Earth Day: when nations, people and organisations come together across the world to reflect on the increasingly urgent need to value and protect our planet. There is an element of celebration in the day, we will see symbolic moments take place in towns across the country as people unite in their commitment to the environment. Taking a moment to acknowledge our shared goal is, of course, important. But, at the same time, the daily reality of climate change rages across the world. Time is running out. Each and every one of us must ensure we are making sustainable changes in every aspect of our lives – switching off energy sources when they are not being used, running the shower for the shortest possible time and whilst we are under the faucet, shopping in our own wardrobes, wasting less food, buying as sustainably as we can afford to. There are countless ways we can make a difference. Every day should be Earth Day.
The Brookings Institution identified girls’ education as one of the best and most cost-effective investments against climate change. Therefore, we aimed to show our commitment to Earth Day 2022’s ‘Invest In Our Planet’ theme by continuing to educate girls to ensure they are involved in finding solutions to climate change.
We can draw strength from the fact that every little daily practice contributes to a wider goal: the goal encapsulated in the work of COP 26 to keep temperature increases to 1.5 degrees. At GDST schools across the country, girls are passionate in their commitment to sustainability. Every year group, no matter how young, contributes to their school’s sustainability plan. Whether they are organising litter picking committees or making ‘pledgehogs’ to mark individual commitments to climate change action, our girls believe that they have the power to make a difference. And to hold us to account.
But what is the use of us encouraging these actions taken by our students if we don’t match them as an organisation? Our students are increasingly dedicated to achieving a sustainable world and, accordingly, the GDST has responded to ensure we meet ambitious but critically important sustainability targets at every level of the organisation. Our strategy includes an aspiration to deliver a Net Zero target by 2050, a rigorous analysis of the carbon footprint of all purchasing decisions throughout our supply chain, 100% renewable electricity contracts in each of our schools and a dynamic green thread of sustainable thinking woven through every aspect of the curriculum.
To mark Earth Day 2022, we formalised that strategy under our mantra for sustainability – One World, One Future, One Chance – an ethos to unite the campaigns started by our girls with an operational strategy underpinned at every level through the lens of sustainability.
We celebrated Earth Day 2022 as a CarbonNeutral® organisation for the first time in our history. Our family of 23 independent girls’ schools and two academies has achieved the certification by reducing our emissions internally and supporting four emission reduction projects around the world, to offset our carbon footprint in accordance with The CarbonNeutral Protocol. These include clean cooking using biomass in India, land restoration using funghi in Chile, improved water infrastructure in Africa, and protecting rainforests in Indonesia.
Working in partnership with climate impact company Natural Capital Partners, we have carefully selected these projects to ensure that they align with GDST’s emerging sustainability strategy. Our strategy has been shaped by those UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) most closely related to our ethos and mission: Good health and wellbeing, Quality education, Gender equality, Climate action, Responsible consumption and production.
We are but one organisation in the UK’s education ecosystem. That is why we welcome the Department of Education’s Sustainability Strategy which underlines not only how education and empowerment are central to tackling climate change in the future, but the need for students to see this commitment reflected in their own learning environments.
From the youngest child at nursery, to the members of a school’s leadership team, the GDST is committed to playing a role in protecting our Earth. We all have One World, One Future, One Chance to make a difference. On Earth Day and every day from now on.