Policy guidance and funding required to put independent schools on net zero pathway

Posted on: 17 Oct 2023

The Independent Schools Council (ISC) and Planet Mark have found that sustainability is a high priority for many independent schools – but that 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. I would like to thank all the schools for contributing their time and insight”.

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 has been undertaken impartially and the results are publicly available for everyone’s benefit.

Other highlights include:

•    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 

The paper is available here

About Planet Mark

Planet Mark is an internationally recognised sustainability certification which recognises continuous progress, encourages action, and builds an empowered community of like-minded individuals. It is awarded to businesses, properties, new developments and projects that are committed to reducing their carbon emissions. Companies are certified immediately when they sign up based on their commitment to sustainability progress. To remain Planet Mark certified, an organisation must reduce their carbon the footprint every year, commit to engage their staff and commit to communicate externally.   
Holders of Planet Mark deliver results that go beyond compliance, reaching new levels of sustainability and engaging their people in the process. On average, certified businesses make a 16 per cent carbon saving per employee through reductions in energy, waste, water, travel and procurement.              
For more information, please visit www.planetmark.com

About the Independent Schools Council

The Independent Schools Council (ISC) brings together seven associations of independent schools, their heads, bursars, and governors. The ISC represents nearly 1,400 independent schools in the UK. These schools educate more than half a million children, equivalent to around 80% of pupils at all UK independent schools.

Media contacts

For Planet Mark; H Advisors Maitland
Charles Withey: 07880885484