Civic Engagement (3.0)

Credit Language

EN 5: Civic Engagement – version 3.0


  • 5.1. Percentage of students that participate in civic engagement
  • 5.2. Employee community service program
  • 5.3. Support for public policies to advance sustainability

Questions & Answers

How has this credit changed between STARS Version 2 and Version 3?

  • An Indicator for public policy advocacy has been simplified and now recognizes individual as well as institutional advocacy for sustainability.
  • Includes new indicators that require measurement of student civic engagement and employee community service participation rates.
  • A comprehensive list of differences can be found in the STARS 3.0 Summary of changes.

Is student civic engagement limited to unpaid activities (Indicator 5.1)?

There is no distinction made between paid and unpaid civic engagement, as long as it occurs through programs sponsored by the institution.

How does an institution go about assessing and estimating the percentage of students that participate annually in civic engagement programs (Indicator 5.1)?

Participation may be evidenced by enrolling in a service learning program, attending a community service event or activity, or an equivalent action. Neither the passive consumption of information nor awareness of civic engagement opportunities qualifies.

An institution may take one of three approaches in pursuing this indicator:

  • Survey or assessment results. Report the results of an institution-wide survey or sustainability culture assessment that includes one or more items on respondent awareness of the institution’s sustainability initiatives. 
  • Communications analytics. Report on the analytics associated with the sustainability-focused communications medium or platform that has the greatest reach (e.g., newsletter subscribers or social media group members). 
  • Conservative estimate based on mixed/limited data sources. Report on the most credible sources of data that are available, taking steps to minimize double-counting. For example, an institution may use the single best data source for students (e.g., membership in a student-focused social media group) and the single best data source for employees (e.g., staff newsletter subscribers) and/or adjust figures downward to account for the anticipated extent to which individuals may be counted more than once.

Are there other measurement parameters to consider when assessing civic engagement (Indicator 5.1)?

The central point to keep in mind is that the credit is focused on the institution’s programs and participation in them. Individual efforts that take place outside of programs sponsored by the institution do not qualify.

Does employee community service that take place outside working hours earn points (Indicator 5.2)?

  • For the first question about employee volunteering (“Does the institution have one or more programs designed to support employee community service?”), it does not have to occur during working hours. For example, an after-hours organized service event or a community service award program would qualify. 
  • The second question, however (“Does the institution support employee volunteering during regular work hours?”), is exclusively about volunteering that takes place during an employee’s scheduled working hours.

What type of policy advocacy counts under Indicator 5.3?

This Indicator recognizes individuals and institutions that promote sustainability through public policy advocacy. Examples of advocacy efforts include publicly supporting, endorsing, or lobbying for legislation, ordinances, and governmental policies that address sustainability challenges. 

What common advocacy programs can count under Indicator 5.3?

There are several regional, national and international advocacy programs that can be commonly reported under this credit. Participation in any of these programs can be reported under the level(s) indicated, as long as the advocacy is occurring and/or has occurred in the three years prior to submission.

Suggestions for Institutions

  • Design upcoming civic engagement programs and activities with assessment in mind to facilitate reporting under Indicator 5.1.

Potential Data Quality Issues

  • Indicator 5.1. If reporting that 50 percent or more of students participate in civic engagement programs, the descriptive information must explain how a relatively high proportion of students participated. 
  • Indicator 5.2. If reporting that the institution supports employee volunteering during regular work hours, supporting documentation should be provided (e.g., institution offers paid time off for volunteering or sponsors an organized service event for which participating employees are compensated.
  • Indicator 5.3. In order to earn full points, the policy advocacy must have the implicit or explicit support of the institution’s top administrators and/or governing bodies. 
  • Indicator 5.3. Responses must align with the credit timeframe standard of advocacy efforts from within the previous three years. If policy advocacy was initiated more than three years ago, there must be evidence of ongoing advocacy to still qualify.

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