Keele wins ‘Outstanding Leadership Team of the Year’ award

Keele University has won a highly coveted Green Gown Award for its outstanding approach to sustainability.

For the first time in the Green Gown Awards’ 14-year history there was a live vote at the awards ceremony to decide the winner of the ‘Outstanding Leadership Team of the Year’ award, with three shortlisted universities presenting their institutional approach: Keele, Edinburgh, and Gloucestershire. Driven by the motto ‘Our Community: Our Team’, Keele University were voted the ultimate winners.

The ‘Outstanding Leadership Team of the Year’ award is a new category which was introduced for 2018, which recognises the pioneering and innovative approaches that universities and colleges are taking to deliver more sustainable institutions through whole-institution sustainability strategies and new organisational structures.

Professor Mark Ormerod, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost at Keele, and also the University’s Strategic Lead for Sustainability, commented:

“I am absolutely delighted by this award. Key to this success is a model of distributed leadership and a genuine empowering of staff and students to lead sustainability transformations in their own areas of the institution.”

Keele University was also a finalist for Sustainability Institution of the Year, with judges highlighting the experiment of distributed sustainability responsibility as “a bold move and an inspiration for other institutions, especially smaller ones” and praising a “compelling story of a whole organisational strategic approach driving culture change involving hearts and minds."

Professor Ormerod added:

“Keele University was originally founded almost 70 years ago as a different and innovative experiment in higher education, and we’re proud that we still do things very differently today. Sustainability is one of our core strategic aims and our key message to all staff and students is to embed sustainability in everything we do.

“As such, our Root and Branch campaign delivers constant and creative messaging of our ambitious sustainability vision. The roots reflect our core values, with the branches extending into all aspects of our activities both here, throughout the UK, and overseas.”

The winning Keele team demonstrated how stakeholders at all levels of the University are engaged in powerful strategic conversations, how a truly integrated plan is constructed and communicated, and how innovative ideas are put into action. The team from Keele consisted of representatives from various stakeholders throughout the University, from the executive team, to academics, to sustainability professionals, the Students’ Union, and students.

Dr Zoe Robinson, Director of Education for Sustainability, and an academic member of staff
at Keele commented:

"That this is a team award makes it so special, as it genuinely recognises everyone at Keele who is doing their bit to embed sustainability into their own areas of influence.

“Through this we've made great progress in sustainability at the whole university scale, across all aspects of the University's activities. For example, at least 96% of our undergraduate degrees embed sustainability; our cross-university Institute for Sustainable Futures promotes interdisciplinary research targeted specifically at the Sustainable Development Goals; and we're developing Europe’s largest Smart Energy Network Demonstrator - a genuine ‘living laboratory’ for sustainable energy research, education, and business and community engagement.

“At Keele, our whole community is our team, helping us to embed sustainability in everything we do, and this for us is what it means to be an Outstanding Leadership Team, not just this year, but every year."

Feedback from the judges of the awards praised Keele’s innovative approach: "We were very interested in the distributed leadership approach being taken at Keele. To us the approach feels as much a movement than a strategy! A strong and comprehensive approach."

Sam Gibbons, Activities and Communities Officer with Keele University Students’ Union, added:

"It was great to be recognised for all the work the Students’ Union and University have done in partnership. Schemes like 'The Great Donate' and our new coffee cup campaign show that we're more effective when we work together."

Sarah Briggs, Sustainability Project Officer who is one of a small number of people at Keele whose role is specifically focused on sustainability, commented:

"The small sustainability team provides support through resources, building relationships, sharing advice and case studies, and ultimately by creating a culture to make sustainability happen, but we couldn’t do any of this without the commitment of people across the University embedding sustainability into their everyday tasks."

Winners of the Outstanding Leadership Team of the Year award

The 14th year of the prestigious Green Gown Awards Ceremony gathered 87 finalist institutions in 12 different categories for an unforgettable evening on Thursday 8th November. Representing over one million students, 172,000 staff, and a combined annual turnover of £15 billion, these institutions are proving their value both to the economy and society.

Organised by the EAUC, the Ceremony was held in the home of iconic locomotives and engineering brilliance, The National Railway Museum in York in conjunction with the University of York and York St John University.

The Awards saw guests from institutions, companies and organisations across the UK and Ireland come to celebrate the educational initiatives, staff, and students all helping address some of the most pressing global challenges. For the second year running, finalists mapped their entries against the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the most popular being ‘sustainable cities and communities’, ‘responsible consumption and production’ and ‘quality education’.

Iain Patton, CEO of the EAUC who co-hosted the awards ceremony, commented:

“In their commitment to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, universities and colleges across the UK and Ireland are proving that they are leading through their research, enterprise and education for the next generation that we need to provide the solutions.”