What will SUSU do to bring the university to account regarding their poor performance (115 out of 150) in the People and Planet league table?

Anonymous submitted on

Wednesday 1st February 2023


I stumbled across this study by student campaign group People And Planet the other day, that had been retweeted by Soton UCU back in December. What I found was shocking: the University Southampton, which I thought marketed itself on being a leader in sustainability, was ranked 115th out of 150 universities across a range of areas including environmental policy, sustainability and workers rights.

Here are a few highlights from this report.

- Apparently, no plan at all for reducing carbon at all!

- No recognised external audits into any of the major areas for sustainability (eg water use or transport)

- 40/55 for recruiting specialist researchers and staff for sustainability but then a fat 0 for actually funding them. Essentially, just PR with no backing

- No attempt whatsoever to start phasing out investments in fossil fuel companies

- 0/10 for attempting to establish a basic living wage for staff

- 0/10 for pay equality for outsourced staff

- 0/10 for attempting to set fixed term contracts as standard

-0/10 for many other ethical issues, such as sustainable food and Fairtrade


Unfortunately, SUSU also got a 0 for their sustainability policy

I hope this post does not come across as rude, however I am keen to know why Southampton have seemingly failed in their sustainability policy. Did the study miss crucial data (as this is only using publically available date)? Otherwise, this is very disappointing and I'll like to know what SUSU will do to bring this to the attention of the Uni. The students deserve accountability.

Thank you


Let's keep this space positive and respectful! Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions, but please remember to keep the conversation friendly and avoid any offensive comments.

Oliver Murray submitted on

Sunday 19th February 2023



Thank you for your submission and apologies for my slight delay in getting back to you on this!

I would like to start by highlighting that the University is aware of this score as it was briefly discussed at the Sustainability Implementation Group, the team set up to implement the Sustainability Strategy. 

Reading through the People & Planet methodology and results. It is clear that there are flaws. Here is the publically available link to the University's Sustainability Strategy which I am pleased to play a role in advising and holding the University to: https://www.southampton.ac.uk/susdev/index.page 

As you can see from the strategy, there are realistic and ambitious plans to reduce the University's carbon physically and financially, whilst also addressing issues that People and Planet failed to even consider in their study such as education. 

To be clear, the University's team, including academic in this area who work to hold the University to account, do not view the People & Planet result as credible. I would like to direct you to the results from the well respected QS world rankings which places us 88th out of 700 scored institutions around the world and 18th in the UK. There are improvements to be made, clearly, but this is more of an accurate picture. This information can be found here: https://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/sustainability-rankings/2023

Finally, regarding SUSU's score for a zero on our sustainability policy this is a fair assessment as we do not yet possess a coherent plan, even though we do have seperate pieces of work, similar to many other Students' Unions that are of a similar scale to us. However, this Friday gone we completed interviews for the Head of Sustainability post, with a successful candidate identified and offer to be made. This role will be charged with creating and leading on a sustainability strategy. This will be the first concrete and realistic push to address this area of work by any large scale Students' Union. We will be keen to involve students in co-designing this piece of work and will reach out to students at the appropriate opportunity for their thoughts. 

I am going to close this submission now as I believe that the University's Sustainability Strategy speaks for itself. If you have any further questions please do make another submission or get in contact with me directly at president@soton.ac.uk

All the best,

Oliver Murray

Union President 2022-2023

Question for: Union President