The university sustainability data challenge

We spoke with David Wynn from Greenstone about the key challenges for university sustainability teams around data. 

Good data is the cornerstone of effective sustainability management. It allows you to target the most important areas, monitor the impact of programmes, and report the progress of your strategy. However, data collection, analysis and reporting can take a lot of time and get in the way of doing the things that make a difference.

Some universities have started to use software solutions to help their data collection and analysis and with this in mind, we asked David Wynn from Greenstone to give us her thoughts on the challenges for university sustainability teams around data, and share some insight about Greenstone’s work in Higher Education.

The university data challenge
University sustainability teams face three big challenges with data management and reporting.

1. The reporting cycle
Universities have a tough reporting cycle. With annual reports, HEFCE / HESA related reporting such as Estate Management Records (EMR), CRC submissions and other internal and external reporting to take care of, sustainability managers will often have to switch focus and think about what’s coming next. This continuous cycle of reporting results in little time left for what most universities see as the important part of sustainability; engaging people and making a difference.

2. Diversity of estates
On top of this, having large diverse estates that are constantly being developed and refurbished makes the task of collecting and maintaining consistently accurate data for reporting complex at best. Most universities have a large number of buildings, schools, academic faculties and departments to report against, and pulling together the data across multiple sites can be onerous and time-consuming

3. Lack of information
Another common challenge we have seen relates to the non-carbon data surrounding sustainability initiatives. Universities often have multiple and diverse ‘good stories’ to tell but struggle to collect all of the information required to communicate success and use this to engage students, staff and wider stakeholders. As such, it is important to define which areas are material and focus efforts accordingly, but this is often easier said than done.

The University of Manchester: making sustainability data easier
The University of Manchester has been using Greenstone’s software since 2012.  Through the use of Greenstone’s Environment module, the University collects, calculates and reports its environmental data with accuracy and confidence across more than 100 buildings, 28 schools, 4 academic faculties and 5 other university departments. 

The use of Greenstone’s software has reduced the burden of data gathering across multiple sites and has provided useful metrics to encourage staff, student and local authority engagement with its broader environmental sustainability programme. It also enables more efficient reporting and helps to identify additional opportunities to reduce carbon, resource consumption and cost.

Lucy Millard, Environmental Sustainability Manager at the University of Manchester, works closely with Greenstone’s team of industry experts to ensure she gets the data she needs to support the University’s ever-evolving reporting strategy. One of Greenstone’s key differentiators is its ‘data that talks to you’ promise guaranteed through the provision of uncapped support from its team of consultants.

Lucy comments "Greenstone takes the time to really understand our organisation and requirements. They are always on the end of the phone and work hard to ensure we get the best out of the system. I really like the friendly nature of the company and the excellent customer service. The software is really easy to use and has all the functionality that we require.”

About Greenstone

Greenstone is a non-financial reporting software provider. To understand more about their products and software, you can This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit their website.