B+ on the College's Green Report Card
The Sustainable Endowments Institute awarded the College a B+ when it issued its 2011 College Sustainability Report Card Thursday, October 27. The report issued grades for 322 colleges and universities in all 50 states. The survey, released at Greenreportcard.org, is the only independent assessment of sustainability on college campuses.
The goal of the Report Card is to “provide accessible information for schools to learn from each other’s experiences and establish more effective sustainability policies,” and “encourage sustainability as a priority in college operations and endowment investment practices by offering independent yearly assessments of progress,” according to the Institute.
The Institute determined each college’s overall grade by way of individual grades in each of the following categories: the school’s administration, climate change and energy initiatives, food and recycling practices, green building on campus, student involvement, transportation, endowment transparency, investment priorities and shareholder engagement. The Institute then evaluated progress in each of the categories via 52 specific indicators. The College received A’s in all of the Institute’s categories except for green building, endowment transparency and shareholder engagement, which received a B, a D and a C, respectively.
The College received a low mark in endowment transparency because it only makes part of its endowment available to the public and it doesn’t release its shareholders voting available to the public and it doesn’t release its shareholders’ voting records. The Institute attributed the College’s C in shareholder engagement to the fact that investment managers “handling the details of proxy voting” and a multi-stakeholder advisory committee that “makes proxy voting recommendations to the board,” according to the survey’s results.
However, the survey praised the climate action plan created by the College’s Environmental Advisory Committee and Colby’s current investments in renewable energy and community development funds.
Of the 322 schools surveyed, seven received the highest mark of A, marking the first time in the report’s four-year history that a college received a grade higher than an A-. Other NESCAC schools fared slightly better than the College on their report cards: Amherst College, Bowdoin College, Middlebury College and Williams College all received a grade of A-. Connecticut College and Wesleyan University scored the same as Colby, and Bates College, Hamilton College and Tufts University falling into the B/B- range. Trinity College fared the worst, receiving an overall grade of a C-.
In conducting the survey over the course of four years, the Institute noticed improvements in the quality of colleges’ sustainability policies. None of schools surveyed in 2006 implemented trayless dining in their dining halls at that time, but the percentage of colleges now implementing it is 75 percent. Whereas sustainability committees within administrations were only in place at 40 percent of the schools surveyed in 2006, that number has also jumped to 95 percent. Campus farms or gardens, like the College’s own organic garden, were present at 70 percent of the schools surveyed this year and only nine percent of said schools in 2006. Mark Orlowski, executive director of the Sustainable Endowments Institute, characterized these improvements as part of a “green groundswell on campus.”
The survey lauded student involvement at the College, noting that “students have worked on reducing pesticide use, eliminating bottled water, running the bike rental program and helping in the organic garden.”
The full results are available at http://www.greenreportcard.org/report-card-2011/schools/colby-college.