Benchmarking tools for assessing and tracking sustainability in higher educational institutions: Identifying an effective tool for the University of Saskatchewan
The University of Saskatchewan (UofS) has indentified five areas of campus life critical to improving the university's sustainability performance: education, research, operations, governance, and community engagement. In recognition of the need to track and assess the university's performance in all of these areas, a study was conducted to identify an effective sustainability‐benchmarking tool for the UofS. The paper aims to discuss these issues.
In order to identify an effective benchmarking tool for assessing sustainability for the context of the UofS, two academic‐focused tools and two tools with a broader scope were reviewed. The academic tools are Sustainability Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) and the Campus Sustainability Assessment Framework (CSAF), while the general tools are the College Sustainability Report Card (CSRC) and the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS). Each tool was rated on the basis of 27 questions developed to directly relate to indicators of sustainability in the five areas of campus life. The highest rated tool was recommended as the most effective tool for assessing and tracking sustainability for the UofS.
Each benchmarking tool was developed to address specific goals. Accordingly, one tool may have strength in one area but weakness in another area. The study has shown that CSRC is the best tool for addressing governance and operations, although overall CSRC earned the lowest score in terms of its potential application to the UofS as it is not an effective tool for addressing sustainability in the context of education and research. Both academic tools – SAQ and CSAF – do not adequately address issues of sustainability in campus operations. STARS obtained the highest scores in all areas of campus life. Hence, STARS was identified as the most effective tool for assessing and tracking sustainability in all areas of campus life at the UofS.
Extrapolating from the UofS assessment, the STARS would appear to be the most effective benchmarking tool for assessing and tracking sustainability for higher educational institutions that want to assess and track sustainability across the breadth of campus life in education, research, operations, governance, and community engagement.