Heads of Claim

The University of Liverpool is a signatory to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and is currently developing policy that seeks to meet the 2030 targets set by the SDGs. In this claim, the Liverpool University branches of UCU, UNITE and UNISON and the Liverpool Guild of Students propose the action necessary to achieve those targets.

The role of current and future workers and workers’ organizations in combatting the climate and ecological emergency and ensuring a just transition is recognised through the intersecting policy frameworks of the Paris Agreement, the International Labour Organizations just transition guidelines, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

This claim seeks to harness the collective power and capabilities of staff, students and local communities to drive bottom-up change through sustained democratic engagement and take the necessary action to ensure the University is SDG compliant and develops a pro-active contribution to climate justice locally, nationally and globally.

This document calls for:

  1. The University to bring forward its net zero commitment to 2030, and expand the target to encompass all emissions, including all scope 3 emissions; an assessment of the universities estates strategy that brings scope 3 emissions within the net zero target; The development of a set of policies, incremental binding targets and transparency mechanisms which set out how the target will be achieved.
  2. The adoption of measures to ensure sustainable employment policies, including to tackle casualization and reduce the pay gap, including a commitment to tackling gendered and racialised pay inequalities and a commitment to a 1:6 pay ratio; The establishment of a formal system of workplace green reps and allocation of facility time for these roles.
  3. A wholesale revision of teaching programmes along the principles of ‘decarbonising and decolonising’ the curriculum; the development of a set of negotiated policies to achieve this with the trades unions and the Guild, addressing workload, training, and resourcing issues.
  4. A concrete commitment to: supporting and promoting research that tackles problems of climate change and the ecological crisis; working with staff and the campus trade unions to move the University’s research agendas away from unsustainable practices and processes; ending funding streams that tie the University to companies that are pursuing growth in unsustainable practices and processes.[1]
  5. Continual improvement of the University’s divestment strategy.

1. Reducing Local and Global Emissions

Climate Emergency and Net Zero

The university has committed to a 2035 ‘Net Zero’ target, but this currently does not include ‘scope 3’ emissions.[2] As defined by the Science based targets initiative (SBTi), ‘Net Zero’ must include all scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. Scope 3 is the most important as it is usually by far the largest proportion of an organization’s emissions. Organizations must take responsibility for reducing all greenhouse gas emissions generated through their activities to avoid ‘outsourcing’ emissions to achieve a carbon target. Whilst commitment to an ambitious ‘net zero’ carbon target is an essential first step, we emphasise that net zero is a problematic and increasingly contentious concept. In common with the approach in development by the Science Based Targets Initiative, the target should be pursued through the principle of maximum abatement of emissions across Scope’s 1, 2 and 3 before residual emission removals offsets are considered. Removal offsets entail environmental and social risks. Removals projects may be ineffective, unsustainable, and impact on the rights of indigenous and global south populations. As such any use of offsets must be subject to robust and transparent scrutiny to ensure a genuine contribution to environmental and social goals.

  • 1.1 A public declaration of the climate emergency.
  • 1.2 Commitment to a net zero deadline no later than 2030, and moves towards a zero carbon deadline of 2045. The net zero target must include scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. This should include a full audit and ongoing monitoring of:
    • 1.2.1 Outsourced emissions generated from home working.
    • 1.2.2 The University’s plans for expansion of its estate that takes full account of scope 1, 2, and 3 and other environmentally harmful emissions
    • 1.2.3 Scope 3 and environmentally harmful emissions generated in external procurement and supply arrangements.
    • 1.2.4 Scope 3 and environmentally harmful emissions generated by the University’s use of local, national and international transport networks.
    • 1.2.5 Scope 3 and environmentally harmful emissions generated by the University’s food supply networks
  • 1.3 An outline of the policies it will adopt to move beyond the net zero carbon strategy as set out in this document, with clear, measurable, incremental targets and defined responsibilities, including detail of the transparent mechanisms that will be used for tracking progress on the achievement of net zero.
  • 1.4 An outline of intended use of offsets in achieving the target consistent with SBTi principle of ‘maximum abatement’, a policy regarding offsets, and mechanisms for transparency and scrutiny
  • 1.5 Provision of sufficient resources (people and funds) to achieve the objectives set out in this document in a timely and consistent way.

