City life | By Luke Lambert

City and sustainable action – what is being done now?

Climate change is upon us. We only need to look back as far as a few weeks to see that temperatures that were once predicted to be the weather 30 years into our future besieged much of Europe.


City, like other institutions, is not standing still on the issue. Its new strategy wants to embed excellence and create an accountable, socially responsible and efficient culture. But before acting, how best to engage the evolving and maturing student body?


A recent study by SOS-UK has shown that 90 per cent of students are concerned or very concerned about climate change. To better understand how City students want to proceed, the recently launched Student Sustainability Office gathered opinions and viewpoints for 10 weeks.


The team, made up of a diverse group of UK and international students, led on a range of sustainability themes through methods such as focus groups, surveys and events to help inform a sustainability engagement plan and identify the key priorities for the Sustainability team going forward.


The outcomes showed the need to engage with students on sustainability issues relating to both formal curriculum and extra-curricular activities, establishing a diverse community to inform future activities; create a report profiling what methods the Office used and what information was discovered; create a draft engagement plan, featuring suggestions for initiatives that meet the needs of students with a range of views on social and environmental sustainability and work to establish a diverse community to inform future activities.


This year’s successful London Student Sustainability Conference, hosted by City, saw sessions on sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production and clean and affordable energy use, with guests workshopping ways of improving their own attempts to support net zero.

Staff and students at a previous London Sustainability Conference.

It also provided a valued opportunity to engage with students and connect with others beyond our institutions on the challenges and opportunities highlighted by the Global Goals report.


City is now partnering with nine other London universities to help deliver the 2023 London Student Sustainability Conference, six more London-based universities than the 2022 conference. The 2022 conference also brought the student voice to the front and centre of decision making and resulted in some new and exciting aspects of the Conference experience. This has now developed into the London Student Sustainability Network, the first city-wide higher education student sustainability network.


Most recently, City published its latest Global Goals Report, titled Climate Action in Focus, following the call to action at last year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow. Professor Sir Anthony Finkelstein, President of City and Shaima Dallali, then President of City’s Students’ Union, launched COP26@City to outline the City community’s response to the global climate challenge. Climate Action in focus explores the actions City and its people are doing to help deliver climate action across five key themes: research, education, engagement, campus and governance. Highlights from the report include initiatives such as innovative and diverse research partnerships, which investigate the economic and behavioural impacts of climate policies, improve renewable marine wave energy technologies and help food projects integrate climate resilience and mitigation into their activities. In addition, City’s first Scope 3 audit revealed purchased goods as its biggest contributor to carbon emissions and will inform future carbon reduction strategies.


City is ranked first-class in the latest People & Planet University League table, a UK-wide performance indicator on environmental and social sustainability criteria, with only three universities in the capital above City.


The recent appointment of Professor Andrew Stockley to the post of Executive Dean for Sustainability means the wheels are starting turn on City’s new sustainability strategy. The portfolio will be picked up by Professor Richard Ashcroft, the soon to be Interim Executive Dean for the City Law School and Professor Stockley says the size of the role cannot be underestimated.


“We all need to step up to the challenge of what is needed to ensure the survival of humanity and the world as we know it,” says Professor Stockley, who is moving to establish a University sustainability working group to advise on 2022-23 priorities and a longer-term strategic plan.


“Universities have a major part to play in carrying out the research that can make a difference and help ensure all students are equipped to consider sustainability in whatever careers they go into and in how they live their lives. City wants to take a lead in this and is committed to reviewing all its operations and moving to net zero as soon as practicable.”


Existing actions will inform that, but this is just the beginning of the road for City and all of us to face the challenges that lie ahead.