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

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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

5 things you need to do before the CDP Questionnaire deadline

This year, the deadline for submitting to the investor request is the 15th August
and the deadline for the supply chain questionnaires following shortly afterwards on the 29th August.

For 2018, CDP updated the questionnaires across each of the programmes including an increased focus on the TCFD recommendations.

Within the Climate Change questionnaire, 18% of the questions are new, with the remaining 82% of the questions in the 2018 climate change questionnaire have either no change, minor changes, or some modifications from their 2017 counterparts.

The evolution in the questionnaire is accompanied by an updated Online Response System (ORS).

5 things you should be doing ahead of the CDP deadline

Provide a complete disclosure

CDP encourages companies who fully disclose information within their response, so make sure you’ve answered all the relevant questions, avoid answering ‘Unknown’ and don’t leave any boxes blank

Get online

With so many CDP documents, from the guidance, to the scoring methodology, to the technical notes, it can be difficult to make sense of it all. The new ORS contains a helpful synthesis of the guidance and scoring methodology for each question at the click of a button

Check your numbers

Ensure all breakdowns of emissions and energy consumption reported within your disclosure are consistent throughout the response

Tell CDP about your company

In many instances points are awarded for answers that are company-specific and contain examples that differentiate your response from similar organisations

Get an expert second opinion

An independent response check conducted by a third party is a great way to add value at a low cost


As an accredited consultancy partner Carbon Credentials receives training each year from CDP to deliver the CDP Response Check service.

The Response Check is a high level ‘checking’ service for CDP responding companies that have completed their annual CDP response.

Carbon Credentials has delivered a large number of Response Checks in its 6 years as an accredited CDP consultancy partner and has advanced the standardised process to provide its clients with more nuanced and detailed feedback to help clients to improve the quality of their disclosure.

If you would like to improve your submissions please get in touch with us at

Related Links

Case Study  – Find out how we helped ISG with their CDP score

Find out more about our CDP Services

TCFD’s increasing influence – Is your business ready?

The UK Government’s Green Finance Taskforce released its report on Accelerating Green Finance today. In it, the Taskforce recommends 10 Key Themes, from “issuing a sovereign green bond” to “boosting investment into innovative clean technologies”.

In particular, the Taskforce has suggested in its “Theme 3″ that companies implement the recommendations of the TCFD and are encouraging Government to conduct a review in 2020 of how organisations are performing against the recommendations.

This adds further weight to the importance and relevance of the TCFD recommendations and the likely impact it will have on your organisation.

Over the next few months, in a new blog series about TCFD, we will be reminding you of what the TCFD recommendations are, why they are important and which key elements you need to consider.

Kicking off in this blog, I will be giving a high-level overview of the recommendations and why they are so prominent.

What is TCFD?

The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures recommendations sets out voluntary, consistent climate-related financial risk disclosures for use by companies in providing information to their stakeholders.

The recommendations were released in June 2017 ahead of the G20 Summit in Germany and are supported by over 100 CEOs from leading businesses around the world.

When we asked a group of companies “Does your organisation plan to align its mainstream financial reporting with Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure recommendations?” 58% said they did not know.

With the UK Government now endorsing TCFD recommendations, it is safe to say that they are only going to grow in importance and influence in the near-future.

What is their purpose?

The purpose of the TCFD recommendations is to improve financial disclosure so that investors can make better-informed decisions on where to deploy their capital. Companies and investors need to be aware of the risks from climate change.

We believe they will become increasingly important factors in investment decisions, potentially devaluing an organisation or rendering it obsolete, if ignored.

Business impact

With Michael Bloomberg stating that “Increasing transparency makes markets more efficient, and economies more stable and resilient,” investors are looking for companies who are leading the way on climate-related financial disclosure. The impact this disclosure will have on investor’s decision making will only increase over time and organisations failing to disclose appropriately will start to be penalised by investors allocating their funds to more resilient companies.

It’s not just about disclosure though. Company Boards are finding themselves being held to account more and more for their environmental performance by better informed and increasingly vocal shareholders. And in the 2018 proxy season, it is expected that climate change risk is to feature prominently on the agenda again. Last year, Exxonmobil suffered reputational damage following pressure from investors to disclose on the impact of climate policies. Understanding the impact and influence your shareholders have, is becoming increasingly important. Increased transparency and information will help Boards engage with investors on the resilience of their strategy and avoid high profile disputes at AGMs.