Land Use and the University Estate

The University will incorporate Sustainable Development Goals in its land and building use. This means making decisions from the very start to the end of the capital development process that take account of the full impact of resource working landscapes.

To meet those goals, the University will commit to the following:

  • 1.6 The preparation of a University ‘Sustainable Land Use Plan’ which explicitly shifts the basis of capital development decisions from purely commercial to sustainability objectives.
  • 1.7 Co-option of joint trade union and students Guild representation to all committees making strategic decisions on the University’s capital development and land use.


The power to reduce carbon emissions that the university has via sustainable procurement of its goods and services should not be under-estimated. The university can use procurement process to promote sustainability, to improve its external relationships and to improve its contribution to the local and wider economy. To meet all those goals, the University will commit to the following:

  • 1.8 Detailed assessment of the employment practices of contractors including construction, and the relevant supply chain in all procurement decisions.
  • 1.9 Affiliate with the Electronics Watch socially responsible procurement programme and comply with affiliate requirements.
  • 1.10 An annual reporting mechanism which details the action taken to address the impacts identified in 1.1-1.8
  • 1.11 The establishment of a new standing committee that includes both SLT and trade union and student representation that has overall responsibility for the implementation of 1.1-1.8

2. Sustainable Employment

Sustainable Development Goals

The University will take measures to incorporate the Sustainable Development Goals in its employment and procurement practices and sustainability strategy, in order to ensure compliance with:

  • Sustainable Deevlopment Goal 12, to Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
  • Sustainable Development Goal 8, to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
  • Sustainable Development Goal 10, to Reduce inequality within and among countries.

Sustainable Employment Practices

There is a fundamental connection between fair and secure employment and tackling climate change effectively. The work of participatory institutional change requires a secure and engaged staff base and relations of collegiality, autonomy, and self-governance. These conditions are eroded by precarious work. More directly, casualised workers are less likely to live near campus and their travel to and from work therefore generates significant emissions relative to those on permanent or long-term contracts who are able to relocate. Principles of continual improvement in sustainability will encompass the University’s employment practices.

  • 2.1 The University will actively promote sustainable employment practices and engage with the joint trade unions to take the necessary action to eradicate casualisation.
  • 2.2 The university will adopt the anti-casualisation claim currently tabled by the joint trade unions.
  • 2.3 The university will take meaningful action to reduce the pay gap, including a committment to tackling genered and racialised pay inequalities and a commitment to a 1:6 pay ratio.

Trade Union ‘Green Reps’

This claim seeks formal recognition of workplace ‘Green Reps’ in each Section/Department/Institute. Green reps will have responsibility for helping ensure that the commitments set out here are fulfilled and will represent members concerns about the impact of the University on climate change and the ecological crisis.

  • 2.4 The University will work with the joint trade unions to facilitate the formal recognition of trade union Green Reps who will have a similar role and status to that of workplace health and safety representatives.
  • 2.5 Green Reps will be given adequate time for training and representing members, and the necessary additional facilities time will be allocated to each of the trade union branches for organising and co-ordinating Green Reps.

3. Decarbonise and Decolonise the Curriculum

The principle of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is embedded in Sustainable Development Goal 4, to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Principles of ESD are explicit that teaching and learning should be transformative and allow us to make informed decisions and take individual and collective action to tackle the climate crisis and ensure the sustainability of the planet. This involves embedding ESD across the whole institution, supported by the necessary resources to support staff training and development. The joint trade unions and students Guild adopt a ‘decarbonise and decolonise’ approach. This means addressing climate change by linking the struggle for climate justice to colonialism (the imposition of Western political and high-carbon economic systems on non-Western countries) and exploring how the inequalities driven by our system globally are closely linked to the drivers of climate change. This also means accepting that encouraging growth in the teaching areas that are more commercially attractive does not necessarily sustain positive environmental agendas. The University must review its role in reproducing unsustainable economies through its teaching and research, and the associated careers pathways of students. All changes to the curriculum must be under the supervision and control of the lecturers and professional services staff with the expertise in pedagogy and delivery in particular subject areas.

