STARS was developed for higher education institutions with broad feedback from the higher education sustainability community.
STARS credits were initially developed in large part by reviewing campus sustainability assessments, sustainability reports from businesses, and other sustainability rating and ranking systems. Credits have been revised based on feedback from hundreds of diverse stakeholders and experts. Previous versions of the STARS Technical Manual, as well as the record of changes between versions, may be found on the STARS website.
Credits vary in the number of points they are worth. Points were allocated during the development of STARS 2.0 by a panel of STARS Steering Committee members and AASHE staff using the following considerations:
1. To what extent does achievement of the credit ensure that people (students, employees and/or local community members) acquire the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to meet sustainability challenges?
2. To what extent does achievement of the credit contribute to positive environmental, economic and social impacts?
- To what extent does achievement of the credit contribute to human and ecological health and mitigate negative environmental impacts?
- To what extent does achievement of the credit contribute to secure livelihoods, a sustainable economy and other positive financial impacts?
- To what extent does achievement of the credit contribute to social justice, equity, diversity, cooperation, democracy and other positive social impacts?
3. To what extent are the positive impacts associated with achievement of the credit not captured in other STARS credits?
As these questions indicate, the focus in allocating points was on the impact, not the difficulty, of earning the credit. Some sustainability initiatives may be very difficult to implement but yield negligible impacts. Conversely, some generally easier projects have significant impacts. Assigning points based on the difficulty of earning a credit would create a perverse incentive for institutions to focus on the difficult projects or initiatives, which may not have the most meaningful impact.
Given the diversity of higher education institutions, each STARS credit should be appropriate for most institution types. In order to accommodate this diversity, some STARS credits do not include detailed specifications but are instead flexible or open. In other cases, credits include an applicability criterion, so that the credits only apply to certain types of institutions. By following this approach, institutions are not penalized when they do not earn credits that they could not possibly earn due to their circumstances.
Additionally, STARS is designed to incorporate the full spectrum of sustainability achievement, and upper levels of achievement represent highly ambitious, long-term goals. Therefore there are some credits for which few, if any, institutions will achieve full points currently.
Lastly, to help ensure that the system works as intended, AASHE strives to ensure that each credit is objective, measurable, and actionable.