Our Successes

We have been internationally recognised for ground-breaking work to make sustainability an organisational change and academic innovation priority. Our story has unfolded over more than 25 years and we have received a range of awards, funding and commissions for sustainability work, particularly in our specialist area of Education for Sustainability.

Some of our proudest achievements

First Place University League 2019 - People & Planet

University League

  • Twice named #1 Most Sustainable University in the UK (2008, 2019)
  • Special Recognition Award in 2013 for consistent high performance.

6 Green Gown Awards

  • Winner of 4 UK Green Gown Awards for Continuous Improvement (Whole Institution) in 2008, Continuous Improvement (Specific Area) in 2010, Research with Impact in 2019, and Next Generation Learning and Skills in 2020
  • 13 Highly Commended awards
  • 26 Finalist nominations 
Green Gown Awards Winner
Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development acknowledged by United Nations University

Regional Centre of Expertise

  • United Nations University ‘Flagship Project’ awards for 7 of our UN RCE Education for Sustainability projects
  • Led an EU-funded UN RCE project with 53 partners in 33 countries on professional development for sustainability

ISO 14001:2015 status

  • 1st English university to gain ISO 14001 status with an environmental management system including curriculum
  • Achieved accreditation to the new ISO 14001: 2015 standard in 2017 including our academic activities
BSI ISO 14001 logo
UK Quality Assurance Agency Logo

UK Quality Assurance Agency

  • Commissioned to run ground breaking project with partners at University of the Arts London and King’s College London, and student assessors to counter curriculum greenwash. Winner of Highly Commended at the UK Green Gown Awards 2023.
  • Led ground-breaking project with UK Quality Assurance Agency on sustainability in curriculum enhancement
  • Invited to the expert forum to develop the subsequent QAA national guidance on sustainability in the curriculum

Evolution of our sustainability story

In the 1990s our staff began to work for change across the university to recognise the critical threat that unsustainable development means for future generations. We set up our first environmental committee soon after and released our first public environmental report on 2006-07 performance.

Even at this stage, we had a vision for an approach that would reach across the campus operations, curriculum experiences and corporate decision making. A memo from staff to senior management in 1991 showed the range of concerns at that early stage – see extracts in this snapshot image.

Our Centre for Active Learning – one of the Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning awarded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England from 2005-2010 supported academics in several courses to experiment with sustainability as a dynamic new priority for education.

In 2007 we appointed our first Director of Sustainability to create an approach that would set our direction for ‘whole institution’ change. Recognised sustainability expert Professor Daniella Tilbury led our first strategy ‘Promising Futures’ from 2008-2015 which established our global reputation.