Independent schools need guidance to go net zero

The Independent Schools Council (ISC) and Planet Mark have found that sustainability is a high priority for many independent schools – but a lack of policy guidance is delaying progress across the sector.

Planet Mark, commissioned by the Independent Schools Council, surveyed over 300 independent schools on their sustainability measures and initiatives. It found that while most schools are well underway in delivering sustainable actions, predominately in driving energy efficiency, waste reduction and renewable energy, significant progress needs to be made for measuring and managing environmental impacts. The research found that 44% of schools have a sustainability strategy that is in progress, but 70% had not yet measured their carbon emissions.

The ISC and Planet Mark call for clearer policy guidance to support the sector in its sustainability efforts. This could include an update to the existing independent school standards guidance to give consideration to sustainability during the transition to a net-zero economy.

Commenting on the research, Simon Nathan, Deputy CEO and Head of Policy at the ISC, said: “This report is invaluable for identifying the opportunities and challenges faced by schools on their sustainability journeys. We know that through collaboration and by sharing learnings, the sector can begin making real progress on net zero.”

Also commenting on the research, Steve Malkin, Founder and CEO of Planet Mark, said: "The findings highlight progress while also identifying the need for additional guidance to unlock long-term sustainable action. As independent schools continue to play a crucial role in shaping global citizens, they must be supported to set a positive example for the nation’s children beginning with their own approach to sustainability.”

The research also found that 45% of schools rate sustainability as a high to very high priority for their overall strategy over the next 12 months.

A large majority of schools (82%) have an established green team or sustainability champion, with at least 79% including students in these groups.

44% of schools have a sustainability strategy in progress, but only 6% have a sustainability strategy that is publicly available. Only 10% of schools surveyed currently provide sustainability or net zero training for their teams.

Grants and funding were identified as being the first choice of support that would be most useful from the UK Government to help with sustainability ambitions. However 93% of schools have not accessed any financial support for a sustainability journey.

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