Universities and colleges from across the UK and Ireland have demonstrated how they are leading the way to efficiency, employability and creating a better future of life for everyone.
Education is proving how sustainability is just good business sense. From the efficient buildings they create and the effective way they use energy, to how they create students fit for the future, their research in finding better ways to adapt to a changing climate and the communities they impact, universities and colleges are at the forefront of radically creating a better future.
This was evident at the 12th Green Gown Awards 2016, held at the Athena in Leicester, in partnership with De Montfort University (DMU) and University of Leicester. It was a celebration of remarkable sustainability initiatives, starring 21 Winners and 26 Highly Commended entries from 115 finalists representing 1.5 million students and 240,000 staff. With an audience of 390 sustainability leaders applauding sustainability excellence within tertiary education, the Green Gown Awards celebrated those that are making the radical change that is needed to make all our lives better.
It is no longer enough to be a ‘less bad organisation’ focused on preventing the worst environmental and social excesses.
The evening was hosted by Mike Barry, Director of Sustainable Business, Marks & Spencer. Amongst others, Mike is a Visiting Fellow at the Smith Centre for Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University, a Senior Associate at the Cambridge Programme for Sustainable Leadership and a chemistry graduate from Sheffield University. Mike said, “We stand on the cusp of great change in the economy and society. It is no longer enough to be a ‘less bad organisation’ focused on preventing the worst environmental and social excesses. Every higher and further education establishment, business and government department needs to be thinking about how we change radically our approach to education, commerce and politics to create a future that is low carbon, equal, circular, fair, restorative and committed to the wellbeing of all. The Green Gown Awards help identify these sustainability best practices and encourage the wider higher and further education system to scale up their use.”
Each year the Awards bring together the most inspirational projects from across the sector and this year was no exception. Scooping an amazing haul of four Awards was University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE) (Continuous Improvement: Institutional Change; Learning and Skills); and in partnership with the University of Bristol (Student Engagement), culminating with Professor Jim Longhurst, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Environment and Sustainability being awarded the coveted Leadership Award – which is exclusive to senior strategic leadership, at executive or governance level, at a tertiary education institution. Of Jim’s win, Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor, says “UWE is committed to embedding sustainability in everything we do particularly within the curricula. The award of a Leadership Green Gown will be welcome external recognition of our efforts and, in particular, the excellent leadership role that Jim has played in our journey towards becoming a sustainable university.”
Royal Agricultural University won an impressive two awards (Best Newcomer and Enterprise and Employability) where they nurture students to embrace sustainability, both social and environmental, offering them opportunities to put such theories as corporate sustainability and ethical leadership into practice. Professor Chris Gaskell MBE, Vice-Chancellor, says “It is a fantastic achievement for us at the Royal Agricultural University to be recognised for our enterprise activities, and we are very proud. We aim to foster and support an enterprising spirit within our student and alumni populations, and also to involve the local community; we all need a sustainable future, and entrepreneurial approaches will be a key component.”
Scotland stole the show for the Built Environment category with wins for South Lanarkshire College and the University of Aberdeen. With University of Aberdeen actively reducing energy use by going ‘passive’” which sees the first fully certified Passive House Nursery in Scotland and the first at a Scottish University.
Organised and delivered by the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC), Chief Executive, Iain Patton, describes the importance of the Green Gown Awards, “Every year the excellence recognised by the Green Gown Awards shows the business alignment and value of sustainability. Sustainability makes business sense and this year’s inspiring initiatives prove that sustainability benefits staff, students, the wider community and of course the bottom line. Congratulations to all the winners and finalists for their hard work. It was wonderful to celebrate their successes in Leicester.”
The full list of winners can be found at www.greengownawards.org.uk
Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis
Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.
Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long your retirement savings will last?”
Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.
Tip #1: Focus & Determination
Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.
Tip #2: Minimize Spending
One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!
Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal
You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.
Investing in Clean Energy
One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.
With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.
The Future of Green Biz
As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.
Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.
In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!
What Should We Make of The Clean Growth Strategy?
It was hardly surprising the Clean Growth Strategy (CGS) was much anticipated by industry and environmentalists. After all, its publication was pushed back a couple of times. But with the document now in the public domain, and the Government having run a consultation on its content, what ultimately should we make of what’s perhaps one of the most important publications to come out of the Department for Business, Energy and the Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in the past 12 months?
