Securing a sustainable HE

The Annual EAUC conference examined the critical role FE and HE has to play in finding a solution to climate change

This year, the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges’ (EAUC) 21st annual conference was held at Lancaster University. 

It’s theme, ‘Global Goals: Local Action’, recognised the critical role universities and colleges across the planet have to play in finding and implementing a solution to climate change, and realising the sustainable development goals (SDGs) on a local level within their communities. The conference explored SDGs as the world’s new to-do list, while examining how tertiary education institutions are instrumental in delivering these global goals on a local level – ultimately shaping all our futures.

Making sustainability just good business

EAUC CEO and Conference Chair Iain Patton said: “We were delighted to welcome more than 300 attendees to Lancaster University for the 2017 EAUC Annual Conference. The EAUC recently launched a new strategy which aims to create a world with sustainability at its heart. This year’s conference embraced that intention with determination and challenged delegates to demonstrate the importance of the post-16 education sector in moving towards a more sustainable society, and to have relevance and impact on a global scale.” This year’s jam-packed conference included plenary sessions, interactive workshops, facilitated networking events and a Festival Feast Conference Dinner, as well as the association’s renowned exhibition.

Sharing best practice

The two-day event commenced with a plenary session chaired by Wendy Purcell, Emeritus & Former University President, Visiting Professor Harvard University, in which we heard from Malcolm Preston, Global Head of Sustainability Services at PricewaterhouseCoopers and Stephen Sterling, Professor of Sustainability Education at the Centre for Sustainable Futures, University of Plymouth and ESD Consultant to UNESCO. They explored the key role the education sector has to play in achieving the SDGs and considered the more active role the sector could play to ensure it meets its responsibility to deliver graduates able to operate as global citizens.

Delegates were also treated to a panel plenary session from Julie Hirigoyen, CEO of the UK Green Building Council, Maria Adebowale-Schwarte, Director of the Living Space Project and Graham Long, Senior Lecturer in Politics at Newcastle University. They focused on SDG 11 – to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable – and considered how building design can improve health, wellbeing and productivity and how buildings themselves can act as a starting point to build a community and an inclusive, cohesive, fair one at that. The final keynote was delivered by chair, EAUC CEO, Iain Patton with a panel consisting of Leanne Denby, President – Director of Sustainability, Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability (ACTS), Jean Christophe Carteron, Senior Advisor – Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI) and Jane Davidson, Pro Vice-Chancellor for External Engagement and Sustainability, University of Wales, Trinity St David. They reflected on what is being done on a more local level to implement the SDGs at a university and college level. 

The International Green Gown Awards took place at the end of the final keynote session. Winners were announced by hosts, Pauline Pingusson, Chef de projet Campus Responsables and delivery partner for Les Trophées des campus responsables, and Leanne Denby, President of ACTS and delivery partner for the Green Gown Awards Australasia.  

University of the West of England, Bristol won the Continuous Improvement: Institutional Change Award; Fiji National University, Fiji was awarded the Community Award; and the Student Engagement Award went to a joint venture between the University of the West of England, Bristol and the University of Bristol. More information can be found at


Peer-to-peer learning

The conference also offered a range of workshops, all streamed around the SDGs. Hosts Lancaster University held an inspiring workshop entitled ‘Space to Think’, highlighting how the learning environment plays a crucial role in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). The panel-based discussion explored how Lancaster has been investing in outdoor and food-growing spaces, diversifying the way academics from all faculties can embed sustainability within their curriculum. We also heard from Nottingham Trent University on ‘Creating the University of the Future’ – highlighting the importance of collaboration within all aspects of HE to allow the Global Goals to be achieved.  

These are just a few of a broad range of topics discussed during workshops. Attendees left inspired with many new tools and ideas to take back to their own institutions. You can find more information from the conference at

Learning from industry

Delegates enjoyed a lively exhibition from the finest sustainable companies, including our sponsors PCMG, TEC, Salix, Crowd Comms, Eau de Vie and our headline sponsors for the fourth year running, Carbon Credentials. Paul Lewis, COO at Carbon Credentials, said: “It was a great pleasure to return as the headline sponsor of the EAUC Conference for the fourth consecutive year. The event gave us an opportunity to share our proven energy performance improvement experience with the tertiary education community. This year’s conference theme highlighted the responsibility the tertiary education sector has to find and implement solutions to climate change by ensuring their institution’s continued emissions performance. They have the opportunity to cause substantive change, and they have the means for it to succeed. Our award-winning Collaborative Asset Performance Programme (CAPP) has consistently demonstrated that an ambitious approach to energy performance which combines people, process and technology can influence behaviour and enhance the control you have over your buildings.”     

Of course, it wasn’t all work and Carbon Credentials also sponsored this year’s conference dinner, which had a festival feast theme and gave attendees the chance to network and enjoy a Gold Food for Life accredited meal.

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