With whom does responsibility lie?

Understanding the implications of climate volatility on business often falls with Sustainability Managers however the financial implications and business uncertainty of climate change mean that Board Members should be equally involved.

The TCFD recommendations are clear and represent a growing consensus that companies need to be disclosing more on climate-related risks and ultimately act on those disclosures.

This cannot be managed by a Sustainability Manager alone but requires the commitment of the whole company. Boards that recognise this are far more likely to mitigate the risks of a stranded business model and ensure a successful business in a changing environment.

Check out my previous blog on “Why is it so difficult to get climate issues onto the board level agenda?

How we can help
Since the launch of the TCFD, Carbon Credentials has been helping our clients to prepare for alignment with the TCFD recommendations.

If you have any questions or need help aligning with TCFD recommendations please contact me

Related links:

Why is it so difficult to get climate issues onto the board level agenda? Is TCFD a solution?

I recently heard the phrase climate competence gap and it really resonated with me. Jane Stevenson, CDP Engagement Director to the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) was speaking at a Carbon Credentials event and invoked the phrase when describing a barrier that many of us will be familiar with. Namely, that climate-related issues are seldom well understood at Board level and are even less likely to be championed by the members of the Board.

Why is it so difficult to get climate issues onto the board level agenda?

What can we do to bridge this disconnect between the senior decision makers in our organisations and the overwhelming evidence that companies need to act now to ensure we stay below a 2-degree warming scenario?

Might the answer be the recent recommendations to come out from the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure?

There are 3 key reasons why these recommendations could help you achieve greater traction at Board level.

1. It’s an industry-led initiative.

The recommendations have been steadily increasing in prominence since their launch last June as a result of their credibility and pragmatic nature.

The TCFD is backed by key industry figures, it is chaired by Michael Bloomberg and was instigated by Mark Carney in his role as chair of the Financial Stability Board. This gives the recommendations credibility that is more likely resonate at Board level than previous disclosure initiatives.

2. They have an investor focus.

The purpose of the TCFD recommendations is to improve financial disclosure so that investors can make better-informed decisions on where to deploy their capital. Investors are becoming increasingly aware of the risk that climate change can have of devaluing an organisation or rendering it obsolete. Andrew Parry, Head of Sustainable Investment at Hermes Investment Management, stated at one of our recent events that organisations need to be conscious of not just having stranded assets but stranded business models as well.

Investors will be looking for companies to disclose inline with the TCFD so they can make their investment decisions. Boards that are not managing climate-related risks could find themselves struggling to retain or attract investment.

3. Scenario analysis will change the game

Scenario analysis is a key recommendation that focuses on the resilience of organisational strategy. Companies must consider not just how they impact the climate but how the climate will impact them. This is still a new area for most organisations and is being developed, yet it is clear that we cannot fully understand how a company will respond to different scenarios without exploring the Board’s decision-making capabilities and increasing their competence to the risks that they face.

So what does this tell us? The TCFD recommendations have potential, more than previous initiatives, to resonate with your Board. You have an opportunity to leverage the recommendations to get buy-in at a senior level and drive the change that underpins your company’s disclosure.

For more information on how you can prepare effectively for the recommendations, get in touch with us.

Understanding the context for the new Non-Financial Reporting Directive

In the last few months there have been a number of headlines which have made me feel slightly uneasy about the apparent waning political response to climate change, despite the world experiencing a second, successive, record annual rise in carbon dioxide concentrations.

  1. Last week documents belonging to a senior British civil servant at the Department for International Trade were photographed by a passenger on a train which stated that “Some economic security-related work like climate change and illegal wildlife trade will be scaled down” in effort to help secure post-Brexit trade.
  2. Finance ministers from the G20 have dropped from a joint statement any mention of financing action on climate change, reportedly following pressure from the US and Saudi Arabia.
  3. President Trump signed an executive order last week to undo Obama’s climate change efforts, telling the coal industry workers who joined him, “You’re going back to work.”

