Sustainable Endowments Institute Suspends Green Report Card

The Sustainable Endowments Institute has announced that it is suspending its production of the College Sustainability Report Card. The report card was one of the first and most controversial of several sustainability-ratings systems that have popped up in recent years. It was followed by a slew of other ratings and rankings that attempted to grade colleges on their green efforts.

In a letter to colleges, Mark Orlowski, the founder and executive director of the Sustainable Endowments Institute, wrote that his organization would instead focus on its Billion Dollar Green Challenge, an effort to get colleges to invest in energy-efficiency projects.

The letter indicated that SEI’s donors were pushing the institute away from the report card. “Funders are giving preference to the proactive mission of the Billion Dollar Green Challenge, thus leaving limited resources to produce the next edition of the Report Card,” Mr. Orlowski wrote.

He was not available for comment.

College administrators had long complained about the report card, along with similar ratings run by Sierra magazine, the Princeton Review, and others, and the administrators questioned the methodology behind them. The proliferation of ratings systems meant that sustainability directors spent a lot of time filling out surveys and forms—time, the administrators said, that could have been better spent on sustainability projects.

Those factors led sustainability officials to create their own rating system—called the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System, or Stars—and some said they would not participate in other systems, like the green report card.

Although the Sustainable Endowments Institute had tried to work with colleges to streamline its survey process, some sustainability directors believed that the advent of Stars meant that most colleges would stop participating in the report card and other independent ratings. In starting the Billion Dollar Green Challenge, Mr. Orlowski seemed to be distancing his organization from the report card.

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