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.

2019 categories

Organisational Awards

2030 Climate Action (NEW)

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. Education institutions are exposed to significant climate risks and responsibilities to meet targets by 2030 with such initiatives as the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goal 13 – Climate Action. Institutions have to be taking bold steps to meet these targets while ensuring student outcomes and satisfaction are maintained.

This category goes beyond the usual carbon reduction practices. Judges will be looking for real innovation and progression to meet 2030 targets with a particular focus around Scopes 1 & 2 of the GHG Reporting Protocols. Initiatives that have made concerted efforts to address Scope 3 emissions as part of reduction targets will be especially favoured by judges. Institutions that have taken a campus-wide approach to mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and emission reduction which includes operations, as well as teaching and learning and engagement, are to be welcomed. Institutions that take climate action seriously understand the financial, reputational and operational consequences that will impact them. Strong applications will also illustrate engagement with their community – such as staff, students, industry partners, and the local area.

International Green Gown Awards

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. This category replaces the former Community category and the 2-year rule applies.

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

Built Environment

This category recognises new or refurbished buildings or student residences in tertiary education which have good energy and environmental performance. Sometimes buildings fail to perform to their design specifications. As such quantitative evidence of actual performance in practice, and ideally a post occupancy evaluation to identify problems and means of improving them, will be given special weight in judging. Applications featuring refurbished buildings are especially welcomed, and the difficulties of achieving similar levels of performance to new build will be taken into account in the judging process. Please note that judges will look especially favourably at entries which are best practice and go beyond statutory compliance and national construction code.

Judges will be looking for initiatives, that as a minimum, go beyond statutory compliance and the national construction code and can demonstrate best practice or have been awarded certification by a recognised best practice scheme (e.g. Green Star, WELL, Living Building Challenge). They will also be strongly favouring those that can demonstrate the community outreach aspects of the project, for example upskilling the workforce through knowledge and skill transfer and improvement.

There is much evidence that the energy and environmental design specifications of buildings are often not achieved in practice. Hence, the judges for this category will put considerable weight on data which shows that this has happened. Please describe the provenance and reliability of data used for this purpose (e.g. actual metered data from X sites within the building). Details and outcomes of any commissioning, quality control and post-occupancy evaluation activities which occurred will also be of significant judging interest. Information about problems identified, and responses made, will be seen as a positive commitment to improvement rather than being penalised by the judges (provided that they do not undermine the entire rationale of the application!). All data within the application should use metric units wherever feasible. Normalised figures per square meter of gross floor space should be provided for capital and relevant operating costs (e.g. energy consumption). Capital costs should also be broken down as much as possible (e.g. build, fitting-out, plant, and fee costs) to enable detailed comparisons between applications.

Projects must be completed and commissioned, with the date of practical completion included in the application form. They must also clearly demonstrate that the building is occupied and used. Applications with clear post completion data will be viewed as stronger applications by judges.

International Green Gown Awards

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

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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.

International Green Gown Awards

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

As sustainability mainstreams across an institution, leadership for sustainability is often distributed widely – embracing both staff and students. This new 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.