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Locust Walk on Oct. 14, 2022. Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

Penn has placed No. 8 out of 700 global universities, and No. 2 among U.S. colleges in QS Quacquarelli Symonds' 2023 World University Rankings for Sustainability.

The rankings were determined by sustainability measures taken by the schools to combat environmental, social, and governance challenges. QS used eight indicators to test the universities based on two measures: sustainability and social impact. 

The overall sustainability of each school was determined by scores in categories of sustainable institutions, sustainable education, and sustainable research. Social impact measures include equality, knowledge exchange, educational impact, employability and opportunities, and quality of life. 

“QS aims to provide prospective students with independent insights into university records in improving sustainability and support universities in monitoring their progress as they strive to implement their ESG[1] strategies and find solutions to unprecedented global challenges,” said QS CEO Jessica Turner.

UC Berkeley ranks at the top of the list, followed by the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia. Penn ranked No. 1 out of the colleges in the Ivy League, edging out Yale at No. 9, and Harvard at No. 20. 

Penn specifically landed No. 15 and No. 18 overall for sustainability and social impact, respectively. 

On the higher tiers, equality was rated 96.9, and the impact of education was 95.4. Knowledge exchange was only 70.3, while sustainable research dropped significantly to 47.1. Sustainable Institutions, a measure determined by the actions taken by the university towards sustainability, was rated at 94.4.

Penn has committed to reducing its net greenhouse gas emissions from endowment investments by 2050, as well as 100% Carbon Neutrality by 2042, in an initiative called 100 x 42

The Climate Sustainability Action Plan 3.0 involves broadening sustainability research, reducing carbon emissions, minimizing single-use products, and overall making environmentally conscious decisions. 

Educational efforts include events during the third annual Climate Week earlier this October. Penn’s Energy and Sustainability Initiative involves the School of Arts and Sciences, as well as the School of Engineering and Applied Science to research energy and sustainability solutions.

Despite the ranking, many students have criticized Penn’s limited actions toward sustainability.

Fossil Free Penn recently ended its 39-day encampment on College Green after protesting at the Homecoming football game. Their main demands include for Penn to divest the endowment from fossil fuels by 2025, preserve UC townhomes, and pay PILOTs.