Pioneering clean energy projects, an aggressive carbon-reduction strategy and North America’s greenest building have helped the University of British Columbia to garner Canada’s first gold rating in a new international program that assesses sustainability achievements in higher education.
A gold rating is the highest achieved to date in STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System), a sustainability evaluation tool developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), with broad participation from the higher education community through self-reporting.
To date, 117 institutions – including eight of 22 participating Canadian universities – have received ratings, such as the University of Ottawa, the University of Calgary, Simon Fraser University and Dalhousie University. STARS inaugural ratings are currently scheduled to be completed in August 2012, although institutions can register to be evaluated on an ongoing basis.
“I am pleased to see our sustainability leadership recognized by STARS, which offers an important new tool for measuring sustainability performance in higher education,” says Prof. Stephen J. Toope, UBC President. “This achievement is due to the passion and innovation of UBC’s community, which is transforming our university into a living laboratory where scholars, researchers and operations staff collaborate to address global sustainability problems.”
STARS is the only program of its kind that involves publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance. Unlike other rating or ranking systems, STARS is open to all institutions of higher education in the U.S. and Canada, and the criteria that determine a rating are transparent and publically accessible. STARS ratings are valid for three years, but institutions may submit for new ratings as often as once per year.
UBC’s score places it among North America’s top-five most sustainable universities both among institutions with 30,000-60,000 students and universities ranked in the recent Times Higher Education rankings. Out of 264 North American institutions that have registered to participate in STARS to date, 22 institutions have achieved a gold rating.
UBC’s STARS rating was based on the performance of its Vancouver campus in three categories: Education and Research, Operations, and Planning, Administration and Engagement. The university’s score received the maximum-available “innovation credits” for four initiatives: