Why LSE is ranked as one of the world’s most sustainable institutions | Top Universities

Why LSE is ranked as one of the world’s most sustainable institutions

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Aisha Khan

Updated Jan 03, 2023




Featuring 700 universities, the first edition of the QS World University Rankings: Sustainability 2023 assesses the social and environmental sustainability performance of higher education institutions.  

LSE ranks 59th globally as well as ranking second for the ‘sustainable institutions' indicator.  

To learn more about how LSE is embedding a strong culture of sustainability through its operations, curriculum and engagement activities, we spoke to Kate Veck, Sustainability Communications and Engagement Officer in LSE’s sustainability team.  

How does LSE encourage its staff and students to work towards building a sustainable future?  

Creating a sustainable LSE is part of LSE’s 2030 Strategy. The guiding principle of this strategy is to ‘understand today, influence tomorrow’, a vision that summarises the school’s hopes for sustainability.  

 Ensuring a sustainable future is a priority in the school’s business decisions, and we promote environmental sustainability across six key areas: education, research, our school, collaboration, engagement and leadership, and investment. 

 We weave sustainability messaging throughout all aspects of the student experience at LSE, with a current focus on how to embed sustainability in teaching and learning.   

Some of the crucial ways we encourage our community to work towards a sustainable future include:  

  • Spotlighting sustainability-related news, information and initiatives frequently in our staff and student communications 

  • Running Green Impact: a sustainability engagement programme for staff. LSE has the longest running Green Impact programme in the UK, and, this year, 23 teams from across the school will take part. This encourages teams school-wide to proactively complete sustainability-related projects and tasks which reach and impact a wide audience. 

  • Encouraging participation by all members of the LSE community. For example, we encourage all members of the community to work with environmental societies at the LSESU and with elected officers, ensuring student representation at sustainability working groups. 

What is LSE doing to support and facilitate career outcomes for students and graduates interested in sustainable careers?  

Recently, LSE Careers organised 'Discover: Sustainability', our second careers programme all about inspiring and informing students and recent alumni about careers in sustainability.  

Across the programme over the last two years, 33 different organisations have engaged with our students through alumni panels, smaller 'meet our alum' sessions and skills seminars. Twenty-two of those organisations were in this year's programme alone. This year, we had almost 400 bookings across our sustainability careers events. 

In addition to the events programme, we have created a sustainability employment sector page, revised our 'environment and energy page', written blogs, and partnered with student creators to produce videos and podcasts all on careers in sustainability. 

Finally, we work closely with the LSE Sustainability team and regularly engage with student-led societies to ensure our programme gets as much reach as possible on campus. 

Sustainability at LSE

LSE also ranks sixth for the equality performance indicator – can you tell me more about the work LSE has been doing both in terms of research on inequalities and the institution’s internal policies that have helped achieve this result? 

LSE produces a wide variety of research on inequality. The International Inequalities Institute at LSE brings together experts across departments and centres to lead critical and cutting-edge research to understand why inequalities are escalating in numerous arenas across the world, and to develop critical tools to address these challenges.  

Recent LSE research on inequality includes work on the wealth and connections of the Sunday Times Rich List; pay inequality; tax havensinequality in global health systems; and fault lines in the welfare state

LSE academics frequently feature in the media discussing issues related to inequality and regularly work with our public affairs team to advise the government, attend party conferences and maximise the policy impact of their research.  

In addition, every year, LSE holds a free week-long festival full of talks and events with our world-leading academics focusing on global concerns such as inequality and climate change. 

In terms of our internal policies, LSE forms one of the most internationally diverse communities in the world. We are committed to the equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) of all members of our community, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation or socio-economic background.  

LSE employees benefit from thriving staff networks and supportive family-friendly policies. These include generous maternity, paternity and shared parental leave entitlements, a mentoring scheme for new parents and discounted childcare options with partner nurseries. In addition, we are committed to positively supporting employees who are working carers through a range of initiatives including our flexible working policy.  

We also have a variety of financial support options for staff and students. All students can apply to LSE’s Student Support Fund, designed to support registered students who are in unexpected financial difficulty and can demonstrate that they are facing hardship.  

LSE has increased this fund in the 2022/2023 academic year to proactively help our student community. This support is alongside existing student bursaries and scholarships (£22m+ in 2021-2022) to assist those most in need, in recognition of the high cost of living in London. 

What challenges has LSE faced in trying to drive meaningful change for both environmental and social sustainability? 

While we work hard to be a sustainable university through our research output, carbon reduction plans, engagement opportunities and more, we recognise that sustainability is an ever-moving target.  

As a large organisation, we need to ensure all our policies meet the broader needs of our diverse international community and have been thought through and implemented appropriately. This can take time, as can the adoption of new sustainable behaviours.  

The gap between good intentions and actual behaviour can be a large one to bridge and new sustainable habits can take some time to form. To try and combat this, we provide as much information as possible about new sustainable polices and provide incentives (such as the Green Impact programme mentioned above) to try and encourage long-lasting behaviour change.  

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