The starting point, inevitably, is to decide what the document is and isn’t. It is, certainly, a lengthy and considered direction-setter – not just for the Government, but for business and industry, and indeed for consumers. While much of the content was favourably received in terms of highlighting ways to ensure clean growth, critics – not unjustifiably – suggested it was long on pages but short on detailed and finite policy commitments, accompanied by clear timeframes for action.
A Strategy, Instead of a Plan
But should we really be surprised? The answer, in all honesty, is probably not really. BEIS ministers had made no secret of the fact they would be publishing a ‘strategy’ as opposed to a ‘plan,’ and that gave every indication the CGS would set a direction of travel and be largely aspirational. The Government had consulted on its content, and will likely respond to the consultation during the course of 2018. And that’s when we might see more defined policy commitments and timeframes from action.
The second criticism one might level at the CGS is that indicated the use of ‘flexibilities’ to achieve targets set in the carbon budgets – essentially using past results to offset more recent failings to keep pace with emissions targets. Claire Perry has since appeared in front of the BEIS Select Committee and insisted she would be personally disappointed if the UK used flexibilities to fill the shortfall in meeting the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, but this is difficult ground for the Government. The Committee on Climate Change was critical of the proposed use of efficiencies, which would somewhat undermine ministers’ good intentions and commitment to clean growth – particularly set against November’s Budget, in which the Chancellor maintained the current carbon price floor (potentially giving a reprieve to coal) and introduced tax changes favourable to North Sea oil producers.
A 12 Month Green Energy Initiative with Real Teeth
But, there is much to appreciate and commend about the CGS. It fits into a 12-month narrative for BEIS ministers, in which they have clearly shown a commitment to clean growth, improving energy efficiency and cutting carbon emissions. Those 12 months have seen the launch of the Industrial Strategy – firstly in Green Paper form, which led to the launch of the Faraday Challenge, and then a White Paper in which clean growth was considered a ‘grand challenge’ for government. Throughout these publications – and indeed again with the CGS – the Government has shown itself to be an advocate of smart systems and demand response, including the development of battery technology.
Electrical Storage Development at Center of Broader Green Energy Push
While the Faraday Challenge is primarily focused on the development of batteries to support the proliferation of electric vehicles (which will support cuts to carbon emissions), it will also drive down technology costs, supporting the deployment of small and utility-scale storage that will fully harness the capability of renewables. Solar and wind made record contributions to UK electricity generation in 2017, and the development of storage capacity will help both reduce consumer costs and support decarbonisation.
The other thing the CGS showed us it that the Government is happy to be a disrupter in the energy market. The headline from the publication was the plans for legislation to empower Ofgem to cap the costs of Standard Variable Tariffs. This had been an aspiration of ministers for months, and there’s little doubt that driving down costs for consumers will be a trend within BEIS policy throughout 2018.
But the Government also seems happy to support disruption in the renewables market, as evidenced by the commitment (in the CGS) to more than half a billion pounds of investment in Pot 2 of Contracts for Difference (CfDs) – where the focus will be on emerging rather than established technologies.
This inevitably prompted ire from some within the industry, particularly proponents of solar, which is making an increasing contribution to the UK’s energy mix. But, again, we shouldn’t really be surprised. Since the subsidy cuts of 2015, ministers have given no indication or cause to think there will be public money afforded to solar development. Including solar within the CfD auction would have been a seismic shift in policy. And while ministers’ insistence in subsidy-free solar as the way forward has been shown to be based on a single project, we should expect that as costs continue to be driven down and solar makes record contributions to electricity generation, investment will follow – and there will ultimately be more subsidy-free solar farms, albeit perhaps not in 2018.
Meanwhile, by promoting emerging technologies like remote island wind, the Government appears to be favouring diversification and that it has a range of resources available to meet consumer demand. Perhaps more prescient than the decision to exclude established renewables from the CfD auction is the subsequent confirmation in the budget that Pot 2 of CfDs will be the last commitment of public money to renewable energy before 2025.
In short, we should view the CGS as a step in the right direction, albeit one the Government should be elaborating on in its consultation response. Its publication, coupled with the advancement this year of the Industrial Strategy indicates ministers are committed to the clean growth agenda. The question is now how the aspirations set out in the CGS – including the development of demand response capacity for the grid, and improving the energy efficiency of commercial and residential premises – will be realised.
It’s a step in the right direction. But, inevitably, there’s much more work to do.
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