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Latest College Sustainability Report Card Released

October 30, 2007

October 24th marked the release of round two of the College Sustainability Report Card, which measures and reviews campus environmental efforts and endowment policies at leading institutions. This latest edition, released by the Sustainable Endowment Institute (SEI), evaluated 200 campuses (twice the number of institutions as the first edition) and, overall, the report says, progress is being made.

In an effort to encourage sustainability, the Report Card’s grading system is designed to offer independent yearly assessments of progress. Two hundred colleges with the largest endowments in the United States and Canada were graded in each of eight main categories:

  • Administration
  • Climate Change & Energy
  • Endowment Transparency
  • Green Building
  • Shareholder Engagement
  • Investment Priorities
  • Transportation
  • Food & Recycling

Two of every three colleges improved their total grade over the previous year, and higher education’s overall mark improved from a "C" to a "C+" with 13 percent of schools improving by at least one full letter grade. According to the report, the reasons for this improvement are:

Other improvements identified in the report show that institutions have:

  • Increased use of local food; the grades in Food & Recycling jumped from 63 to 84 percent.
  • Expanded use of green building policies; the report shows an increase from 48 to 69 percent.
  • Higher use of environmentally friendly transportation options; hybrid or electric vehicles can be found at 42 percent of schools and 23 percent of schools have bicycle-sharing programs encouraging the use of alternative transportation.

Not only does the Report Card evaluate sustainability efforts, it also reviews the financial practices of higher education. Institutions are prioritizing return on investment by investing in renewable-energy funds with this area showing vast improvement. The percentage of institutions with endowment investments in renewable energy funds tripled, from 9 percent to 31 percent (the previous report measured only 100 schools). Thirty-eight percent of colleges received an "A"  in the investment priority category.

However, higher education falls short in the endowment transparency category, with the average grade of "D." This area looks at how colleges control information about endowment investment holdings and shareholder proxy voting records. The report argues that access to endowment information is critical to fostering constructive dialogue about sustainable opportunities for clean energy investment as well as shareholder voting priorities.

Awards

The SEI solicited nominations for schools not included in the Report Card 2008  for recognizing initiative in either comprehensive sustainable strategy or a specific category in the Report Card.  Four institutions were rewarded in the following areas:

Comprehensive Sustainability Strategy

  • College of the Atlantic (Maine);
  • Grand Valley State University (Michigan); and
  • University of Calgary (Alberta)

Food & Recycling

  • Seattle University (Washington)

For more information on campus sustainability initiatives, visit the NACUBO Web site at  http://www.nacubo.org/x2153.xml.