The Green Gown Awards Australasia are open to all Australian and New Zealand tertiary education institutions including universities, TAFE, Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs) and Registered Training Organisations (RTOs). The Awards are free and open to any institution type or size, apart from the Individual ACTS Award of Excellence which is only available for current ACTS members.

2020 categories

Organisational Awards

2030 Climate Action

Institutions are having to plan how they get to net-zero emissions. This category focuses on the steps that institutions are taking and planning to take to reach their targets. The judges are looking for innovative ideas and approaches that institutions are taking or planning. It is recognised that there will not be the normal evidence or impact available as this category is looking at current plans, with the focus being on intentions.

Carbon reduction and adaptation to the effects of climate change are essential for institutional resilience and business continuity – both executive-level issues for our institutions. Universities and colleges are exposed to significant climate risks and responsibilities to meet targets and institutions have to be taking bold steps to meet these targets while ensuring student outcomes and satisfaction are maintained.

The judges will be looking for:

  • Innovative plans for achieving net-zero.
  • Focus on achieving Scope 1 and 2 emissions initially with Scope 3 in the horizon.
  • How do you know you are getting there? Outline what steps are being taken in the area of measurement and verification of impact of efforts on the progress towards net-zero.
  • What steps are being taken on mitigation and adaptation?
  • Actions that can be scalable and transferable to other institutions/across the sector.
  • Plans and actions that are looking at the whole institution and holistic approach.
  • Examples of using internal research and academic knowledge in helping advance actions.
  • Examples of working in partnership within local community and other stakeholders.

The aim of this category is to share the good efforts institutions are taking as well as learning from each other on areas that have not worked so well. Whilst the end results will not be available, judges will look at projected impacts.

Benefitting Society

As anchors in their communities and cities, tertiary education institutions benefit society in many ways. This category captures the powerful and innovative ways education institutions are realising their purpose in today’s society to benefit the lives of individuals, communities and wider society. Examples will range from economic, social and environmental impacts with organisations and sectors outside the institution where innovative new approaches to bringing positive benefit can be found.

Although all applications will be considered on their merits, the judges will particularly be looking for innovative community engagement type of initiatives which have an element of proactive, new, community and social concern and positive impacts, rather than the very worthy and commendable ‘grassroots’ and ‘business as usual’ activities.

Amongst others, examples might include how an institution applies and exchanges its student and academic knowledge with communities or partner organisations, how it uses its finances and investments, how it designs and manages its campus – all to demonstrate its values and the positive value it brings to society. A powerful example of such innovative and proactive engagement is the Living Lab approach: establishing projects that draw on students’ curricular work or academic research to address real sustainability challenges in stakeholder partnerships with community bodies.

Activities which have a substantial student element should be submitted to the Student Engagement category.

The winning entry will automatically be put forward for the International Green Gown Award for Benefitting Society.

Campus Health, Food & Drink

This category includes all food, drink, kitchen and hospitality aspects of healthy, sustainable institutions. Applications are to show a holistic life-cycle approach and go beyond good practice/current trends and that standard credentials, as examples of good practice, will already be in place.

The judges will be looking for holistic approaches across the whole institution that show creativity, innovation and consideration for how healthy food and drink is procured, cooked and served considering environmental and social issues and making informed selections.

Judges will be looking at the whole life-cycle approach, which could include:

  • Whole supply chain – cause and effect data (by avoiding decisions that fix one problem but cause another or if it is changed is it better)
  • Efficient waste management and complete waste cycle streams
  • Menu engineering – addressing carbon reduction and supply chain and cause/effect issues
  • Linkages with academics and research on approaches taken
  • Hospitality & Food Service kitchen(s) (HaFS)– management of energy and water waste (including procurement of energy-efficient equipment)

With additional evidence of:

  • Follow-up and engagement – what happened after?
  • How behaviour change and where appropriate, health and well-being, has been encouraged across staff, students and the broader community (include numbers)
  • Purchasing strategies – how have these changed?
  • Communication, education and awareness of all parts of the life-cycle
  • How your institution stands out from the crowd and is going above and beyond the norm.

Applications are only likely to be successful if they provide quantitative evidence on a holistic, whole life-cycle approach, and not just with a focus on one or two individual campaigns and must be able to demonstrate cause and effect between activities undertaken and improvements achieved.

