Students' Unions

A decade of Green Impact Students' Unions

In 2006 we set up Green Impact Students' Unions to help unions reduce their negative environmental impacts. In part, this was to ensure we were practicing what we preached as a movement in our constructive engagement work with suppliers, but also responding to clear student demand for action on this agenda.

The scheme has been remarkably successful, steadily growing to engage nearly all HE students’ unions, resulting in operational sustainability becoming the norm in most students’ unions.

Along the way, the scheme has engaged, influenced and empowered hundreds of staff and students, many of whom came from roles and disciplines not explicitly linked to sustainability. This educational aspect was recently recognised by UNESCO, who made Green Impact a global laureate on educational for sustainable development.

Over summer 2016, as part of our reflections on 10 years of Green Impact, the UNESCO award, the new UN Global Goals, and our worrying state of the sector research, we carried out fun research project with young people. We approached 30 recent students who are now leading on sustainability in various fields, asking them what it was that had influenced them most on sustainability, as well as what they think needs to be done in wider society. Their insights were fascinating, and have helped us shape our first major refresh of GISU.

So what’s new?

We want to create more student and graduate leaders that bring about a just and sustainable future. The new GISU will continue to help students’ unions maintain operational sustainability, whilst providing a new impetus to create more quality opportunities to meaningfully engage students and staff in sustainability.

The new toolkit

  • A single toolkit for all types of higher education students’ union (there is a new bespoke scheme for FE students’ unions to be completed in partnership with their institutions);
  • Its leaner – just 50 criteria: 47 defined criteria, plus 3 open-ended criteria that you can define yourself;
  • A total of 500 points available: 270 from specific criteria, 100 from the campaign section, 100 from the outcomes section, 30 from the open-ended section;
  • Scoring gradation and self-assessment – you can now get a score up to the maximum, which allows us to differentiate between good, very good and excellent. Unions will initially suggest the score they think they should get;
  • There is no Excellence in the new GISU: The new toolkit will focus the union on maintaining sustainable operations and creating transformational opportunities for students to create change. The campaigning criteria will help you to do this.
  • The accreditation standards have been renamed to match the ones used in Quality Students’ Unions (Working towards accreditation; Good; Very good; Excellent);
  • Accreditation standards are based on the total number of points achieved after marking and auditing, as outlined in the table below. As well as reaching the score threshold, a union must achieve all the mandatory criteria for each award (seven for each);



Working towards accreditation


Very good


Cumulative number of mandatory criteria required





Commercial SU

Less than 100

100 to 249

250 to 299

300 or more

Non-commercial SU

Less than 100

100 to 224

225 to 274

275 or more

  • There will be two overall winners each year: one each for the commercial and non-commercial unions that get the highest overall scores after marking and auditing;
  • There are no special awards in this first year.

To find out more about the new GISU, have a look at our FAQs.

Key dates

26 Sep 2016           
GISU relaunch and launch of the GI@10 microgrants

04 Oct 2016            
Webinar on the new GISU– how to get the best out of it, and information about GI@10 micro-grants. Register here

28 Oct 2016            
Re-run of webinar on the new GISU. Register here

Nov ’16 - April ’17    
Monthly support from NUS’ Green Impact team

05 May 2017            
Deadline to return toolkits

May - June 2017      
Marking and auditing

05 July 2017            
Green Impact awards at SU2017 gala dinner

Summer 2017         
Publish case studies on what GI students’ unions have been working on and have achieved


The 2016/17 sign-up fee is £150 + VAT for all participants.

This includes access to the toolkit, webinars, ongoing support, audit visits, certificates and prizes. It does not include any tickets to the SU2017 Gala Dinner.


You can register for GISU here