Times Higher Education to rank Universities on their contribution to the SDGs

Times Higher Education (THE) has announced that it’s launching a new global ranking that aims to measure institutions’ contributions and success in delivering the UNs’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We look at how this ranking has been developed and consider some of the implications for the sector.


How has the ranking been developed?

The ranking seeks to evaluate how an individual institution contributes to society by evaluating three main factors:

  • Research – creating knowledge to address the world’s problems;
  • Stewardship – managing resources and teaching well;
  • Outreach – direct action in society.

This understanding has been used to assess the relevance of all the SDGs for the higher education sector and to identify a set of metrics that provide insight on progress. SDGs were prioritised and metrics identified through consultation and by assessing data availability.


How can Universities respond and what is the methodology?

In 2019, the first year of ranking which is being treated as a pilot, THE will collect data on 11 of the 17 goals from universities that participate by providing data through the portal. The ranking for each university will be based on one mandatory goal (goal 17 – partnerships for the goals) plus the best three scoring SDGs for that specific institution. This means that universities can demonstrate their performance in the areas that are most relevant to them.

THE will use provided data to produce:

  • An overall ranking of universities based on the top three SDGs for each individual university, plus SDG 17
  • Individual rankings of universities for each SDG

In the first year 11 of the 17 SDGs will be assessed with Universities having to respond to a minimum of 4

Only universities that submit data for the goal 17 and three other SDGs will be included in the overall ranking, but those that submit to individual goals will be included in the ranking for the goals that they have responded to.

Data will come from a variety of sources, including direct submissions from institutions and bibliometric datasets from Elsevier. As with the World University Rankings, THE will normalise for university size where appropriate and ensure equity between countries and universities.



The ranking gives the sector, for the first time, a global standard for showcasing contributions to sustainable development. It enables a university to explore whether sustainability is at the heart of its strategy, to put in place goals and initiatives to contribute meaningfully to the SDGs, and it offers a common lens through which progress can be evaluated.

The overall ranking has the potential to affect an institution’s reputation. Clearly there’s an opportunity for a good news story, either in a specific area that is closely linked to an institution’s focus or in the overall ranking. Equally, by not responding or by scoring poorly, universities may lose their ability to claim leadership and break commitments to transparency.

It will be interesting to see the extent to which the ranking influences the choice of students, researchers and staff. According to a 2017 survey of 60,000 students, the position of a university within rankings came third, with 23.5% of respondents stating that this was the most important factor when choosing a university.

With an increasingly competitive sector in the UK, could this be a much-needed opportunity for differentiation and help universities to attract new students?


What should you do now?

With the THE portal now open for data collection until the end of December 2018, now is the time for Universities to determine if they will respond to the first ranking.

  1. Conduct a gap analysis by evaluating the relevance of the 11 SDGs included in the first year of reporting and investigating data availability for the metrics associated with relevant goals.
  2. Confirm if your institution will respond.
  3. Respond by logging in to the THE portal, accessing the full methodology from the portal and providing data for the period January 2017 – December 2017.


Find out how we help the Higher Education Sector

Contact Us:

If you are working in higher education and have any queries about how your institution will be affected by the rankings and would like to understand how we might leverage our expertise to guide you through the process please contact

What does SECR mean for my business?

 A change in regulation can disrupt Business As Usual; however from disruption new breakthroughs can occur. 

Following on from the webinar Carbon Credentials recently hosted with Gary Shanahan, several interesting trends emerged from participants responding to questions about how they thought Streamlined Energy and Carbon (SERC) reporting may impact their business.

Nearly 100 webinar attendees responded to survey questions on topics ranging from what motivated increased disclosure on energy reporting to the perceived challenges of the new SERC requirements.

There are many benefits for improving energy efficiency for business—cost savings is often a strong driver for shifting practices. Improving transparency on energy reporting is another. Companies also position themselves to gain market share by highlighting their commitment to energy efficiency.

 Most of the survey respondents, over 40%, welcomed the new reporting requirements as a way to improve senior leadership awareness of the company’s progress


For company management, there is value in information visibility.  Stakeholder access to information helps guide decision and improving cost-benefit analyses, allowing that energy demand reductions maximise other benefits. Board members and shareholders will likely respond positively to information on measures that will lead improved understanding of the interconnectedness between energy and other company resources. Peter Drucker’s maximum “What gets measured gets managed” is relevant here, as participants ranked measurements as a key benefit for reporting to SERC.

While the majority of webinar participants saw clear value in increased reporting they also expressed anxiety around public benchmarking.  Increasingly global companies setting Science  Based Targets, and stating goals which are reported by CDP, are driving an uptick in investors making decisions based on energy efficiencies.

Investor confidence is driving companies to change policies to promote a low carbon future.  With the new SERC regulations, approximately 11,900 companies will share transparency and “decision-useful” disclosure (TCFD) providing increased visibility to stakeholders.


Most companies surveyed already have schedules of reporting on ESOSor a partnership under the CRC. Currently, over 1,000 companies report annual to CDP, and with the new SERC requirements, starting April 1, 2019, all UK registered quoted companies and large unquoted companies and LLPs will be required to report UK energy use and emissions, many for the first time.

Replacing CRC with this new streamlined framework, SERC will simplify reporting and make it uniform across all industries.


As the government finalizes the guidance, companies can position themselves for these enhanced reporting requirements by reviewing the content in Carbon Credentials recent blog, and speaking with the team of experts directly, to develop strategies.  These new reporting guidelines provide opportunities for business to demonstrate ambition and drive forward a cleaner smarter and more energy efficient future.

