How to reward quality
and spot greenwash

The whole picture?

Greenwash is essentially conveying a false impression, or providing misleading information about how environmentally friendly something is. You might have seen this term coming up in the news with critical voices calling out issues such as pollution or slavery in a range of industries like fashion, electronic goods or food and drink production. Although some of the environmental claims might be partly true, greenwash exaggerates or does not provide the whole picture.

To think about this in terms of education, greenwash might be claims that ‘100% of courses have sustainability learning’ but this might just be from the keywords in course promotions mentioning one UN global goal and have no joined-up learning that links in with the planet. Or, perhaps the course claimed to have sustainability but the reality didn’t live up to the promise.

Find out more in the film below:

Test your educational greenwash knowledge

Test your greenwash knowledge

1 / 6

100% of our courses here at the Uni of Big Ideas are considered sustainable, according to the UN Global Goals.

2 / 6

Our target is set for 2025, and is for at least one module, in every subject, every academic year to include assessment based on Education for Sustainability. Read more about our plan.

3 / 6

Study sustainably here at the Uni of Big Ideas! A large amount of our students are exposed to sustainability education.

4 / 6

We hear that students want sustainability, and we are listening! We are investing in a golden tree statue to sit at the gates to bring students together in appreciating of the planet.

5 / 6

We are committed to environmental stewardship, and always ensure that students receive an education that aligns with the principles of sustainability and eco-consciousness.

6 / 6

By 2030 every course will include at least one assessed element of sustainability (based on the principles of social, environmental and economic sustainability) at each level of study.

Your score is

The average score is 59%


Profile image of Bea Hughes
We came up with a set of principles for a non-greenwash education that are applicable to any course.

Of over 130 students who tried our training and rated their courses using our principles 51% were entirely positive towards the quality principles; 23% mainly positive but added suggestions to help with understanding them (which you’ll find in the next section); and 25% were neutral, and just 1% critical.

“I think this was an effective rating system to assist sustainable learning by analysing all the major corners of a student’s education, better highlighting the key issues and needs for change“ – Student tester

Our quality principles

  1. Joined up sustainability learning – Sustainability must be connecting social, environmental, and economic issues – mentioning global goals once or twice isn’t enough to consider a course as sustainable.
  2. In a compulsory module – It shouldn’t be optional! We can’t ensure everyone will make better choices if only a few students choose the modules with the best bits.
  3. From the first year to the final year – Really great courses will embed sustainability throughout first year to final year to ensure the learning is consolidated.
  4. Assessed is best! – The best skills are developed when they’re applied in practice and made relevant to real-world solutions through assessments.

Quality sustainability learning in practice

University of Gloucestershire – Events Management Course – Event Design and Production module

This is a good example because not only did students explore relevant sustainability issues and how to communicate sustainability in joined-up ways to the public, but they were also assessed on how they considered sustainability within the event design and production process.

Click for transcript