Ranking University Sustainability

A new report provides a College Sustainability Report Card that ranks 100 “leading universities” in North America on their campus environment and how they invest their endowments.

Schools are graded (from “A” to “F”) in seven categories. Four of the categories are on campus operations (administration, green building, food and recycling, and climate change and energy policies) and three endowment related categories (endowment transparency, shareholder engagement, and investment priorities). The report shows that while many universities are improving their operations, most schools do not have clear policies on how they invest their money.

McGill, Univ. of Toronto, and UBC were the only Canadian universites ranked. On campus policies UBC was by far the best (achieving all A’s on the on campus part of its evaluation), and was one of the top universities in North America. In Canada, UT was 2nd (receiving an A in administration and B’s in the other 3 categories. McGill was 3rd (last) with B’s in administration and food and recycling, and C’s in climate & energy and green building.

None of the Canadian universities do well in their endowment policies. However, McGill does better under these criteria (with no failing grades), while UT failed in endowment transparency and UBC failed in both in shareholder engagement and endowment transparency. Combining both these scores, UT and UBC tie, and McGill comes last – with overall grades of B-, B-, and C+.

Compared to all North American schools evaluated, UBC placed at the top, and UT and McGill in the lower middle.

Hopefully future issues of the Macleans Canadian university rankings will include evaluations of all Canadian universitiy sustainability practices and polices.

The full 120-page Report Card can be downloaded as can invidual school report cards.

Inside Higher Ed has an article A Sustainability Report Card on the report, which was produced by the Sustainable Endowment Institute, a Cambridge-based not-for-profit that is a special project fund of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. The article gives some background on the report:

Mark Orlowski, founder and executive director of the institute, said the group wants to show the correlation between a college’s sustainability practices and the way in which it invests in energy resources or companies. He said that students in a previous institute survey expressed frustration that they could not get information from administrators about the endowment investments.

“This is an endeavor to connect the dots,” Orlowski said. “Great work is happening on campus, and while green buildings and dining hall food is visible, you can’t taste or feel endowment practices, which is one reason why they don’t get as much attention.”

For its report card, the institute surveyed 100 colleges in the United States and Canada with the largest endowments, based on the most recent data from the National Association of College and University Business Officers. The institutions have combined holdings of more than $258 billion, or about 75 percent of all higher education endowment funds, according to the report. Orlowski said the institute didn’t have the resources to poll hundreds of colleges, and using data from the top 100 endowment colleges was the easiest way to get both private and public colleges represented with geographic diversity.

Other newspapers coverd the report, which include the Boston Globe Colleges hit for lack of openness in investing, Chronicle of Higher Education On Sustainability Report Card, Most Colleges Surveyed Earn Only a C, and CNN Money Universities don’t ace sustainability.

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