Accreditation for green language schools launched

Green Standard Schools will seek to ensure the language education profession mitigates its impact on the environment by providing leadership, guidance and support to educational authorities, teaching institutions, teachers and learners.

“The accreditation process has to be rigorous for it to be meaningful”

Accreditation will also be awarded to both online and brick and mortar language providers via a rigorous process where educators can show they adopt, adhere and commit to policies and practices to protect the environment.

“Green Standard Schools will all have demonstrated their commitment to environmental sustainability, so accreditation should help both agents and students identify which schools are taking these issues seriously,” said Jonathan Dykes, one of the organisation’s four founding members.

GSS’s ’12 Commitments’ cover a range of aims including reducing energy, water, plastics and paper use, promoting recycling and lowering the environmental impact of purchases and marketing activities, while also encouraging accommodation partners to adopt sustainable practices.

The association also requires members to “compensate for the carbon generated by students and staff travelling to the school”, in addition to systematically including environmental issues in the curriculum.

“We are not dodging more difficult areas such as carbon emissions,” Dykes noted.

“Schools that want to become accredited – especially study abroad schools – should log the flights taken by students and staff, then calculate the volume of carbon these flights have generated,” he explained. This will make it easier to identify ways to offset carbon emissions.

Applicants will be scored on their operations, with 200 being the maximum number of points available. Schools reaching 130 points will be eligible for accreditation.

“The majority of first-time applicants will fall below this score, but that’s when we can provide feedback on how to improve their performance and improve their score the next time they apply,” Dykes explained. “The accreditation process has to be rigorous for it to be meaningful,” he added.

Since launching at the end of September, 19 schools have undertaken the application process with four achieving the score to make them eligible for accreditation.

Environmental sustainability is “an issue that all companies should be taking more seriously, including all language schools”, Dykes added.

The association’s expertise includes Dykes’s work at IH Barcelona, where he registered the school on the EU’s Eco Management and Audit Scheme. “We know that this generated some additional business for us,” Dykes said.

Additionally, IH Belfast’s ECOApp launched in collaboration with study abroad agents ESL “added an extra element to that school’s value proposition”.

“While we’re not suggesting that students or agents will necessarily choose a school depending on its environmental credentials alone, it’s entirely feasible that they could choose a school that has been accredited for its environmental policies and practices over others on their shortlist, if other factors (fees, course types, accommodation options, etc) are more or less similar,” Dykes explained.

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