The comprehensiveness of competing higher education sustainability assessments

  • Graham Bullock, Nicholas Wilder
  • International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, May 2016, Emerald
  • DOI: 10.1108/ijshe-05-2014-0078

What is it about?

This paper analyzes the comprehensiveness of competing higher education sustainability assessments by organizations such as The Sierra Club and the Princeton Review. It finds that in general these assessments are not comprehensive and particularly lack coverage of the social and economic dimensions of sustainability. However, it also concludes that the Pacific Sustainability Index and Sustainability Tracking and Assessment Rating System (STARS) provide the most comprehensive assessments of the sector.

Why is it important?

The paper provides a valuable discussion and demonstration of the use of comprehensiveness as a proxy metric for the validity of sustainability assessments. This analysis is the first detailed, comprehensive and transparent analysis of higher education sustainability assessments based on a broad-based and widely accepted set of criteria.


Dr. Graham D Bullock
Davidson College

How do we know if something is as "green" and sustainable as it claims to be? Given the proliferation of such claims in recent years, it is easy to become overwhelmed and disillusioned by all the noise. This paper develops a method for identifying those claims that are relatively comprehensive, and applies it to the higher education sector. The results should be useful to both researchers, practitioners and consumers as they seek to better understand and differentiate among competing sustainability ratings and certifications.

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