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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Sustainability report card confirms Carleton’s progress

<r a college that prides itself so much on its sustainability and environmental concern, Carleton took quite a blow last year when it received a “C+” on the first annual College Sustainability Report Card, a report issued by the Sustainable Endowments Institute. Much to Carleton environmental advocates’ pleasure, the college managed a massive improvement this year, earning an “A-” on this year’s report.
In addition to the “A-” rating, Carleton was named one of six overall “Campus Sustainability Leaders” and one of three “Endowment Sustainability Leaders.” Clearly, Carleton has made significant progress in just one short year. Much of this can be attributed to the first report overlooking several responsible endowment governance processes Carleton had in place but not on its website last year, which resulted in undeservedly low marks in the endowment categories.

This year, Carleton received “A” rankings in the categories of Investment Priorities and Shareholder Engagement for its investments in renewable energy and its implementation of the Carleton Responsible Investment Committee (CRIC). It received a “B” in the Endowment Transparency category. The improvement in the endowment categories seems to have dramatically improved Carleton’s overall score, which Vice President and Treasurer Fred Rogers questioned.

“The people behind the survey seem to have a big eye on endowment issues moreso than sustainability…The good news is I think we are doing things [to improve the endowment],” he claimed. Rogers pointed to the work of CRIC, which was able to offer several investment suggestions to the trustees that were approved in the place of the suggestions made by management. “There continue to be efforts to look at what we’re doing…this is all a very good thing; it’s not happening on every campus,” he adds.

While Rogers notes that the improvement in endowment issues is important insofar as Carleton’s scoring on the report, he raises the question of the meaning of the results.

“There are issues with similar institutions doing things and getting different grades,” he points out, adding, “I don’t understand their methodology.” The point is revelatory, considering, for instance, that St. Olaf scored a “D” in the Climate Change and Energy category, while Carleton scored a “B,” despite the main feature of both colleges being their wind turbines. However, as Rogers ackno wledged, Carleton is staying engaged with the issue of sustainability, which does lend some credence to the results.

“Substantively, each year we’re doing more – the whole campus is actively engaged,” observes Rogers. Many of the scores on the Report Card reflect this engagement. Carleton scored an “A” in both Administration and Food & Recycling, with the report touting the existence of the ENTS department and the Environmental Advisory Committee as well as the implementation of OneStream recycling, a composting program, and the use of biodegradable utensils. However, in the Climate Change and Energy category, the Green Building category, and the new Transportation category, Carleton received “B’s.”

Clearly, despite Carleton joining Dartmouth, Harvard, Middlebury, University of Vermont, and University of Washington as an “Overall College Sustainability Leader,” it still has some room for improvement.

“I’m not sure either [the C+ or the A-] is more accurate,” says Rogers. Indeed, although Carleton has made large improvements according to the report, it still failed to fall into the top bracket in 4 of the 8 categories, and it even fell short to rival St. Olaf in the Transportation category. So, lest Carleton students give themselves a pat on the back too early, it is important to note that the report can hardly be taken as definitive. As Rogers points out, “I wouldn’t rest on this as an evaluation on whether we’re done or not done with our agenda.”

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