The College Sustainability Report Card: How Green Is Your College?

by Aman Singh Das | July 13, 2010

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Are business schools having a hard time attracting the right MBAcandidates? Are parameters for choosing your school shifting fromreturn on investment-driven to eco-consciousness and sustainability? Case inpoint: U.S. News reported yesterdaythat schools are now turning to selling their green achievements to attract talent.It says: "From tours of energy-efficient buildings to discussions aboutrecycling rates and solar panels, universities and colleges across the countryare increasingly putting on the green to attract students who are serious aboutenvironmental issues."

The report references the recently released CollegeSustainability Report Card, conducted by the Sustainable Endowments Institute.The annual scorecard grades campuses' progress or lack thereof in becomingsustainable entities. Its aim: "Just as the grading system serves as anincentive in the classroom, the Report Card’s gradingsystem seeks to encourage sustainability as a priority in college operationsand endowment investment practices by offering independent yearly assessmentsof progress."

While the scorecard is restricted to 300 collegeswith the largest endowments in the U.S. and Canada—along with 32 colleges whorequested inclusion—the numbers seem to point in the right direction. Forexample, the 2009 Report Card found that 27% of colleges and universities wereincorporating a message on sustainability in their admissions and interviewprocess. This percentage more than doubled to 69% for 2010.

Sustainabilityon college campuses

Scored over nine equally-weighted categories, thescorecard rates colleges on factors like sustainable policies byadministration, commitment to energy efficiency and conservation, food andrecycling policies, campus-wide green building initiatives, studentinvolvement, alternative transportation. It also considers shareholderengagement and even whether a school's investment priorities includesustainable energy funds and the like.

For 2010, 26 schools made the cut as "OverallCollege Sustainability Leaders." These include Amherst, Arizona State,Brown, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, Yale andUniversity of Vermont, among others (Did your school make the cut? See thecomplete list).

In the "sustainable jobs on campus"category, the report gave Amherst and Arizona State A- while Carnegie Mellonreceived a "B" and University of Chicago a "C." Besidesmultiple filtering by category, the report card also allows school comparisonsalong with their ratings from previous years. In the end, of course, it is upto candidates to prioritize what matters most for their school experience. Sofar, if sustainability has dominated career news in recent times, it has beento emphasize its growing popularity in business school curriculum. This scorecardextends the interest from mere preaching to real practice. While sustainabilityencompasses environmental, social and governance issues, for colleges—asindicated by this scorecard—it remains associated with their environmentalimpact. For now, this attempt at refocusing universities' attention towardtheir own sustainability must count as progress. And if sustainability rankshigh on your list, then this rating will lend helpful value to your decision.

To see the complete Scorecard, visit The College Sustainability Report Card.

Extra Insight: Does CSR Matter in a Job Hunt?

Filed Under: CSR

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