25 July 2019, The Tablet

Catholic universities fail league table sustainability tests

Catholic universities fail league table sustainability tests

Catholic universities are among the worst in the country for environmental and ethical practices, according to a sustainability league table released this week.

Three Catholic universities - Roehampton, St Mary’s University Twickenham and Leeds Trinity - ranked as “failed” in the table, which is compiled by the student campaigning network People and Planet in the style of degree classifications. Liverpool Hope University was awarded a third, while Newman University, the highest-scoring Catholic institute, was awarded a 2:2.

The league table ranks universities on their environmental auditing and management, their ethical investments and banking, and on their carbon, water, waste and recycling management. It also allocates points for sustainable energy sources, for workers’ rights, and for student and staff engagement. It is based on information made public on the university website and other independent and external verification agencies.

Leeds Trinity, which was in the bottom five of all universities in the UK, ranked 150 out of 154, was awarded no points for its environmental policy and strategy, for ethical investment and carbon management and reduction. While it received points for paying workers a Living Wage, higher than the minimum wage, it was criticised for not working with its supply chain to improve workers’ rights. St Mary’s, which was ranked 140th, also scored zero points in a number of environmental categories and on ethical investment. It was awarded points, however, for its work on recycling and carbon and water reduction, and for workers’ rights.

In 132nd place, Roehampton University was praised for its ethical investment policy, which screened out certain companies such as arms companies. It also scored highly for environmental policy and waste and recycling.

Of the two Catholic universities that “passed”, Liverpool Hope University scored highly for its sustainability strategy, and for waste and recycling management. Newman University, which was ranked 76th, scored very highly for its ethical investment policy and its carbon reduction.

Phill Dixon, Chief Operating Officer at Leeds Trinity University, said: “The data presented by People and Planet in our view is not representative of our approach to environmental sustainability at Leeds Trinity. We were disappointed to have not been given the appropriate opportunity to respond to the assessment provided by People and Planet and don’t feel the position is truly representative of where we are. However, we recognise the sustainability challenges and that improvements can always be made.” The top-ranked university was the University of Gloucestershire. Others in the top five included Manchester Metro­politan University, City University and Northumbria. Daniel Hale, Cafod’s head of campaigns, said: “We have to remember that league tables like these are indicators. The important thing is not winning competitions but putting in place a plan to tackle the crisis facing our common home.”

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