To meet those goals, the University will commit to the following:

  • 3.1 A negotiated policy for embedding ESD across the curriculum and all areas of institutional practice and activities.
  • 3.2 A negotiated policy for staff training and support addressing the workload issues associated with climate proofing lesson plans, course offers and schemes of work
  • 3.3 A statement of resourcing: with budget and time allocated.
  • 3.4 A negotiated policy to meaningfully decarbonise – to transform learning in ways that equip students with the knowledge, skills and values to transform the carbon intense economic system.
  • 3.5 A negotiated policy to meaningfully decolonise teaching – to challenge the ways that institutional and systemic hierarchies are embedded in curricula and employment practices.
  • 3.6 The frameworks in 6.4 and 6.5 should be developed in tandem with students and embed the principle of students as co-creators of their education.
  • 3.7 A commitment not to pursue growth in areas that contribute towards unsustainable impacts on the environment.
  • 3.8 Adopt a publicly available Ethical Careers Policy that explicitly excludes companies pursuing growth in unsustainable practices and processes from recruitment opportunities.

4. Research

The University will commit to bringing its research agenda (research that is conducted by research staff and supported by internal funds and by external grants) into line with UN SDGs. Most important in this respect is SDG 13, Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

To meet this aim, the University will commit to the following:

  • 4.1 A negotiated set of policies for embedding sustainability in research practice.
  • 4.2 A negotiated policy to meaningfully decolonise research – to challenge the ways that institutional hierarchies are embedded in research and employment practices.
  • 4.3 An audit of all research for its sustainability. This audit should include:
    • 4.3.1 Scrutiny of the purpose of research funding in each Department/School/Institute
    • 4.3.2 Scrutiny of environmental and social track records of partners, funders, and sponsors
    • 4.3.3 Scrutiny of the environmental impact of research outputs.
  • 4.4 Move away from the development of research supporting unsustainable practices and processes.
  • 4.5 Refuse all new research partnerships with companies that are pursuing growth in unsustainable practices and processes, the scope of which will be determined by further consultation with staff. Decline to renew any current research partnerships with companies that are pursuing growth in unsustainable practices and processes after the contractually obligated period ends.
  • 4.6 Commit to measures ensuring a Just Transition for workers impacted by the shift away from research that supports unsustainable processes. This should include:
    • 4.6.1 Establishment of a joint process with the trade unions and those workers directly impacted by the shift away from unsustainable research and funding, to implement and shape measures which will ensure a Just Transition
    • 4.6.2 Adopt measures to support the transition of research towards sustainable alternatives in subject areas most affected, such as university match-funding or co-funding of bids. This should include measures to reduce precarity in research in line with the anti-casualization claim.
  • 4.7 Audits will be used to guide action at an institutional rather than an individual level. Decision-making mechanisms should ensure that those who are disproportionately affected by climate change and lack of economic sustainability should be represented. This should include staff with disabilities, casualised staff, BAME staff, and lower-paid workers. Time and resources should be allocated so as participation in decision-making is not exploitative or tokenistic for those groups.

5. Divestment 

In 2019 the University committed to divest £9.5m of portfolio assets from holdings in fossil fuel companies with ‘significant revenues’ from fossil fuel extraction as a result of the Liverpool Guild of Students ‘Fossil Free’ campaign. To meet the Sustainable Development Goals, the policy must recognise only a small proportion of emissions result from the direct activities of fossil fuel companies, with the largest proportion through the secondary use of fossil fuels by others. The ‘ethical investment policy’ seeks to embed human rights and labour rights within investment practice via the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI) and the principles of the UN Global Compact (UNGC). The policy must recognise that the aims of the UNPRI and UNGC require active scrutiny of corporate practice by social partners including trade unions. The focus must now shift towards decarbonising the entire investment portfolio, and the development of a more rigorous approach to divestment from firms associated with labour and human rights violations and environmental harms.

The University will:

  • 5.1 Commit to a timeline for reducing the greenhouse gas footprint of its entire investment portfolio to net zero.
  • 5.2 Review the exclusions in the Ethical Investment Policy in consultation with unions and students and develop stronger criteria for governing investment decisions.
  • 5.3 Strengthen oversight of investments through co-option of joint trade union representation to the Investment Sub-Committee.


[1] The terms “sustainable” and “unsustainable” are used in this document consistently with the definition underpinning the UN Sustainable Development Goals and set out in the 1987 Bruntland Commission Report as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

[2] The SBTi is a partnership between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)