Experiences on judging university and college´ sustainability leaders

Greetings from UK & Ireland Green Gown Awards 2016 at King´s College London

Text and pictures: Meri Löyttyniemi

Green Gown – What it is all about?

The Green Gown Awards recognize the exceptional sustainability initiatives being undertaken by universities and colleges across the world. The Awards are organized in the UK by EAUC since 2004. EAUC stands for Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges, uniting UK´s sustainability staff and activities. Nowadays the competition has expanded to Australasia, French-speaking countries and GUPES, the global UN network for universities. All these regions are brought together in the International Green Gown Awards.

About the competition

It was the second time I had the honour to act as a judge in the Green Gown Awards. The Awards have a number of categories, 4 for individuals and 14 for organisations. Each judge focuses typically in one category so the workload is managable. For individuals, the categories include the following: Sustainability Champion, Sustainability Professional, Student Research and Development and a Leadership Award. For organizations, the 14 different categories, like in the Oscars, look into improvement in learning and development, R&D and services & campus.

wp_20160922_15_22_42_proGreen Gown Award Manager Helen Exton (left), Prof. Wyn Morgan, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Learning & Teaching from University of Sheffield and jury member Meri Löyttyniemi, NSCN chair and Aalto University sustainability manager.

EAUC organizes the Awards professionally. Jury members are invited from the hosting country but also international judges and different stakeholders are well presented with over 90 judges taking part. The applications are sent by the institutions and evaluated at the 1st stage by a small member jury in June to select the Finalists. Then, further jury members step in, and they can delve into a restricted amount of excellent candidates in September once finalists have completed a more detailed application. Like in 2015, the stage 2 of the judging was organized at King´s College London, September 2016. Compact and clear materials about the applicants were provided to jury members in advance and they were discussed in the meeting in London. As sustainability needs to be put in practice, also virtual participation by skype was possible. The judging day also included an opening seminar hosted by the EAUC, providing useful insights into current topics within sustainability and a presentation from Mike Barry, Director of Sustainability at Marks & Spencer providing an insight into how industry and education have to work together to achieve real sustainable goals.

A crucial ethos of the Awards are to share and learn from the good practice taking place in the sector and all Finalists prepare a short video and case study and these are publically available at the Sustainability Exchange at sustainabilityexchange.ac.uk/2016x. This includes winners from the UK and Ireland as well as the Australasian, French speaking and GUPES Awards and there are over 500 resources to share from all over the world.

wp_20160922_12_56_28_pro                      EAUC has succeeded in attracting prominent companies to sponsor and contribute to the competition.

Leadership Award category – and how was the winner chosen

In this category, there were four Finalists in the second stage. They all were true champions in their respective organisations so the selection was not easy. Advancing sustainability agenda within higher education has been the red thread throughout their career. The jury analysed their work by dividing the credits into impact and benefits, leadership and engagement and their significance as an individual and for the sector.

In the Leadership Award category, the Green Gown Award 2016 was awarded to Professor and Assistant Vice Chancellor Jim Longhurst from University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE). His achievements within the higher education has been extraordinary and he has succeeded in integrating sustainable development within all the university operations. The competition in this category was tight but the jury´s decision was also unanimous. The winners of all categories were announced on 10 Nov 2016 at a gala Awards Ceremony, this year organized in Leicester, with over 390 guests. More about the Awards Ceremony and all the winners: http://www.greengownawards.org/2016-winners1

wp_20160922_15_47_07_proKing´s College London provided excellent premises for the Green Gown Award judging at stage 2.

Reflections – launching Green Gowns to Nordic countries?

As we all know, sustainability needs inspiring visions, courageous institutions and skilled individuals to turn the visions into action. It´s utterly important to acknowledge the work and celebrate the transformative actions that are so urgently needed. As the chair and founder of Nordic Sustainable Campus Network, I have cherished the thought of launching the Green Gown Awards into Nordic countries. Thus we could celebrate Nordic success stories and furthermore reach international visibility. There are a few issues to be solved in order to make it happen, not least the resources for running the competition. Besides our own home institutions, Nordic Council of Ministers has been our keen support so far. It would be worthwhile to explore these possibilities together?

Meri Löyttyniemi, people.aalto.fi/index.html#meri_loyttyniemi

  • Chair of NUAS Sustainability, Nordic Sustainable Campus Network
  • Aalto University sustainability manager, on a sabbatical and working currently as senior advisor for Miltton Brussels

Green Gown Awards: www.greengownawards.org

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