If you want to learn more about SECR and what it could mean for your business then get in touch and allow our experts to guide you through the process

CDP – Silver Climate Change Consultancy Partners

Carbon Credentials is pleased to announce a new science-based targets partnership with CDP.

CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project, runs the global disclosure system for investorscompaniescitiesstates and regions to manage their environmental impacts.

The global reach of  CDP means that it has the most comprehensive collection of self-reported environmental data in the world. We are proud that Carbon Credentials will continue to be a CDP silver climate change consultancy partner, and we are the first science-based targets partner to CDP in the UK.  Our status as an accredited SBT partner to CDP recognises the high standard of our work  in helping clients set science-based targets and develop strategies to achieve those targets.

Setting a science-based target allows a company to determine the level of carbon reductions that they need to achieve to limit the impact of global warming.  The benefits of target setting include reducing costs through increased efficiency, strengthening reputation within the industry, and creating further opportunities for business growth and development.

“We are delighted to have Carbon Credentials on board as our first science-based targets partner in the UK. With experience helping a number of large and complex organisations across a variety of sectors to set science-based targets, we are confident that their expertise will be of great benefit to companies looking to set science-based targets.”
– Alberto Carrillo Pineda, Director of Science-Based Targets at CDP.

In 2017 Carbon Credentials helped the following companies achieve an A-Grade rating with CDP: Keller, Jupiter Fund Management, British American Tobacco and British American Tobacco Water, Prudential, First Abu Dhabi Bank, Taylor Wimpey Water, Segro, Communisis, ISG, and 3i.

“We are looking forward to the next CDP reporting cycle to help maintain our clients A-Grade status and are happy to work with new clients in setting their targets to achieve similar results.”
-Paul Lewis, Chief Executive Officer at Carbon Credentials.

If you would like to find out more about setting science-based targets and demonstrating your commitment to reducing emissions, please download the infographic on our website.

Contact Us

If you would like to find out how we might be able to leverage our expertise to support your company in setting science-based targets please contact

Increasing attention being placed on ESG performance for Infrastructure

Carbon Credentials attended the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) European Infrastructure Results 2018 event on Tuesday, hosted by Macquarie Bank.

What is GRESB?

GRESB assesses the sustainability performance of real estate and infrastructure portfolios and assets worldwide. As a consultancy we have a depth of expertise in supporting real estate clients and those with real assets to submit to this global benchmark, and applaud the ability it has to drive sector improvements in sustainability.

GRESB has three separate assessments covering Real Estate, Debt and Infrastructure.

The Real Estate assessment results were released last month (see here for our blog) and are followed this month by the Infrastructure assessment results release. The Infrastructure assessment is still in its relative infancy, 2018 marking its third year, but is growing rapidly.

Strong growth in GRESB Infrastructure assessment participation this year

An increasing focus on ESG in infrastructure

The focus on ESG for infrastructure has been steadily rising in response to regulatory changes, the development of frameworks such as TCFD (Task-Force for Climate Related Financial Disclosures), an increasing awareness of pressures from society and the need for long-term risk management for improved climate resilience. Rick Walters, Director of Infrastructure at GRESB, noted that much is yet to be done to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and infrastructure plays a key role in bridging this gap. Therefore, it may be of no surprise that 2018 saw a 75% increase in total assets reporting to the GRESB Infrastructure assessment, Real Estate’s lesser-known little cousin.

Key 2018 Insights from the Infrastructure assessment

  • Australia and North America leading globally
  • Europe experienced a large intake of new participants
  • Investors are now looking for full participation (including assets) rather than simply fund-level reporting
  • 75% of participating funds had some kind of sustainable investment objective
    • Most participants either integrate sustainable investment objectives into their company strategy, review ESG/sustainable investment policies or report and disclose on ESG issues
  • Funds are improving transparency on ESG issues, but not improving the performance of their assets
    • While funds may be improving their disclosure through reporting, there has not been a significant improvement in their actual asset performance
    • Assets, on average, improved year on year but this was not significant
  • On average there has been a more balanced approach to environmental, social and governance issues compared to last year
  • Materiality-based scoring was introduced for the first time this year
    • This meant a reduction in penalisation (as previously entities were being scored on perhaps immaterial issues) and therefore improved scores
  • The assessment is being trialled in the listed infrastructure space with GLIO (Global Listed Infrastructure Organisation)
    • The first phase of a pilot study has begun and is expected to grow faster than that of real estate

Australia and North America leading the pack on average, whilst Europe suffered this year due to a large uptake in number of respondents

Recommendations for improvements

  • There needs to be a stronger focus on increasing asset-level scores
  • Funds should ensure they have set improvement targets
  • These targets should be material, and more importantly, achieved (a surprisingly high proportion of targets were not achieved)
  • A large number of entities are reporting and acknowledging issues that are not relevant to their core business, therefore focus should be placed on material issues rather than wasting time.

What do we expect for 2019 and beyond?

We’re observing and engaging with the infrastructure space with an excited anticipation here at Carbon Credentials as funds turn increasing attention to improving the sustainability credentials of their infrastructure investments, following in the footsteps of real estate.

We expect this assessment to grow in participants once again next year and eagerly await the sector improvements this will bring with it.

Where’s the opportunity?

Infrastructure lags behind the real estate sector in terms of ESG performance and disclosure currently. Therefore an opportunity exists to demonstrate leadership by doubling down on efforts to improve the sustainability credentials of infrastructure investments before it catches up with real estate… which we don’t expect to take very long.

Contact us

If you are in the infrastructure space and you’d like to understand more about how we might be able to leverage our expertise to support you in your endeavours, please contact or