Students from UWTSD’s Swansea campus, who have been campaigning for environmental and ethical improvements within the University, share their thoughts on how UWTSD can clean up its act and regain its coveted status as a “green” institution.
Tuesday 16th July saw the release of the People & Planet University League Table, which has been eagerly anticipated by University management and students. The results show that the University of Wales Trinity St. David has fallen a dramatic 18 places in the league table since last year, meaning they no longer qualify for “First Class” status. The league table ranks all 154 UK universities on over 100 indicators that test for commitment, policy and performance in sustainable development, and is compiled by staff and student volunteers using a combination of Freedom of Information Requests (FOIs) and information readily available on Universities’ websites.
Of most concern is UWTSD’s poor performance in the Workers Rights section of the criteria, where they have been awarded a meagre 10%. Students at UWTSD recently passed policy through their Students Union to lobby the institution to become a Real Living Wage Employer, recognising that the current legal minimum wage does not reflect the actual amount which it costs to live in modern Britain. The legal minimum wage also fascilitates age discrimination, as it allows employers to pay some workers less for doing the same work, for no other reason than their age.
Students have also been campaigning for the University to affiliate to Electronics Watch, a labour monitoring organisation which works to improve the wages and working conditions of people who make electronics. The campaign, known as Sweatshop Free, has also been supported by the Students Union.
Fraser Reid, Vice President of UWTSD’s Environment Society, said, “The university, as an institution of education, have a moral obligation not only to ensure that they themselves are in no way involved with the exploitation of workers, but also any company they are affiliated with.”
Conor Haslem, President of UWTSD’s Environment Society, further added,
“I’m disgusted at the news of our Universities huge drop in P&P’s university league table. UWTSD should be ashamed of their lack of commitment to being an ethical and sustainable university, especially as they continue to tout a ‘green’ status which has only revealed itself as elaborate greenwashing; reusable cups can only make you look good for so long.
For me, the biggest red flag is the abysmal score for worker’s rights at just 10 out of a possible 100! It baffles me that a university can claim any form of ethical accreditation while clearly having zero consideration for those without whom studying would not be possible, the workers who make the electronic goods UWTSD relies on to function. Students here have implemented policies through the Student’s Union to lobby for affiliation with Electronics Watch to prevent worker exploitation in their supply chains, and to lobby the university to become a Real Living Wage employer, neither policy seeing any progress since they were passed.
Both the University and Student’s Union need to recognise their failures and commit themselves to drastic improvement as it moves into the next academic year.”
Swansea University have already affiliated to Electronics Watch, and students at UWTSD hope their Uni will soon follow suit. Also of concern was the Universities poor performance in the Energy Sources and Carbon Reduction criteria. With the University’s Carbon Management Plan due for renewal next year, it’s hoped that UWTSD will be ambitious and commit to being carbon neutral by 2030.
The People & Planet University League Table results came just one day after students staged a protest at a graduation ceremony at Brangwyn Hall in Swansea.
Ella Wilkinson, who graduated with a 2:1 in Environmental Conservation on Monday, said:
“I decided to bring a banner with me to my graduation ceremony because UWTSD has made a promise which it isn’t following through.
The University’s commitment to divest from fossil fuels was renewed as recently as 2016, and yet a recent Freedom of Information request revealed that they still have approximately 13% of their reserves directly invested in fossil fuel explorers and producers. I think it’s wrong that my University is contributing to climate change whilst claiming to be sustainable and boasting about their green credentials.”
Again, UWTSD is once again out-performed by Swansea University who commited to full divestment from fossil fuels within just twelve months back in March this year.
Chris Saltmarsh, Co-Director: Climate Change Campaigns at People & Planet, said, “There’s no excuse for UK universities to have not moved their money out of fossil fuels amid this climate emergency. UWTSD have said they will divest and it’s time for them to finally follow through on that commitment.”
About the author: Ella Wilkinson is an eco-feminist who goes beyond simply reducing, reusing and recycling – she sees waste as a social justice issue and won’t stop fighting until everybody, everywhere has access to safe, equitable waste management solutions.
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