline extension for universities requiring extra time, but this did not prevent the widespread boycott.
Despite the controversy, The University of Edinburgh participated this year.
Dave Gorman, Director of Social Responsibility and Sustainability, told The Student that the University is taking steps to become more sustainable.
He said: “We are currently 7th placed of the leading Russell Group Universities. However, this doesn’t mean we aren’t committed to do even more.”
Despite scoring only 20% in Carbon Reduction, Gorman said the University is leading the way when it comes to carbon reduction.
“Recent reviews have demonstrated the extent to which our teaching and our research are leading the way in understanding earth systems, exploring innovations in renewable energy and developing vital means to reduce the impact of carbon emissions.”
Gorman said the University’s commitment to carbon reduction went beyond education and research, noting its infrastructural and financial investments.
“The University’s Estates Department has invested tens of millions of pounds in low carbon technologies. We have four combined heat and power centres on campus – saving thousands of tonnes of CO2 emissions – and a fifth in development.”
While there is room for improvement in some areas, the University scored highly in some areas, with Gorman noting the 90 per cent score in Workers Rights.
Jim Cranshaw, Labour Rights Campaigns Manager at People and Planet, stated the organisation’s approach to that issue: “We do not believe that students should be using computers made by people of the same age working under intolerable conditions on the other side of the University supply chain.”
Gorman said the Department of Social Responsibility and Sustainability is committed to transparency and meeting the students’ and University’s shared goals, and encourages students to participate in this week’s Student Forum to have their voices heard.