The university contribution to the green economy

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

The Guardian last Friday carried a story from the CBI about the current contribution of green growth to the UK economy.  The headline was:

Choice between 'green or growth' is a false one, CBI chief says.

The CBI's chief executive, John Cridland, is reported as saying:

The government has to end the political ping-pong. The so-called 'choice' between going green or going for growth is a false one.  With the right policies in place, green business will be a major pillar of our future growth.  ...  Compared to the slowdown or stall we fear could result from the current approach, a green business boost could increase the UK's growth rate by 0.5% by 2015, a gain of nearly £20bn in GDP and it could add £800m to net exports.  That's a big prize.  The UK could be a global frontrunner in the shift to low-carbon ... tapping into a global green market currently worth £3.3 trillion a year.

Only those who are anti-growth in principal, are likely to dispute these sentiments, though the detail in the figures might be unfamiliar.   Cridland continued, ...

But mixed signals from the government are setting the UK back.  If we can't be sure that the policies of today will still be the policies of tomorrow, we simply won't build business confidence or secure the investment we need.


I read all this (and more) and wondered about universities, and all that they do to stimulate the green economy, and found myself wondering whether anyone had put a figure on this.  This is not something, sadly, that People & Planet puts into its league tables.  The web is full of folks saying that HE should contribute, and does contribute, with much going on about skills, but what's it worth?  Anyone know?

Update 16 July

I'm grateful to David Parsons from Cranfield for pointing me towards case studies from his work for Hefce on carbon brainprinting , and for reminding me of a report from NEF / UUK: Degrees of Value: how universities benefit society (although this doesn't really focus on sustainability).

The idea of brain printing was not quite what I had in mind, but it does neatly highlight some of the (technical) ways that HE makes a difference in terms of sustainability ...

Universities make tremendous intellectual and technical advances that help other organisations and individuals reduce their own carbon footprints.  This is the universities’ carbon brainprint.   The initial project developed a set of approaches to estimating the carbon brainprint of an activity, such as research, development, consultancy or training.  These were applied to six case studies from Cranfield, Cambridge and Reading Universities, which demonstrated the large impact that higher education institutions can have.

The case studies are here.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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