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People & Planet: CL Champions

February 2022 by Lucia Simmons

What do three out of the four top universities in the 2021 People & Planet University League all have in common? Carbon Literacy!

What is the People & Planet University League?

People & Planet’s University League is the only comprehensive and independent league table of UK universities ranked by environmental and ethical performance. It is compiled annually by People & Planet; the UK’s largest student campaigning network.

The People & Planet University League ranks 154 UK universities against 13 sustainability and ethics criteria, including Education, Environmental Policy, Carbon Reduction plus Staff & Student Engagement.

While 29 universities made the First Class ranking, it says a lot that three out of the four most sustainable universities are those that have done the most to spread Carbon Literacy throughout their institutions and beyond.


1st – Manchester Metropolitan University

In 2021, Manchester Metropolitan University (Man Met) topped the People & Planet University League for the third time since the ranking began in 2007, with an overall score of 86.3%.

The world’s first University to help students become Carbon Literate, Man Met have been delivering Carbon Literacy training to their students since 2012. Through their innovative peer-to-peer Carbon Literacy for Students (CL4Ss) training model, which pioneered the use of students as Carbon Literacy trainers and facilitators, over 1,500 students and staff have achieved Carbon Literacy certification.

This scheme has helped to create a cascade of Carbon Literacy and strong climate action within Man Met, while also offering students unique opportunities to train senior leaders within the University as well as members of Manchester City Council.

Beyond focusing solely on their own carbon footprint, Man Met is working in partnership with the EAUC (Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges) to deliver Carbon Literacy to its University and College members across the UK; improving environmental performance across the Higher and Further Education sectors.

They also offer their award-winning Carbon Literacy Train-the-Trainer programme as an open course; equipping individuals across businesses and the public sector, with no or very limited experience of delivering training, with the skills and knowledge required to deliver Carbon Literacy (CL) training to their own audiences.

Since 2015, Man Met has trained over 2,400 participants from a range of organisations and over 240 trainers, who have subsequently delivered Carbon Literacy training to more than 7,500 further participants.


3rd – Nottingham Trent University 

Coming in third in the People & Planet League University, Nottingham Trent University (NTU) scored 78.8% overall, with a score of 99% for Education. NTU not only champion Carbon Literacy internally but internationally too.

NTU’s Carbon Literacy Training for Business Schools was developed by Dr Petra Molthan-Hill, Professor of Sustainable Management and Education for Sustainable Development at Nottingham Business School (NBS) and her team (NTU’s Green Academy), in collaboration with Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) Champions, the international student organisation Oikos International, and The Carbon Literacy Project.

In the lead up to COP26, PRME and NBS launched the ‘Train the Millions – The Carbon Literacy Chain’ initiative to motivate those with experience of Carbon Literacy training to run additional sessions for their students, colleagues, partners and community members and grow the Carbon Literacy chain among their over 850 business schools which are signatories worldwide. This international training push was celebrated as part of our Carbon Literacy Action Day.

More recently, NTU’s Carbon Literacy training won the Sustainability category of the Wharton-QS Reimagine Education Awards. This virtual programme encompasses both NBS’s Carbon Literacy training for Business Schools and NTU’s wider programme for universities, and was developed by Professor Petra Molthan-Hill and NTU’s Green Academy and distributed in collaboration with the PRME Working Group on Climate Change and Environment.

‘We have all the climate solutions we need to tackle climate change -with our Carbon Literacy Training for Educators, Communities, Organizations and Students (CLT-ECOS) we want to support everyone to choose the best high impact solutions for their work and life to upscale our joint efforts fast.’


4th – De Montfort University

Close behind, with an overall score of 78.1%, was De Montfort University (DMU); excelling again in Education with a score of 97%, and in Carbon Reduction, with a top score of 100%.

DMU has been at the heart of the Carbon Literacy explosion in Leicester; they too have delivered Carbon Literacy training beyond their own institution to businesses, schools and councils.

Seven sessions of Carbon Literacy training were held within the first two months of launching their own Carbon Literacy programme for staff and students in January 2020, which were attended by members of the University’s Leadership Board; allowing DMU to be granted Bronze status as a Carbon Literate Organisation.

As members of the East Midlands Regional Centre of Expertise (RCE) in Education for Sustainable Development, DMU has also collaborated across its local region to deliver Carbon Literacy training with the University of Leicester, Leicester City Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership. This collaboration has included a peer-to-peer model, training student volunteers to go out to schools across Leicester and spread the message of what actions children can take on climate change.


Why the correlation? 

While Carbon Literacy is a solid common denominator between these top environmental performing universities, we are by no means taking responsibility for these institutions’ successes. Correlation does not prove causation. That being said, we don’t believe that it is merely a coincidence that the biggest Carbon Literacy champions in the Higher Education sector have scored so highly across environmental and ethical criteria.

Carbon Literacy is not just a tick-box training exercise – it is designed to embed low-carbon culture change and engender ongoing action to reduce carbon emissions and other climate change impacts in any organisation in which it is delivered. As the 2021 People & Planet University League reveals, these institutions are not just talking the talk but walking the walk when it comes to climate change – not to mention helping to bring their communities along with them!

If you’re interested in how Carbon Literacy can help your university or college do the same, check out our Universities & Colleges Toolkit, or email education@carbonliteracy.com.

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