The College Sustainability Report Card as a Path for College Marketing

For many young adults, college is the point in life where they cultivate their interests and passions. Students discover who they are and what they are truly inspired by while exploring various academic and intellectual pursuits and often living away from home for the first time. It is for this reason that higher education lends itself to forward thinking. Since the start of the environmental revolution in the late 1960s, colleges and universities across the nation and world have played a huge role in green initiatives and sustainability efforts.Now, hundreds of colleges and universities across the nation and in all 50 U.S. states are beginning to compete for higher grades on the annual College Sustainability Report Card. Though it is early into its existence, this Sustainability Report Card has the potential to promote greater awareness about green initiatives and incentives in young adults and the academic community. In the near future the Sustainability Report Card could be used as a marketing device for colleges and universities across the nation, encouraging the public to pursue sustainable living and gaining a more forward thinking student population.

The Scoring Categories and Criteria

The Sustainability Report Card grading is calculated based on the evaluation of nine different  categories at every school to be scored. The sustainability report committee evaluates each  school in the areas of administration, climate change and energy, food and recycling, green  building, student involvement, transportation, endowment transparency, investment  priorities, and shareholder engagement. These nine categories are explored based on how  well each school meets environmental efforts toward sustainability and preservation.

The committee examines what sustainability policies and commitments school administrators and trustees and grades the school accordingly. The climate change and energy category is evaluated by looking at energy efficiency, conservation, commitment to emissions reductions, and use of renewable energy on campus. Schools are graded on their dining services policies, including recycling and composting programs. The sustainability committee then examines campus-wide green building guidelines and green building design for new and existing buildings. The student involvement category looks at student participation in sustainability initiatives and support for these activities by school administration. Schools are then graded on their focus on alternative transportation for students, faculty, and staff, as well as alternative fuel or hybrid technology for campus vehicles. The last three categories each examine where and how money is being spent at the universities and how shareholders proxy their voting. Schools are graded on their investment priorities for renewable energy funds and community development.

Using A’s for Marketing Leverage

Schools that score A- or higher are listed each year as the top green schools in the nation. Though it has not truly been put to use yet, the Sustainability Report Card could be used as a marketing tactic for schools wishing to promote green initiatives and lead by example. For example, Pomona College is ranked as one of the best colleges for student involvement in sustainability efforts and scores among the top ten colleges on the sustainability Report Card for 2011. Pomona has several students sit on the President’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability as well as on the Board of Trustees Facilities and Environmental Committee. By encouraging student involvement in these committees and boards, students can begin to understand the political and administrative aspects of green living and green initiatives. This is great for building students who can be future leaders in green practices. Furthermore, Pomona offers 50 different internships that are related to sustainability and environmental activism. With various internships and several different student led organizations, environmental awareness is obviously a priority for Pomona College and its students. Were this information to be used in a marketing plan for the university to encourage high school students to attend Pomona College, the school could further promote sustainability awareness throughout the country, as well as foster future leaders in environmental activism.


Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031

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