Student-led sustainability action doesn’t only make an incredible impact on campuses across the UK, but throughout the whole of society.
At the University of Southampton Students’ Union, their Business Ethics and Environment Students (BEES) scheme is training up students to work across the local community.
They assess the ethical and environmental performances of local businesses, and present them with a valuable action plan for improving their sustainability, completely free of charge.
“As soon as I heard about the BEES Project I was excited to get involved”, says student Adele Wratten. “It really stood out from other volunteering opportunities available at the university as something that would greatly enhance my CV”
“I'm looking forward to contributing towards improving sustainability within businesses”, she added.
With the support of Students’ Green Fund, students will be auditing 24 local organisations, ranging from local schools, to entertainment venues, to council buildings.
“It’s about driving a shift in organisational culture towards more sustainable behaviours and practice” explains project lead Teresa Kennard, “as well as resulting in the tangible benefits, which can include financial savings, and increased staff wellbeing”
Recently, students carried out the audit on the students’ union building, as one of the first projects undertaken.
“We received a positive response from everyone we spoke to at the students’ union”, explains second year student Eithne Lonergan-Curry.
“The staff were enthusiastic about the auditing process and I believe that they will take our recommendations on board. I am looking forward to seeing changes to the operations in the student union in the near future”
Jaki Booth – chief executive of the University of Southampton Students’ Union – found it to be a really valuable experience. “The audit process will give us a very clear pathway for our next work and help us map out both a strategic and tactical way forward” she explained.
“The process will undoubtedly reap very positive rewards. For any organisation keen to test their practices, this is a really great way to make a start”
BEES doesn’t just make an incredibly positive impact on the environmental credentials of the city. It also provides formal employability skills for students, and improves the efficiency of local businesses too.
As more and more organisations see the need to improve their sustainability management – from a business perspective, as much as an ethical one – schemes like BEES make a huge contribution to our emerging low-carbon economy.