By Ruth A. Pagell*
- What is a green university?
- What is the “greenest” university in the world? In Thailand?
- What country has the most green universities (Part 2)?
(20 Nov 2021) With COP26 still in the news, this is the appropriate time to introduce ACCESS readers to the UI GreenMetric World University Rankings from the Universitas Indonesia’s Integrated Laboratory and Research Center. Universitas Indonesia hosted a conference on World University rankings in 2009, stating that “It was clear from the discussions that current criteria being used to rank universities were not giving credit to those that were making efforts to reduce their carbon footprint and thus help combat global climate change.”
The first World Climate Conference was in 1979. In 1992 the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was signed by 154 countries. Click here for an international timeline through 2000.
In 1990, University leaders met in Talloires, France at an international conference on “The Role of Universities in Environmental Management and Sustainable Development,” to discuss the commitment to sustainability in higher education. The outcome was the Talloires Declaration a ten-point action plan for incorporating sustainability and environmental literacy in teaching, research, operations, and outreach at colleges and universities. This led to the creation of ULSF, the Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future. Starting with 50 institutions, there are now 520 signatories from 61 countries. Click here for the list of institutions.
What is a “green institution”? I thought in terms of a hierarchical relationship among sustainability, climate change, and a green environment. In the end I realized that the terms were interrelated. ULSF states that “Sustainability” implies that the critical activities of a higher education institution are ecologically sound, socially just and economically viable, and that they will continue to be so for future generations…“
The UN’s Environment Programme describes a green economy as “low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive”. “The notion of green economy does not replace sustainable development, but creates a new focus on the economy, investment, capital and infrastructure, employment and skills and positive social and environmental outcomes across Asia and the Pacific.” The terms are sometimes used interchangeably.
New metrics are used to rank or rate higher education institutions (HEIs), countries, and companies. Part 1 highlights rankings of HEIs and Part 2 highlights ranking countries and companies and ESG metrics.
PART 1: HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTION RANKINGS
UI GreenMetric World University Rankings
The rankings are a product of the UI GreenMetric Integrated Laboratory and Research Center. The first ranking was in 2010 with 95 institutions in 35 countries. There is no stipulation that Institutions have to offer undergraduate or graduate degree programs or that they need to be accredited(1)
There are several articles in Journal of Cleaner Production that examine GreenMetric. Suwartha and Sari (2013), two of the creators of the rankings, describe the ranking, including what they would do for verification. The article is part of a special volume of the journal, “Green universities and environmental education for sustainable development in China and other emerging countries.” Only abstracts are available without subscription. In 2015, the Journal published another article on GreenMetric that is available on ResearchGate (Lauder). A 2021 article studies GreenMetric and other world rankings. It asks questions that I had asked myself such as
- How does sustainability relate to the academic performance of universities?” and
- Is there a relationship between the environmental rankings of institutions and the environmental performance of their countries” (Atici, et.al)?
According to the authors the results do reveal that “environmental sustainability can serve as a competitive advantage for the world universities. Although somewhat dated, a review article by authors from Universiti Kebangsaan, provides an overview of university and country sustainable indicators and it is open access (Mamat, et.al.).
The 2020 edition of UI GreenMetric has over 900 institutions in 80 countries. The next edition is scheduled for December 2021. In addition to the annual rankings, UI co-sponsors workshops with other organizations and has an annual international workshop. The 2022 workshop is scheduled for National Pingtung University of Science and Technology in Pingtung, Taiwan.
GreenMetric and THE are the same in that they depend on submissions from the institutions. GreenMetric differs from THE’s Impact Ranking which are based on SDGs. Bibliometrics are a quarter of THE’s rankings. GreenMetric highlights the “green campus”, ranking the physical institution based on survey data supplied by the institutions. Less than 2% of the UI metrics include familiar bibliometrics. It answers the question: How green is my campus? Wageningen University and Research is number one in the world and the Chinese Weifang Institute of Technology is tops in Asia/Pacific. Table 48.1. lists the top ten in the world and Asia/Pac.
See Table 48.1. for the top 2020 top 10 in the world and Asia-Pac.
In addition to the Overall ranking, there are six categories with 39 indicators. The top in the world and Asia-Pac for the categories are:
- Overall: Wageningen U & Research (NL); Weifang Institute of Technology (CN – 19)
- Settings & Infrastructure (15%): Western Michigan U and U Autonoma de Chiapas (MX) tied; IPB U (ID 2)
- Energy & Climate Change (21%): Leuphana U Luneburg (DE); Weifang IT (4)
- Waste (18%): Leiden (NL); Dhurakij Pundit U (TH-13)
- Water (10%): 30 tied including Asia U (TW), U Malaya, U Zanjan (IR), Da-Yeh U (TW), UiTM SHAH-ALAM (MY), Mahidol U (TH), Princess Noutsh Bint Abdulrahman U (SA), UM Sabah (MY), U Petra (JO)
- Transportation (18%): U Bologna (IT), Tra Vinh U (VN)
- Education & Research (18%): 11 tied, 5 Asian: IPB U, UM Pahang, Diponegoro U (ID), I T Sepuluh Nopember, U Islam Indonesia
See Appendix 48.1. A for the indicators per category and their scores and for Appendix 48 A Table 2 for tops in other categories, such as regions, countries, and location type.
