Commitments & Planning (3.0)

Credit Language

PA 2: Commitments & Planning – version 3.0


  • 2.1 Public sustainability commitment
  • 2.2 Measurable sustainability objectives
  • 2.3 Climate resilience assessment and planning

Questions & Answers

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

  • Planning objectives are now assessed across five different categories: A) teaching, learning, and research, B) stakeholder engagement, C) campus operations, D) racial equity and social justice, and E) administration and finance.
  • Sustainability in the institution’s highest guiding document is no longer addressed directly.
  • New indicators capture information on public sustainability commitments (Indicator 2.1) and joint campus-community climate resilience planning efforts (Indicator 2.3).
  • A comprehensive list of differences can be found in the STARS 3.0 Summary of changes.

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). 

What types of commitments qualify under Indicator 2.1?

Institutions should report on the institution’s current plans and commitments. External commitments that do not include ongoing reporting requirements do not qualify.

What common external sustainability commitment programs can count under Indicator 2.1?

Common examples include: 

  • Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI)
  • Nature Positive Pledge (Nature Positive Universities)
  • Net Zero Endowments Initiative (Intentional Endowments Network)
  • Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments (Second Nature)
  • Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI)
  • Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME)
  • Sports for Climate Action (UN Climate Change)
  • Green Chemistry Commitment
  • The SDG Accord

To inquire about other external sustainability commitment programs, email

What types of plans count under Indicator 2.2?

Institutions should report on the institution’s active plans, e.g., the institution’s current strategic plan, campus master plan, sustainability plan, and/or climate action plan.

Drafts or unpublished plans cannot be claimed in this credit.

What kinds of objectives qualify under each criterion in Indicator 2.2? 

Measurable sustainability objectives are criteria used to assess progress toward the attainment of a sustainability goal or target. In addition to being measurable, such objectives should be specific, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART). 

  • Teaching, learning, and research – Examples include objectives related to sustainability courses and education programs, research that addresses sustainability challenges, or co-curricular education, employee training, and community education in sustainability.
  • Stakeholder engagement – Examples include objectives related to collaborations and partnerships for sustainability or student and staff participation in sustainability initiatives.
  • Campus operations – Examples include objectives related to energy and water efficiency, ecologically managed grounds, renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions, sustainable procurement, waste minimization and recovery, or sustainable transportation.
  • Racial equity and social justice – Examples include objectives related to equitable student access and success, pay equity, a living wage, or labor and human rights.
  • Administration and finance – Examples include objectives related to sustainability reporting, overall sustainability performance, student and staff wellbeing, sustainable investment, or financial savings attributable to sustainability initiatives.

What types of climate resilience efforts qualify under Indicator 2.3?

Institutions should report on active plans and assessments completed or updated within the previous five years. A campus-community task force or committee may be hosted by the institution, by an entity in the community, or jointly as long as both institutional and community representatives participate.

Suggestions for Institutions

  • Indicator 2.2. Remember that you don’t have to copy all relevant measurable objectives from your institutions’ plans. Only one valid measurable objective related to sustainability is needed under each area with a Yes response.

Potential Data Quality Issues

  • Affirmative responses must be supported by information provided in descriptive fields.
  • Indicator 2.2. Institutions should reference measurable objectives in current and formal plans to advance sustainability (e.g, the institution’s current strategic plan, campus master plan, sustainability plan, and/or climate action plan). At least one measurable objective related to advancing sustainability under each Criterion with a Yes response should be referenced.

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