Campus of the Future

This category recognises the pathfinding campus and learning innovation to improve the student experience. Traditional campus and learning processes are challenged and advances in internet connectivity, artificial intelligence and augmented reality have scope to transform campuses and learning into more immersive and more sustainable experiences. Similarly, the digital revolution is driving smart buildings, intelligent campuses and step-change advances across all aspects of an institution giving students a richer experience of learning and teaching.  Next-generation campuses provide benefits such as enabling institutions to reduce their impact by monitoring and managing energy use in real-time, streamline waste management to moving supplies around the site more efficiently as well as improving student and staff well-being.  Judges will also be interested in cross-discipline and social space design. The possibilities are endless, and judges will particularly look for a whole–institution mix of enhancement of learning and wider student and community outcomes.

Applications are only likely to be successful if they provide quantitative evidence on the nature of the improvements made and demonstrate a causal relationship between activities undertaken and improvements achieved.

Continuous Improvement: Institutional Change

This category recognises sustained, whole-institution commitment and impact to becoming a sustainable organisation.

To improve social responsibility and environmental performance through a whole of institution approach, strategic sustainability activities through four main areas must be achieved:

  • Leadership and Governance
  • Facilities and Operations
  • Learning, Teaching and Research
  • Partnerships and Engagement

Applications are only likely to be successful if they provide considerable quantitative evidence on the nature of the improvements made and also demonstrate a causal relationship between activities undertaken and improvements achieved based on the four key areas. Economic cost savings, where appropriate and if available would also be welcome. Initiatives must have been running for at least two years.

Judges will be looking for key areas where it is felt that the institution is distinctive compared to its peers, and provide supporting evidence. Tangible evidence of high-level commitment, and its incorporation into management procedures, will also carry great weight with the judges as will engagement with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and public reporting of performance.

The winning entry will be put forward for the International Green Gown Award for Sustainability Institution of the Year.

Creating Impact

This category recognises institutions that have achieved significant sustainability-related outcomes, on-campus or within their community, using minimal and/or limited resources. Initiatives need to demonstrate the relationship/link between the number of resources used (for example staffing, budget, time) and the level of impact achieved (for example quantifiable changes in behaviours and/or reportable metrics).

Initiatives could include those which can demonstrate significant sustainability achievements (such as sustainable products, processes or learnings) in a relatively short period and/or with a restricted budget, and/or with a small staff base e.g. good progress from a low base. Projects that raise the broader profile of sustainability will be particularly favoured.

Applications must show how learning from others has been implemented and for the greater chance of success go beyond legal compliance. Initiatives can cover a single aspect of sustainability or have multiple foci, including but not limited to: facilities & operations; learning & teaching, research; leadership and governance; community; procurement, and; engagement. However, regardless of the topical focus, the primary aim of this category is to demonstrate how institutions can still achieve creative and high impact outcomes with limited resources.

Learning, Teaching & Skills

This category recognises achievement in the development of academic courses, skills and capabilities relevant to sustainability. These can be vocational, undergraduate or postgraduate courses or related to wider purposes such as community involvement, global or environmental awareness or to support lifestyle changes.

Examples of possible application topics include:

  • Effective integration of sustainability principles and/or practices within and across disciplines and existing courses, especially those not traditionally engaged with sustainability;
  • The development of new courses focused on sustainability issues;
  • Use of practical sustainability-related projects or other practical activities within courses including work-based learning initiatives.
  • Training for apprenticeships;
  • Continuing professional development (CPD) activities;
  • Skill-focused courses leading to professional or vocational qualifications;
  • Adult & community learning, and short courses for practitioners and;
  • Demonstrating/implementing sustainability practices in the workplace.

Applications can be made for activities connected with undergraduate or other academic courses if there is a practical focus on the development of specific skills which goes beyond the normal activities of the disciplinary curriculum, e.g. running community-based projects which give students considerable autonomy and develop their communication, management abilities etc.