Interface: Overall Rankings 2020
UI GreenMetric provides the score for each indicator for every university and for all rankings. An archive goes back to the first edition in 2010. Nottingham U, U Indonesia, and U Putra Malaysia were in the top 10 in 2020.
Supporting information, including a mapping to SDGs and scoring for each indicator are available in a hard to access and use Guide. Earlier editions available in multiple languages. See Appendix A for a list of all indicators.
The interface is interactive. Each indicator can be sorted. There is no option to download. The data can be copied and downloaded into a spreadsheet.
Even though the level of supporting detail I find in other rankings is missing, UI GreenMetric provides a great service by capturing universities from countries that may be underrepresented in rankings with research components. It’s top ranked university, Wageningen University and Research is Gold in Qs and ranked in THE Impact Overall. The top ranked Asian university, Weifang Institute of Technology is only included in Webometrics, ranked over 19,000.
The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System™ (STARS)
STARS is primarily a North American self-reporting system under the auspices of The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education-AASHE . It was first piloted in 2008. STARS has 205 points and 63 indicators distributed among four categories, Academics, Engagement, Operations, and Planning & Administration. Bonus points are available for Innovation & Leadership. Many of the indicators in Operations are similar to GreenMetric indicators. STARs metrics are also mapped to SDGs.
1,053 universities are registered with AASHE. As of November 2021, 11 are platinum, 133 gold, 157 silver, 43 bronze and 17 reporters. There are about 400 reports, not all current. STARS is totally transparent. The Technical Manual includes detailed descriptions of each indicator; universities’ reports with their scores for each indicator are available to the public. Only 81 of the registered institutions are outside of North America and 12 of them are ranked. See Appendix A for indicators and platinum institutions. STARS shares information with The Princeton Review.
The Princeton Review Guide to Green Colleges
Best known to many students studying in the U.S. for its ranking of best party schools, Princeton Review has a serious side. The 2022 Princeton Review Guide to Green Colleges is available for free. 50 schools are ranked and 420 are listed. Detailed information is available in the press release that accompanied the Guide. See Appendix A for questions and a list of U.S. universities in GreenMetrics and the Princeton Review.
THE and QS
THE’s SDG Impact rankings are covered in Ruth’s Rankings articles and News Updates as is QS’ addition of SDG research output in its current ranking based completely on research (Pagell). University rankers are looking at incorporating ESGs (Environmental, Social and Governance) used for businesses.
At this point in the article, the only question answered is Who is the greenest university who participated in the GreenMetric survey?
To get a full picture, it is necessary to check not only other rankings but universities participation in international organizations, which will be covered in Part 2.
Article 48 Part 2 includes international organization membership, country scoring and an overall comparison of countries by different sources. It also introduces green/sustainable company rankings and metrics that will be incorporated into upcoming university rankings as well.
(1)I sent several emails to GreenMetrics to clarify eligibility and accuracy that were not answered
AASHE (June 2019) Stars Technical Manual v 2.2 https://stars.aashe.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/STARS-2.2-Technical-Manual.pdf
Atici, K. et. al. (2021). Green university and academic performance: An empirical study on UI Green metric and world university rankings. Journal of Cleaner Production, 291. Article should be available after 24 Nov 2021.
Climate Change Information Sheet 17 (18/7//2020) Information Unit for Conventions, United Nations Environment Programme.
Guideline: UI GreenMetric World University Rankings 2021: Universities, GreenMetric, and SDGs in the time of pandemic, https://greenmetric.ui.ac.id/publications/guidelines/2021/english (not downloadable).
Lauder, A. et.al. (March 2015). Critical review of a global campus sustainability ranking: GreenMetric. Journal of Cleaner Production, 108 Part A. available to registered users of Researchgate at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/276116786_Critical_review_of_a_global_campus_sustainability_ranking_GreenMetric
Mamat, et. al. (June 2016). Environmental sustainability indicators as impact tracker: A review. Journal of Sustainability Science and Management, 11(1) 29-42, accessed at https://jssm.umt.edu.my/wp-content/uploads/sites/51/2016/06/3-web.pdf
Pagell, Ruth: Ruth’s Rankings 38 and 41; News updates 4-2020, 3-2021, 8-2021 see https://librarylearningspace.com/list-ruths-rankings/
Suwartha, N. and Sari, R.F. (Dec 2013). Journal of Cleaner Production, 61, 46-53
The Princeton Review has released its guide to Green Colleges: 2022 edition (Oct 2021).
ULSF (Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future) Talloires Declaration accessed at http://ulsf.org/talloires-declaration English, French, Spanish, and Russian.
UN Environment Programme, accessed November 2021, https://www.unep.org/regions/asia-and-pacific/regional-initiatives/supporting-resource-efficiency/green-economy
Wang, Y. et. al, ed. (Dec 2013). Special Volume: Green universities and environmental higher education for sustainable development in China and other emerging countries, Journal of Cleaner Production, 61, only abstracts available
UI Contact: Office UI GreenMetric, Integrated Laboratory and Research Center, [email protected]
A list of Ruth’s Rankings and News Updates is here.
*Ruth A. Pagell is emeritus faculty librarian at Emory University. After working at Emory, she was the founding librarian of the Li Ka Shing Library at Singapore Management University and then adjunct faculty [teaching] in the Library and Information Science Program at the University of Hawaii. She has written and spoken extensively on various aspects of librarianship, including contributing articles to ACCESS – https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3238-9674