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Statement from the
Executive Director


July 20, 2010

As the first organization to systematically undertake tracking and evaluating sustainability programs in higher education, the Sustainable Endowments Institute has consistently welcomed feedback on how to improve each annual edition of the College Sustainability Report Card.

In that spirit, we appreciate the ideas articulated by a group sustainability coordinators in their open letter published on July 20, 2010.   While the letter is addressed to “sustainability evaluating organizations” in general, we would like to respond specifically in relation to the College Sustainability Report Card.

Since our Report Card research first got underway in 2006, there has been dramatic growth in the attention to, and level of, campus sustainability activity across the country. In response to this growth, we have worked diligently to expand how we track sustainability initiatives through both broadening and deepening our evaluation system.

In order to produce a report that has the highest value to college administrators, students and the public, we have:

  • Solicited input with a survey each year on the Report Card research process from administrators at all schools in the Report Card.  
  • Organized a series of telephone focus groups with administrators and students selected at random to gain input on our research process.
  • Invited administrators at all of the schools in the Report Card to schedule a call with our research team to discuss the results and answer any questions.
  • Developed a free “Beyond Grades” webinar series offering insights by sustainability professionals from a geographically and financially diverse range of colleges and universities at various stages of sustainability efforts.  The webinars covered all nine categories evaluated in the Report Card and encouraged questions concerning both methodology and substance.

More than 750,000 visitors have accessed the Report Card website and have submitted numerous suggestions for improvement. We take all suggestions seriously and many ideas submitted by sustainability coordinators, administrators, and students as well as by our advisors, funders and independent consultants have been integrated into our research process.

Last year, in response to suggestions, the Report Card became the only sustainability evaluation system to publish (with permission) individual school survey data on hundreds of universities.

Now, in response to the concerns raised in the open letter, the Sustainable Endowments Institute has initiated an internal discussion on how we can best adapt the relevant suggestions raised by the letter.

In furtherance of our long standing policy of soliciting feedback, this week I will phone all the sustainability coordinators who signed the letter to listen to their individual concerns and to solicit their specific ideas for improvement.

Mark Orlowski
Executive Director
Sustainable Endowments Institute



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