How We Help Universities “Speak Carbon”

Students' motivation at end of Carbon Literacy training

Case Study: Leeds University Business School

“Higher Education establishments must act meaningfully and swiftly in order to achieve necessary [decarbonisation] changes.” Leeds University Business School uses Carbon Literacy to raise awareness and motivate swift action.

Research informs Educational Requirements

A recent report published by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) has urged universities to strive to reach zero carbon emissions by 2035.  It advises universities to rethink their knowledge and teaching practices for the era of climate change.  This is just the sort of challenge that Speak Carbon can help with.

The report, entitled Beyond business as usual: Higher education in the era of climate change (HEPI Debate Paper 24), written by Professor Keri Facer, is the Institute’s first ever report on climate change.  

Professor Facer indicates that universities and colleges have an important role to play in addressing the climate crisis.  Within the report, she makes the case that higher education establishments must act meaningfully and swiftly in order to achieve the necessary changes, and that they must make sure they don’t ‘greenwash’ their activities.  

Leeds University Business School’s aims

With precisely these aims in mind, Leeds University Business School (LUBS) asked Speak Carbon to help.  LUBS wanted their staff and students to understand the extent of the climate emergency and to be empowered to take action.  

The plan was to start by training a small group of students and faculty staff. The next phase would be to follow this with a rollout of learning to the rest of the organisation.

What was Speak Carbon’s role?

Speak Carbon worked with the business school to develop a Carbon Literacy training package to meet the requirements for staff and students.  The programme was delivered to four different cohorts, with each participant required to attend two 3-hour online sessions.

Training materials were adapted from toolkits developed by The Carbon Literacy Project (CLP) and Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU).  Historically, MMU was a pioneer in developing Carbon Literacy training alongside CLP. They recognised the need to help their students understand the issues behind climate change and what individuals could do to reduce their own carbon footprint.

In order to enhance the learning, bespoke elements were added into the training content. Topics covered included

  • better food choices,
  • climate conscious behaviours in rented accommodation,
  • student travel (both to and around campus) and
  • how to influence others by understanding their values.  

Following the success of these initial training sessions, LUBS decided to roll out Carbon Literacy Training across their organisation. To support LUBS, Speak Carbon used the ‘Train the Trainer’ model to equip some of these newly certified Carbon Literate students and staff with the skills to become in-house trainers. Thus they gained the skills to pass on their knowledge and expertise to others within the business school.

What did staff and students say about their Carbon Literacy Training?

Feedback from both staff and students demonstrated the value of the CL training in reaching its intended outcomes. Here are some of the comments.

“I couldn’t recommend the course more. The issue of climate change and sustainability is one that we should all be informed on. This is the perfect place to start.”

“This was a fantastic interactive session. Definitely this is something that will add a lot of value to me on a personal and professional level.”

“I had heard from the mainstream media what the climate challenges are. However, this course has given me knowledge on what actions can be taken as well as the ability to influence others.”

“Extremely useful! I think it should become the basic course for all of the students.”

What was the impact of Speak Carbon’s training programme?
  • Initially, one hundred faculty staff and students trained to understand the climate emergency. The learnt how to measure their carbon footprint, and what action to take in their daily lives. 
  • An impressive 89% of participants said they better understood the changes that need to be made in the workplace to reach net zero.
  • At the end of the training, almost two thirds of learners felt they were now significantly or extremely confident in communicating climate change (up from less than a fifth at the start).
  • These students now know how to apply good practice surrounding carbon reduction. As a result, they will be able to influence and contribute to achieving the goal of zero carbon emissions in their future careers as business leaders.
  • Using the Train the Trainer Cascade Model, the Business School’s additionally qualified trainers continue to deliver Carbon Literacy training across their organisation.
  • Speak Carbon has progressed to developing the Train-the-Trainer model into our Training Professionals offering.
What are the next steps?

Speak Carbon and LUBS have continued working together to develop a programme of Carbon Literacy training for the business school.  The training roll out has been delivered in partnership with LUBS’ newly qualified trainers, who continue to roll the programme out to more staff and students. 

Hundreds of students and staff have become Carbon Literate Citizens, taking their knowledge and ability to influence into the world of work.

Can you help spread the word?

Do you work for a university or college?  We’d like introductions to members of staff – especially senior leaders, people in sustainability roles and student climate leads. Together, we’ll help you tick climate awareness training off your to-do list.

Get in touch or email [email protected] to start a conversation – find out how Carbon Literacy Training can help your organisation with its decarbonisation programme.