Sustainability Culture Assessment (3.0)

Credit Language

EN 4: Sustainability Culture Assessment – version 3.0


  • 4.1. Sustainability culture assessment design and administration
  • 4.2 Percentage of students assessed for sustainability culture
  • 4.3 Percentage of employees assessed for sustainability culture

Questions & Answers

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

This credit includes separate indicators for students and employees that require that the populations assessed — directly or by representative sample — be estimated or measured. A comprehensive list of differences can be found in the STARS 3.0 Summary of changes.

Are there pre-made sustainability culture assessments that can be used for this credit?

Yes, see the guide on Sustainability Literacy/Culture Assessment Tools for a list of approved assessment tools.

What’s the difference between a cultural assessment and a literacy assessment?

Sustainability culture assessments focus primarily on culture, behaviors/practices, beliefs/values, and/or awareness of campus sustainability initiatives. Culture assessments with multiple choice response options typically do not have right/wrong answers. 

In contrast, literacy assessment (recognized under AC 5) focuses on knowledge about sustainability challenges, as well as ways to create solutions to these challenges. These assessments may take a variety of forms including multiple choice tests and surveys, self-assessments, and competency/skills-based assessments. Literacy surveys with multiple-choice questions typically have right/wrong answers.

Can we earn points if we include sustainability culture questions on another assessment?

Yes, the assessment can combine sustainability culture/behavior/engagement and literacy, or can be included with other assessments needed for STARS (e.g., transportation survey). A single instrument that addresses sustainability literacy, culture, and/or engagement qualifies if a substantive portion (e.g., one-third) of the assessment focuses on sustainability culture/behavior/engagement.

What evidence is required to claim that an assessment was designed and administered to evaluate the success of the institution’s sustainability education initiatives”?

To claim points for indicator 4.1.B, the assessment tool and methodology must have been structured to measure performance at more than one point in time. This can be demonstrated by having already conducted a longitudinal assessment for example, or by having a plan in place to conduct the assessment at set intervals (e.g., annually or bi-annually). If claiming points on the basis of planned assessments, include sufficient detail in the narrative field provided to make clear the longitudinal or formative/summative nature of the assessment, e.g., the anticipated time frame for future assessments. In the absence of this detail, a single assessment will not meet the criteria.

What constitutes a representative sample under Indicators 4.2 and 4.3?

A representative sample is a subset of a statistical population that accurately reflects the members of the entire population. A representative sample should be an unbiased indication of what the entire population is like. For example, in a student population of 1000 students in which 25 percent of the students are enrolled in a business school, 50 percent are enrolled in humanities programs, and 25 percent are enrolled in science programs, a representative sample might include 200 students: 50 business students, 100 humanities students, and 50 science students. 

Resources, Templates & Tools

Suggestion(s) for Institutions

  • Design upcoming sustainability culture assessments to collect feedback from employees as well as students.

Potential Data Quality Issues

  • Assessment must cover sustainability culture rather than sustainability literacy. An institution may use a single instrument that addresses culture/engagement AND literacy if a substantive portion of the assessment (e.g., at least 10 questions or a third of the assessment) focuses on literacy. 
  • Indicators 4.2 and 4.3. If reporting that 75 to 100 percent of students/employees are assessed for sustainability culture, the descriptive information must explain how a representative sample was achieved.

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