Research with Impact – Institution

This category recognises the importance and societal impact of research and development by post-16 education as a driver of sustainable development and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. As claims of impact from research and development can be difficult to judge, entries are sought which:

  • Are about tangible improvements resulting from research & development, rather than the findings or quality of the research & development itself
  • Can provide quantitative evidence of what those improvements and resulting sustainability benefits and impacts are. Outcomes linked to the Research Excellence Framework, if applicable, are required
  • Can demonstrate a clear and unambiguous causal link between the research & development and improvements and benefits.
  • Note that adoption or dissemination measures will not be considered sufficient evidence by themselves – there needs to be a further stage of demonstration that adoption or dissemination has actually produced results.

Possible activities include:

  • Research and development leading to mitigation of environmental and wider sustainability-based impacts related to existing technology
  • Research and development that has created new products with demonstrable superiority to existing ones with regard to sustainability
  • Research that incorporates the above two, and other principles, as part of a Living Lab project that is successful in co-creating & co-implementing a transformation.

Judges will be also interested in innovative approaches to better link academic research with industry need. Eligible entries can include both large-scale projects with major impacts as well as small-scale projects that provide tangible impacts in focused areas/technologies, or amongst specific target audiences. In line with the broader sustainability agenda, judges will be keen to see evidence on how the project links with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Student Engagement

This category reflects that students and staff must work together to achieve goals using “top-down” and “bottom-up grassroots” methods to achieve maximum understanding and engagement across an institution. This, in turn, aids student progress and allows for opportunities to gain transferable employability skills. It looks at both the student input and the staff commitment and the relationship between the two. It must be clear that initiatives include both staff and students (not just one party) working in partnership.

Where staff and students are involved, as well as including the actual numbers, including how they are involved and what impact/influence they have had.

Examples could include: Social media projects; Awareness and communication campaigns; Procurement actions; Sustainability reporting and websites; Volunteering activities organised by unions, societies and similar organisations within institutions; Community projects.

Applications are equally welcomed from institutions or student bodies.

The winning entry will automatically be put forward for the International Green Gown Award for Student Engagement.

Individual and Team Awards

Outstanding Leadership Team

This category recognises the pioneering and innovative cross-institution approaches education institutions are taking to deliver sustainability through whole-institution strategies and new organisational structures.

Judges will be looking for evidence of a clear high-level strategic approach – firstly how stakeholders at all levels are engaged in powerful strategic conversations, secondly how a truly integrated plan is constructed and communicated and thirdly the leadership of change and innovation to turn ideas into action. Outstanding applications must illustrate how the following groups impact and influence the team:

  • Governance and the Executive team
  • Deans and Directors
  • Sustainability delivery team
  • Champions
  • Students

This category reflects the innovation and leadership that institutions are taking in organising their staff and student structures to take a whole institution approach. This category is not just for a sustainability team or specific individuals but for the wider institution team approach.

NOTE: Applicants are to use the Individual/Team Application Form but the Award will be made to the institution. This category replaces the former Leadership category.

ACTS Award of Excellence – Staff

The Individual Staff Award is open to all staff members, at any level, within an ACTS member institution, who deserve recognition for continued and on-going effort to improve sustainability performance. The individual will have worked hard to implement sustainability initiatives that have had a positive impact on the sustainability achievements of an institution or beyond. This could be through the leadership of students or peers, greening of campuses, the sharing of knowledge and/or resources and behaviour change, internally within the community or wider sector and internationally.

Nominations must demonstrate a range of sustainability achievements, over and above normal job requirements, including extra-curricular activities, outside the allocated department/workplace. Applications should provide evidence of scale and impact, and of good leadership/championing practice in engaging and inspiring others.

NOTE: Individuals can complete the application form but cannot apply themselves. The submission must be nominated by a manager or peer within or outside the sector. Winners for this category will be decided by an independent judging panel.

ACTS Award of Excellence – Student

The Individual Student Award is open to any student within an ACTS member institution, who deserves recognition for sustainability-related activities undertaken. The individual will have worked hard to be involved in implementing sustainability initiatives that have had a positive impact on their peers, local community or institution. Activities may include campaigning, inspiring and motivating others or championing a cause on campus or outside. If studying a sustainability-related topic, activities over and above normal course requirements will be favoured. Initiatives or campaigns through an organised group or union are eligible, with judges favouring those that can demonstrate significant personal involvement or leadership.

NOTE: Individuals can complete the application form but cannot apply themselves. The submission must be nominated by a manager or peer within or outside the sector. Winners for this category will be decided by an independent judging panel.