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Northumbria rated as top university in the North East for sustainability

21st December 2021

Northumbria University has been rated as ‘first class’ for sustainability and is the highest ranked university in the North East in the latest People & Planet University league table.

People & Planet’s University League is annually compiled by the UK’s largest student campaigning network, People & Planet. It is the only comprehensive and independent league table of universities ranked against sustainability and ethics criteria.

More than 150 universities and smaller specialist institutions were included in the table, which ranked Northumbria as 17th overall for sustainability in the UK.

This year’s rankings provided the first opportunity to analyse how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the sector’s sustainability performance.

A signatory of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals Accord, Northumbria scored an impressive 100% of all available marks on environmental policy criteria.

The University’s Environmental Sustainability Policy considers the impact its activities have on the wider environment and aims to minimise this impact. This policy is reviewed and updated regularly, working towards ambitious targets in waste management, transport, sustainable procurement, water, construction and refurbishment as well as emissions and discharges, community involvement and biodiversity.

Northumbria also achieved full marks for its auditing and environmental management systems, which are externally verified by specialist industry bodies, and a remarkable 97% in education for sustainable development.

An approach characterised by being proactive in main-streaming sustainability across the curriculum, ‘Education for sustainable development’ means equipping students with the knowledge and understanding, skills and attributes needed to work and live in a way that safeguards environmental, social and economic wellbeing, both in the present and for future generations.

Another top-performing area was staff and student engagement, scoring an impressive 90% for this measure of assessment. Staff and students are invited to assist and oversee the development and ongoing monitoring of Northumbria’s environmental policy. Actively supporting an environment themed week and student-led sustainability projects as well as local community partnerships are just some of the ways that the University encourages engagement in the sustainability agenda among its staff and students.

Having incorporated changes to carbon intensity, reducing carbon emissions and water consumption, People & Planet rated Northumbria at a notable 78% for carbon reduction and 72% for water reduction.

Strong results were also seen for ethical investment, in which Northumbria scored 88%, ranking 2nd nationally, due to the University’s commitment to ensure that its investments and banking practices are conducted transparently and in an economically viable and responsible manner.

Commenting on the results, Professor George Marston, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Strategic Projects) and sustainability lead for Northumbria, said: “Northumbria University is supporting the response to some of the biggest challenges facing the world today, including the global fight against climate change.

“From institutional and individual commitments, through to innovative research teams bringing multidisciplinary perspectives to a huge range of studies, the University is taking action to address the impact of climate change and help ensure a safer, more stable future for our planet.

“We are thrilled to see our sustainability efforts recognised so positively through People & Planet’s University League for 2021. We are delighted to be ranked so highly, both within the top 20 in the UK overall, and as the best university in the North East region.

“I would like to thank all those staff and students who work so hard to ensure that sustainability is at the heart of everything we do.”

For more information about Northumbria’s sustainability efforts, visit

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