The Grantham Institute at London School of Economics 2016 update of The Global Climate Legislation Study showed that the annual number of legislative and executive actions have both dropped since their 2010 peak, when 93 new laws and executive acts were passed (compared to 11 in 2016). The study suggests that this decline could point to a shift towards implementation, but it could also mean that the political drive to strengthen climate ambitions has stalled.

The number of laws and policies being passed annually is falling

UN’s Ban Ki-moon: Climate change action is ‘unstoppable’

But despite these disheartening back tracks in the political world, many believe that climate change action is “unstoppable”, and, significantly, this is something the investor community is championing.

For example, in February this year, sixteen investors and insurers with more than USD 2.8 trillion in assets under management (more than the annual GDP of the UK) joined a call urging the G20 to end fossil fuel subsidies by 2020, highlighting the risk this continued government support for fossil fuels creates for the financial sector.

In 2016 the growing realisation that climate change represents systemic financial risk led to the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors asking the Financial Stability Board to review how the financial sector can take account of climate-related issues. As part of its review, the Financial Stability Board established an industry-led task force – the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) – to develop voluntary, consistent climate-related financial disclosures that would be useful to investors, lenders, and insurance underwriters in understanding material risks. For more information see the TCFD’s full report.

The TCFD recommendations were published in December 2016 and the public consultation, which Carbon Credentials responded to, closed in February. The TCFD will deliver an updated report following the consultation to the FSB in June.

See the Climate Disclosure Standards Board’s handy blog on how to prepare for the TCFD recommendations.

What does this mean for business?

Mandatory and voluntary frameworks for disclosure on climate change are evolving and companies need to be prepared.

Mandatory reporting

Stock exchanges across the world are introducing requirements for their registrants to disclose material sustainability information, including Toronto, Malaysia, Johannesburg, Korea and Bombay exchanges. See the Sustainable Stock Exchange Initiative for more info.

In the EU, the new Non-Financial Reporting Directive means that qualifying companies will have to include a new Non-Financial Information Statement (NFIS) within their mainstream financial filings, which should include business specific disclosures on environmental matters, as well as other sustainability information such as employee, social and community, respect for human rights, and anti-corruption and bribery matters. See my colleague Alison’s Mungall’s blog for more on the Non-Financial Reporting Directive.

Voluntary reporting

In addition to the development of new voluntary reporting, such as those recommended by the TCFD, existing reporting frameworks are evolving too. Most notably, CDP is currently consulting on its Reimagining Disclosure Initiative, which sets out potential changes to the CDP questionnaires for 2018 to incorporate recommendations from the TCFD and move towards sector-based questionnaires and scoring.

CDP’s briefing document can be found here, asks that stakeholders provide comments through the feedback form by the 28th April deadline.

How can Carbon Credentials help?

Carbon Credentials provides guidance for clients navigating the evolving sustainability reporting landscape – mandatory and voluntary, as well as end-to-end solutions for risk and compliance, data management services and energy performance optimisation.

Next week, on 26th April 2017, Carbon Credentials will be hosting ‘Non-Financial Reporting Directive 2017’ an invitation-only event, which comes in response to the buzz, and some early action, around the Non-Financial Reporting Directive, the FSB’s Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosure, and other sustainability reporting initiatives such as the London Stock Exchange’s reporting guidance and the Energy Transition Law in France.

The key objectives for this event will be:

  • To clarify whether your organisation qualifies for NFRD, the scope and implications of it, and how it aligns with other reporting frameworks
  • To assess the additional burden the NFRD imposes and the potential value from the reporting process
  • To learn what other organisations are doing in response to compliance to NFRD and discuss best practice

To help explore these themes, leaders in sustainability reporting will give presentations alongside our experts and join you for roundtable discussions. The confirmed speakers are:

  • Mark Evans, ESG Analyst, Jupiter Fund Management PLC.
  • Olivia Jamison, Partner at the international law firm CMS Cameron McKenna.
  • Michael Zimonyi, Policy & External Affairs Manager, Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB).

Please contact us at here if you’d be interested in attending, or if you ,would be interested to set up an informal discussion about the implications of the Non-Financial Reporting Directive or other sustainability reporting frameworks for you organisation.


Scarlett Benson

Senior Sustainability Consultant