From STARS v2.2 to v3.0: key changes

With any new version of STARS comes a slew of methodology changes that can be difficult to manage and keep track of. With this in mind, GreenerU has identified the three most impactful changes that will affect your STARS process the next time you submit.

1. Reduction in documentation fields

One of the most common complaints about STARS that GreenerU hears is that the process is overcomplicated and inaccessible to small, often understaffed sustainability offices. AASHE clearly heard these concerns from the community and has revised the previous version of STARS (v2.2) to be simpler, more accessible, and more robust. In fact, they’ve managed to decrease the total number of documentation fields by 40% (see graph 1).

A line graph showing the change in number of AASHE documentation fields from version 2.2 to version 3.0

Graph 1. – Change in the number of documentation fields.

2. From baselining to benchmarking

AASHE has made a major change to its operations credits for STARS v3.0. In past versions of STARS, institutions were evaluated against themselves for water use, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and waste credits. Each institution would submit a baseline year, or the first year for which they have reliable data on the subject, and the credit would be scored based on the progress the institution has made from that point. 

Under STARS v3.0, an institution’s performance in these credits will be assessed in relation to a peer group of institutions. AASHE has defined four types of institutions: Associate, Baccalaureate, Masters, and Doctoral. Using the most recent data from any institution that had published a report under version 2.0, 2.1, or 2.2 (as of August 1, 2023), AASHE calculated thresholds and benchmarks for each type of institution to create their scoring structure. 

Side note: The “maximum threshold” is the point at which points begin to accrue, and the “benchmark” is the point at which maximum points are earned.

This method of evaluation will change the way that schools are scored, though the impact on total score is not yet known. The benchmarks are all publicly available and can be found here.

3. Introduction of new credits

While there are content changes across the report, one of the biggest changes is the additional credits that expand the scope of the report. The new credits for STARS v3.0 are below:

  • AC 7: Center for Sustainability Research—requires qualitative information about any organized centers, institutes, or equivalent units that produce sustainability research
  • EN 8: Shared Facilities—requires qualitative information about how an institution shares its facilities with the local community
  • PA 7: Racial and Ethnic Diversity—requires student and employee demographic data and completing a racial and ethnic diversity worksheet
  • PA 8: Gender Parity—requires quantitative data on students and employees by gender
  • PA 10: Student Success—requires quantitative data on student completion rates by gender and race/ethnicity/Indigeneity
  • PA 12: Employee Rights—requires information about an institution’s labor and employee relations policies

You’ll notice that the category with the largest number of new credits and the lowest reduction in documentation fields (see graph 1) is PA. This is due to AASHE’s efforts to create more robust indicators of racial equity and social justice than have been available.

Once the new version has been launched, institutions will have the choice of continuing to work on v2.2 or to upgrade and work on v3.0. Upgrading to v3.0 will allow you to move existing data over, so if your institution is in the middle of a reporting process, you will not need to do that manually. AASHE hopes to transition all institutions over to v3.0 within two years of its release, and institutions have an 18-month grace period before being asked to switch to the new version.

As you navigate this change from STARS v2.2 to 3.0, GreenerU is here to support you. Contact us for advice on selecting a version for your reporting process—or if you’d like our help walking you through a full STARS inventory. AASHE also has extensive information on STARS v3.0, the majority of which you can find here.

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