McGill aims to achieve a Platinum sustainability rating under the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS®), developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).
STARS ® is a transparent, self-reporting framework that is widely used by over 1,000 colleges and universities. It is built around four categories: Academics, Engagement, Operations, and Planning & Administration, with bonus points available in the area of Innovation & Leadership.
There are five levels of recognition for STARS®:
- Bronze: minimum score of 25
- Silver: minimum score of 45
- Gold: minimum score of 65
- Platinum: minimum score of 85
McGill received its first STARS® rating in 2012, achieving Silver. Since this inaugural assessment, McGill has made significant progress which was reflected in the University’s move to a Gold rating in 2016, which was renewed in 2020.
The Platinum rating is the highest achievement. As of June 2022, only two universities in Canada had reached the Platinum level. The vast scope of data needed for the STARS® report and the rigorous demands required for obtaining a Platinum sustainability rating means that McGill must commit to embedding sustainability in all areas and at every level.
Progress towards Platinum
Get Involved in achieving a Platinum Sustainability Rating
- Take a sustainability workshop and training through OD or SKILLS21
- Embed sustainability into your degree with sustainability-related courses and programs
- Engage with the broader Montreal community through community service and volunteering
- Enjoy plant-based and third-party, sustainably certified food options at McGill’s dining halls
- Learn how to properly sort your waste on campus
- Join the Sustainability Ambassador Program
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does McGill use the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS®)? What are the advantages of this rating system?
The STARS® program is not just about checking boxes to obtain points. It was designed to evolve over time to reflect the latest challenges in campus sustainability. The revision process takes place every three to five years and involves members of the campus sustainability community.
Over 1,000 universities across North America and beyond have registered in the STARS® program, making it easier to develop and share best practices among institutions. STARS® can also be used to inform university policy and procedures, creating lasting, sustainable change over time.
Achieving Platinum means obtaining 85 percent of available points in the STARS® framework. To do so, the University must prioritize sustainability in its academic, operational, and governance units, as well as effectively engage students, staff, and faculty in sustainability initiatives across the campuses.
The STARS® framework continues to evolve over time to recognize the different contexts in which institutions operate, while maintaining a level of standardization so that universities’ sustainability efforts can be meaningfully compared. As institutions improve and score higher ratings, the framework is also modified according to best practices so that institutions can continue to grow their efforts to meet new sustainability challenges.
Since 2010, there have been five versions. The latest iteration, STARS® 3.0, is currently in development.
The constant evolution of the STARS® program is essential and challenging. Cultures at large institutions tend to evolve slowly, and sustainability policies and processes can take a long time to implement. By contrast, AASHE updates STARS® approximately every three years. As such, McGill needs to move quickly and to strive continually to implement best practices that will impact its score.
Other challenges include the silo effect in universities, which makes cross-unit collaborations very difficult, and the coordination of communications with over 35 data-providing units. The existing sustainability community at McGill is strong and can handle these challenges as more and more people get involved in sustainability initiatives across its campuses.