University a finalist in five awards for sustainability

The University of Edinburgh is in with a chance of winning five awards for sustainability in the annual Green Gown Awards.

Green Gown Awards 2021 Finalist logo

The Green Gown Awards UK & Ireland celebrate initiatives in universities and colleges that make them more socially responsible and sustainable.

This year, the University is a finalist in five categories (a new record for us):

  • 2030 Climate Action
  • Benefitting Society
  • Enterprise
  • Next Generation Learning and Skills
  • and the Sustainability Institution of the Year Award.

Winners and highly commended entries will be announced at the Green Gown Awards Ceremony to take place later in the year.

Finalist categories

2030 Climate Action

Positive Futures: Addressing the climate crisis through a whole institution approach

Institutions are having to plan how they get to net-zero emissions. This category focuses on the steps that institutions are taking and planning to take to reach their targets.

Our submission focuses on our commitment to being carbon neutral by 2040. Actions we have taken towards this goal include:

  • £7.4 million invested since 2016-17, delivering projects with an estimated annual saving of over 3,000 tonnes COe.
  • New Sustainable Travel Policy developed to actively promote climate conscious travel
  • Significant work to ensure the University’s investments are positively responding to the climate crisis

Climate Strategy

Sustainable Travel Policy

Positive Imaginings, Children's Climate Circus. Rowanbank Environmental Arts and Education
Positive Imaginings: A project to create a spectacular outdoor circus and theatre show that addresses climate change for a young audience in a meaningful and positive way, by Rowanbank Environmental Arts and Education. Supported with a Community Grant from the University.

Benefitting Society

Supporting local action for a better Edinburgh

As anchor institutions in their communities and cities, universities and colleges benefit society in many ways. This category captures the powerful and innovative ways education institutions are realising their purpose in today’s society to benefit the lives of individuals, communities and wider society.

The University of Edinburgh has provided grants to local community organisations for projects which have a positive social impact for people living locally.

Edinburgh Local


Making ideas work for a better world: Student-led social enterprise

This category recognises social, social media and sustainable enterprise as key ingredients of contemporary education to ensure a supply of education leavers who can rise to the 21st century's economic, environmental and social challenges.

The Edinburgh Innovations’ Enterprise Service for Students supports innovation and entrepreneurialism in the student community. This past year has been record breaking, with over two thousand students accessing the advice, funding and support on offer, and more than one hundred student start-ups being supported.

Edinburgh Innovations’ Enterprise Service for Students

Next Generation Learning and Skills

Students as Change Agents

This category recognises achievement in the development of academic courses, skills and capabilities relevant to sustainability. These can be vocational, undergraduate or postgraduate courses or related to wider purposes such as community involvement, global or environmental awareness or to support lifestyle changes.

Created by the University of Edinburgh Careers Service and hosted within the Data Driven Innovation programme of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland Region City Deal, Students as Change Agents (SACHA) is a co-curricular experiential idea lab that brings students from different academic disciplines and levels together to tackle real-world complex challenges linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Groups have worked on subjects such as fashion overconsumption, fuel poverty, sustainable tourism, youth homelessness, and building a more welcoming Scotland for refugees and asylum seekers.

Students as Change Agents

Sustainability Institution of the Year Award

Social and civic responsibility: Addressing the climate crisis and supporting society

This category recognises sustained, whole-institution commitment and impact to becoming a sustainable organisation.

Highlights from our submission include:

  • The University’s new Social and Civic Responsibility Plan
  • Divestment from fossil fuels
  • Creation of the largest social investment fund of any UK University
  • Launch of a new Community Plan
  • Contribution to policy responses and interventions from governments to Covid-19
  • Establishing the RACE.ED Hub to bring the University community together to address the issue of racism

Social and Civic Responsibility Plan

Past success

The University has won seven Green Gown Awards (UK & Ireland) since 2015.

Past achievements

The Green Gown Awards

This year’s UK and Ireland Green Gown Awards’ Finalists, representing over 862,219 students and 156,000 staff, are leading the way with their commitment to the global sustainability agenda and proving the value that universities and colleges bring to the economy and society even in the most challenging times.

The Finalists emphasise an institution’s role in enabling and empowering young people to tackle pressing global issues to ensure they have a better tomorrow. Finalist projects show the power post-16 education possesses and the seriousness with which it takes its responsibility in creating a better world and a new generation of leaders.

It is clear from the number and quality of applications, that sustainability and the now irreversible sustainability movement is not only resilient but profoundly energised, opportunistic and dynamic!  UK and Irish universities and colleges have turned Covid 19 challenges into opportunities and ensured that every change is a change for sustainability.

Iain PattonCEO, EAUC

View the full list of 2021 finalists [external website]