Sustainability Planning

Credit Language

PA 2: Sustainability Planning – version 2.2

Data Accuracy Video

Frequently Asked Questions

How has this credit changed from STARS 2.1 to 2.2?

Substantive changes have been made to this credit. Criteria are simplified to award points for having measurable sustainability objectives across the four STARS categories instead of 17 subcategories, and points are now awarded for integrating sustainability into the institution’s strategic plan. A comprehensive list of differences can be found in the 2.2 Summary of changes.

What types of plans count for this credit?

Institutions should reference “current and formal plans to advance sustainability,” such as strategic plans, campus master plans, sustainability plans, etc. Informal or planned initiatives (i.e., current practices in the absence of a formal plan) do not count. Additionally, drafts or unpublished plans cannot be claimed in this credit.

What is the difference between a plan and a policy?

In general, plans outline measurable objectives that the institution commits to doing in the future (e.g., reduce GHG emissions by 50% by 2030). In contrast,  policies or guidelines outline standards, mandates and recommendations that the institution is currently requiring or recommending (e.g., a stated preference for ENERGY STAR or EPEAT registered products). Note: Published policies or guidelines for purchasing are covered under Sustainable Procurement (OP-11).

What specific information is required to earn points for this credit?

In order to earn points, each descriptive response under “Measurable Sustainability Objectives” must include:

  • At least one measurable objective related to the specific area (e.g., Curriculum).
  • The name of the plan where the measurable objective(s) can be found, as well as the URL if available.

See the Example Responses below for guidance.

What types of measurable objectives qualify under this credit?

Measurable sustainability objectives are concrete criteria used to assess progress toward the attainment of a sustainability goal or target (e.g. emissions reductions, reductions in resource use or waste, the establishment of new sustainability programs or initiatives, increases in the number of people impacted by sustainability programs and initiatives, and financial savings attributable to sustainability initiatives). In addition to being measurable, such objectives should be specific, achievable, relevant and time-bound (i.e., SMART criteria).

Example Responses

  • Connecticut College – Part 2 response fully supports a response of having a highest guiding document that lists sustainability as a “major theme”.
  • East Carolina University – Comprehensive responses in both sections. Part 2 includes a good example of sustainability being included in the highest guiding document as a “minor theme”.
  • Gustavus Adolphus College – Comprehensive responses for both sections. Part 1 responses list KPIs for all aspects of sustainability from formal plans.
  • Lane Community College – Comprehensive responses in both sections. Part 1 includes links to the cited plans. Part 2 references a strategic plan that includes two sustainability-focused goals. Great reporting example for 2-year institutions.
  • University of California, San Diego – Comprehensive responses under Part 1. Under Part 2, several major goals from the highest level plan address sustainability.
  • University of Georgia – Comprehensive responses in both sections. Part 1 cites goals and objectives from multiple plans, and all plans are cited.

Common Issues Identified During Review

  • Part 1: Institutions should reference measurable objectives in “current and formal plans to advance sustainability”, such as published and final strategic plans, campus master plans, sustainability plans, etc. At least one measurable objective should be listed, and the plan should be cited in each area with a Yes response.
  • Part 2: Response must reference the institution’s highest guiding document (institution-wide strategic plan or the equivalent). Lower-level guiding documents are not sufficient. 
  • Part 2: If indicating that sustainability is included as a major theme in the highest guiding document, there must be evidence that the plan includes a section on sustainability, references sustainability as a major institutional goal, or includes multiple sustainability-focused objectives.

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