The ‘Greta Effect’

The impact of teen activist Greta Thunberg on universities and on the children of tomorrow

No one can have failed to miss the School Global Climate Strikes (‘Fridays for Future’) driven by teen activist Greta Thunberg, whose face now dominates our media headlines and who has criticised United Nations members for failing to do more on climate change.

Greta has succeeded in raising awareness of the issue to completely new levels, reaching children across the world, where countries and politicians have failed. Her Global Climate Strikes were purportedly attended by over seven million people globally and the most notable impact has been on Generation Z. 

Now, young people across the world are mobilised, and while it remains unclear whether the activism she has inspired will actually change climate change policies, what’s certain is that the children of today will be the students of tomorrow, with a likely impact on thinking and approach in the next few years.

Already, universities are seen to be at the forefront of sustainability policies on water use, energy and waste. We are seeing growth in meat-free outlets with some universities going as far as banning red meat. But will Generation Z feel today’s actions go far enough? It is likely that they will be asking for more. By the time the schoolchildren of today reach universities, there will be a new breed of activists.

Whether waste and food reduction, recycling of plastic or reduction of emissions, we can expect increasing pressure on institutions as well as government to accelerate climate change policies ahead of current targets and deadlines. Greta has raised the bar – she has appealed to the next generation and drawn children into the debate.

Book now for CUBO Winter Conference 2019

Book now for CUBO’s compelling Winter Conference (20–21 November 2019), a two-day event hosted at The University of Edinburgh in Scotland’s stunning premier city

With the theme ‘Visioning the Future’, the conference will provoke thought and stimulate debate in exploring the challenges ahead for senior commercial services professionals. It comes at a time of uncertainty around Brexit, economic and potential funding change, student demographics and the ‘Greta effect’.

Against this backdrop, Dave Gorman, director for social responsibility and sustainability at the University of Edinburgh, will be setting the context for universities and discuss why and how they can be engines of change, providing speculative thoughts on the future.

Speakers also include Mark Fawcett (founder of ‘We are Futures’, originally the National Schools Partnership); respected author, Neil Gaught; Helenor Gilmour, director of insights at Beano for Brands; and Professor Peter Mathieson, principal and vice-chancellor of The University of Edinburgh. The schedule will also include a timely panel debate on student accommodation. 

Share and learn

The conference will be packed with networking opportunities affording commercial professionals the opportunity to share and learn best practice, alongside an informal dinner and charity competition.

CUBO non-executive director Julie Barker cites the challenges universities are facing and the increasing importance of commercial services within campus revenue streams and in improving the student experience as primary motivators for the conference theme:

“The conference will be immensely valuable in enabling delegates to gain strategic insights and explore the key issues impacting on our profession today and tomorrow…

“They include sustainability, youth engagement, student accommodation, business models and leadership, not forgetting the political environment in what has been an extraordinary year so far.”

CUBO’s Winter Conference is designed for heads of commercial and campus services and places are available on a first-come-first-served basis. It is supported by a number of CUBO’s valued supply partners, giving members the opportunity to discuss services and facilities for the future. 

For more information and registration, visit:

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