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Vanderbilt receives “B” in sustainability report card

Posted by on Friday, October 29, 2010 in Energy, Green Building, News, Procurement, Transportation, Waste & Recycling, Water.

By Kyle Blaine

[Originally published by Vanderbilt Student Communications]

Vanderbilt Recycling / Photo by Chris McDonald

Vanderbilt University received a “B” grade from the Sustainable Endowments Institute’s College Sustainability Report Card, an improvement from the C+ received last year.

Andrea George, director of the Sustainability & Environmental Management Office, worked with the Sustainable Endowments Institute to report relevant information to be used in the university’s grade calculation.

“We are very pleased that our score improved. The university has worked hard to make sustainability a top priority,” George said.

George said that improvements to the methodology of the Report Card, expansion of LEAD certified buildings, energy efficiency retrofits, transportation initiatives, water conservation programs, improvements made to food and recycling, and student group efforts have all contributed to the university’s improved performance.

“This years report was based on a standardized reporting system,” George said. “It allowed the university to showcase what we have done and we compared favorably to other universities.”

The university was graded on the following nine categories: Administration, Climate Change & Energy, Food & Recycling, Green Building, Transportation, Student Involvement, Endowment Transparency, Investment Priorities and Shareholder Engagement. Research was based on publicly available information, surveys sent to appropriate school officials and student groups and assessments of each school’s performance on more than 120 questions across 52 indicators.

Vanderbilt received its lowest scores in Endowment Transparency and Shareholder Engagement, a C and D, respectively.

“Essentially, our endowment managers were as cooperative and transparent as they could be while still protecting Vanderbilt’s competitive investment advantage,” George said.

Vanderbilt’s score in these two categories is comparable to similar private colleges such as Duke and Emory.

According to the Sustainable Endowments Institute, a Cambridge-based nonprofit organization engaged in research and education to advance sustainability in campus operations and endowment practices, dramatic increases in effort have been made by universities nationwide to improve sustainability on campus.

“The green groundswell on campus is evident in a wide variety of energy-saving initiatives, such as sourcing food from campus farms and reducing hot water use through trayless dining,” said Mark Orlowski, executive director of the Sustainable Endowments Institute.

While George said she is pleased that the university’s score has improved, she also said that the Report Card is not fully reflective of the programs at Vanderbilt.

“The Report Card does not take into account all the research and teaching efforts on sustainability that occur at the university, and that concerns me,” George said.

Vanderbilt’s full report and the reports of other universities can be found at

The Breakdown

  • Administration – B
  • Climate Change and Energy – B
  • Food and Recycling – B
  • Green Building – A
  • Student Involvement – A
  • Transportation – A
  • Endowment Transparency – C
  • Investment Priorities – A
  • Shareholder Engagement – D

How do we compare?

  • Vanderbilt – B
  • Harvard – A-
  • Duke – B+
  • Rice – B+
  • Auburn – B-
  • Emory – B
  • Northwestern – C+
  • University of Chicago – C+
  • Washington University in St. Louis – B

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