Reporting Assurance

For details about this credit, including the criteria, reporting timeframe, applicability, scoring, and more, please review the full credit language:

Data Accuracy Video

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Reporting Assurance required?

Under versions 2.2 and 2.1, reporting assurance is encouraged but not required. STARS scoring includes incentives to encourage institutions to complete an assurance process that successfully identifies and resolves inconsistencies prior to submitting their STARS Report.

Are points for Reporting Assurance guaranteed?

Assured reports are still subject to review by AASHE staff prior to publication, which may require additional revisions. AASHE reserves the right to withhold points for this credit if it is determined that the assurance process was clearly unsuccessful in identifying and resolving inconsistencies or errors (e.g., when AASHE staff identify a significant number of issues that are items to check for in the review template, but were not identified as issues or not resolved successfully).

How does scoring differ between Version 2.2 and Version 2.1?

Participation in an assurance process can earn points within both active versions of STARS. For details, please review the full credit language.

Version 2.2

  • 1 point available in the Reporting Assurance credit.
  • 0.5 point available in the Inter-Campus Collaboration credit for providing a peer review of another institution’s submission.
  • 0.5 bonus point available in the External Reporting Assurance exemplary practice credit when the institution’s assurance process includes external review.

Version 2.1

  • 0.5 bonus point available in the Pre-Submission Review exemplary practice credit.
  • 0.5 point available in the Inter-Campus Collaboration credit for providing a peer review of another institution’s submission.

What are the benefits of obtaining Reporting Assurance?

In addition to the point-earning opportunities outlined above, results from our STARS Review Pilot indicated that institutions that completed a pre-submission assurance process had fewer issues following AASHE’s standard review, had minimal changes in provisional score, and got their reports published sooner.

Do we have to use the STARS Review Template?

AASHE publishes a STARS Review Template that highlights areas that are commonly misinterpreted and ensures that reviewers follow a standard review process. Use of the STARS Review Template is REQUIRED in order to earn points.

Who should perform the review?

The assurance process may include:

  • Internal review by one or more individuals affiliated with the institution, but who are not directly involved in the data collection process for the credits they review. AND/OR
  • An external audit by one or more individuals affiliated with other organizations (e.g., a peer institution or third-party contractor).

You can choose to conduct either an internal review or independent review (or, as some institutions have done, a combination).

The most important thing is to choose a reviewer who was not involved in any STARS data collection for your institution, understands the STARS credit criteria, has good attention to detail, and will use the approved STARS Review Template. To be eligible for the External Reporting Assurance exemplary practice credit, the reviewer may not be affiliated with your institution.

How can I find an independent reviewer for my institution’s STARS report?

Independent review is a process by which an individual who is not affiliated with the institution reviews and provides assurance for the institution’s STARS report. There is no formal process for finding a reviewer, but here are some options:

  • Ask a colleague directly – Consider contacts you’ve made by attending professional conferences and participating in regional or topical sustainability networks.
  • Post a request on the STARS Community or a relevant email list – Include the desired timeframe for the review and any other information you think might be relevant for prospective peer reviewers.
  • Recruit student reviewers  – Connect with faculty or sustainability staff to identify students with an interest or experience with STARS.
  • Hire a third-party assurance provider – The following AASHE member organizations offer third-party external review of STARS reports for a fee:

Please contact us at stars@aashe.org if you know of other organizations that offer this service.

When should we start looking for a reviewer?

The assurance process must be completed prior to submitting your report, but after the data has been collected and entered into the Reporting Tool. For many institutions, this means that a reviewer will be needed for a very specific timeframe. You will want to find your reviewer in advance and allow ample time for the review to be completed. Keep in mind, the review process will require time to address the reviewer(s) comments as well as a second, or even third review of the report to ensure that any identified issues have been addressed.

How can I serve as a peer reviewer?

Many of the suggestions for finding a peer reviewer (see above) apply when you would like to volunteer your services as a peer reviewer. You can ask colleagues directly and monitor or post to listservs to seek out opportunities.

Example Responses

Version 2.1

Common Issues Identified During Review

  • A credit status of “Not Applicable” is only allowed if the institution is renewing an existing rating earned under the same version of STARS (e.g., 2.2).
  • To count, the institution must have had a finalized version of its current STARS submission reviewed by an independent party, and must have addressed any inconsistencies identified by the reviewer(s) prior to submission. Uploaded inventory and reviewer affirmation should support that all inconsistencies were addressed prior to report submission.

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