How can a new program or standard gain recognition in STARS?

STARS has a formal governance structure, which includes a Steering Committee that has decision-making authority over the content of the STARS Technical Manual

Step 1

When a new standard or program is proposed for recognition in STARS, AASHE staff will:

  1. Respond by sharing this policy with the initiating individual or organization and requesting a written proposal outlining how and why the program or standard should be incorporated into STARS.
  2. Conduct an initial review to determine whether the standard or program is relevant to the higher education sector, generally consistent with ISEAL Credibility Principles, and likely to add value to STARS. 

Step 2

If the standard or program is found to be relevant to the higher education sector and generally consistent with ISEAL Credibility Principles, staff will determine if it meets or exceeds the minimum criteria of a standard or program that is already recognized in STARS (e.g., a food standard that requires organic certification as a baseline). 

  • If it clearly meets or exceeds the minimum criteria and the credit in question allows AASHE-approved equivalents, staff will begin recognizing the program immediately (i.e., institutions will be allowed to claim points for it from that point forward ). 
  • If it clearly meets or exceeds the minimum criteria, but the credit in question does not allow AASHE-approved equivalents, staff will request that the Steering Committee (SC) approve its addition in the next update to STARS.
  • If there is no equivalent already recognized in STARS or equivalency is unclear, staff will develop a recommendation for the SC to consider. In preparing a recommendation, staff will typically solicit the views of the appropriate Technical Committee of the AASHE Advisory Council, NGOs working in the space, and/or other subject matter experts. The evaluation of a standard or program is informed by the questions listed below.

Step 3

Once a determination has been made, staff will inform the individual or organization that proposed the standard or program of the outcome and its rationale. AASHE-approved equivalents will be publicly announced (e.g., through the STARS website and/or the STARS Update) and slated for addition to the relevant credit in the next update to the STARS. 

Questions to consider in evaluating a new standard or program for STARS

Note that no particular answer to these questions will necessarily determine whether to include a standard or program in STARS. Rather, these questions are meant to give AASHE staff and the members of STARS governing bodies a better understanding of the standard or program so they can make an informed recommendation. 

  • What is the uptake or use of the standard or program in higher education (provide a quantitative description)? 
  • Are the criteria for recognition under the standard or program publicly available? 
  • Who developed the standard or program? 
  • Who administers the standard or program?
  • Does the governing body have any conflict of interest in developing or administering the standard? 
  • Does the standard or program have mechanisms for ensuring that data it uses are accurate? 
  • What are the costs of participation and who pays them? (Are the people that this standard is meant to help able to participate or are they priced out?) 
  • Is the standard or program supported by relevant social and environmental organizations? 
  • Is it a science-based standard or program? 
  • What is the scope of the standard or program? 
  • Is it a global standard or program? If not, are there international equivalents? 
  • How does the standard or program compare with other standards or programs addressing the same issue? 
  • Is it a leadership standard or program (i.e., is it designed to recognize performance that is substantially better than the norm or mandate continuous improvement)? 
  • Is this standard or program life-cycle based? 
    • Which inputs are included (waste, energy, and/or materials)? 
    • Which phases of the life-cycle of the product or service are addressed in the standard (material extraction, shipping, manufacturing, retailing, use, and/or end of life)? 
    • Which impacts are considered (air, atmosphere, land, water, and/or human health)? 
  • Does the standard or program include criteria addressing social dimensions of sustainability (i.e., equity and social justice)? 
  • Does the standard or program include performance criteria?

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