Scoring Methodology

Data has been collected through survey responses and online research. If the data on your institution needs correcting or updating, please fill in this short survey.

Our numerical method scores targets by ambition. The score is out of 100 and consists of values for the following:

Rationale for each category


Targets committing to zero emissions receive the most points here as they are the most ambitious. This is followed by net zero targets which commit to reduction to a certain level before offsetting via credible schemes. Carbon neutral targets, which we define to not necessarily be developed alongside scientific evidence and often relying on offsetting via carbon removal, get fewer points than net zero. Reduction targets get the least, as they are not committing to 100%. See our glossary of terms for more detail.

Percentage reduction

Points are given here for the percentage reduction and institutions commits to, if they have a reduction target. More points are rewarded for larger reductions. Zero, net zero and carbon neutral targets do not get scored here as they are, by default, 100%.


Points here reward targets which set targets that cover all emission scopes, therefore having an honest and holistic view of their institutions impact. See our glossary of terms for definitions of each scope.

Commitment year

The earlier the commitment date, the more points given. This is to credit ambitious targets.

Science based approach

Institutions using a Science based approach - using the Science Based Target initiative methodology - gain points here as we believe taking a Science based approach will mean the target and accompanying action plan are achievable and effective.


Action plan

Points for action plans do not currently take into account credibility or comprehensiveness of the plan. However, we do expect institutions with targets to have action plans alongside them, which we will develop the scoring to evaluate at a later date.

Student and staff representation

We expect targets and plans to be developed with input from student and staff representatives. This could be students and/or students' unions, and staff and/or trade unions. Institutions that do this will gain points.

Offsetting (scopes) - unscored criteria

This data looks at whether institutions are planning to offset all emission scopes that their target covers, or just scope 3. In line with our minimum expectation, we would hope institutions will limit offsetting to unavoidable scope 3 emissions. We have not scored this but expect to address offsetting when our scoring develops to look at progress and implementation.


Credible offsetting - unscored criteria

Credible offsetting is defined as either using Gold standard-accredited schemes for market based approaches or locally-developed alternatives where carbon reasonably priced. This will ensure offsetting schemes are legitimate for both carbon saving and environmental and social justice. Again, we are not scoring this yet but will develop our scoring to evaluate credibility of offsets at a later date.

Worked examples

Net-zero (45) for scope 1,2 & 3 (20) by 2040 (6). The target was developed with input from student and staff representation (5) and there is an action plan in place (10). This target was developed using a science based approach (5).

Score: 45 + 20 + 6 + 5 + 10 + 5 = 91 = Leading the way

Carbon neutral (40) for scope 1 & 2 (10) by 2030 (10). The target was developed without any input from student and staff representation (0) and an action plan is in development (5). The target was not developed using a science based approach (0).

Score: 40 + 10 + 10 + 0 + 5 + 0 = 65 = Working on it

Reduction (20) of 80% (12) for scope 1 & 2 (10) by 2050 (2). The target was developed without any input from student and staff representation (0) and there is no action plan (0). The target was not developed using a science based approach (0).

Score: 20 + 12 + 10 + 2 + 0 + 0 + 0 = 44 = Needs improvement

The full scoring system can be found in the full data set.


From academic year 2022/23, SOS-UK will review this to focus on progress and implementation, rather than ambition. At that stage, we envisage collecting data on action plans and progress reporting in order to develop the scoring method.

Download full dataset.

See the scoring methodology.


Look up definitions in our glossary of terms.

Check out our page of useful links.

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