Q. When do we need to have submitted the toolkit by?

A. 5pm on 05 May 2017.

Q. Where have all the criteria gone?

A. The old toolkit had 250 criteria in total (50 covering Bronze, Silver and Gold, and 200 bonus). This new toolkit is much leaner, with just 50 criteria in total. Where possible, we have amalgamated criteria, using indicators of success to cover specific practical actions. It also reflects a change of focus from practical operational sustainability to more campaigning, influencing and engaging on sustainability, which tend to be less instructive. GISU is no less rigorous, it is just refocused.

Q. Can we include things we did last academic year?

A. This year we have boiled the criteria down to make them as concise as possible. In the past we used phrases like ‘Within the last 12 months…’. but this is no longer the case. As a general rule you should assume we would want to see evidence that things have happened this academic year. If activity you are claiming as evidence started before the current academic year then please state this in the evidence box for that criteria.

Q. What are the ‘rolling’ operational criteria?

A. We have five rolling operational criteria, identified by the word ‘ROLLING’. These are criteria copied across from the old GISU toolkit and cover operational issues that we think are important to keep alive. The rolling criteria will change annually to ensure we collectively keep on top of operational issues. It is anticipated that all other criteria will stay pretty much the same each year, although we will likely increase the score thresholds, or number of mandatory criteria, to encourage continual improvement. For unions that want to access the old toolkit as an informal auditing resource, you can download a condensed and cleaned list of the criteria here.

Q. Which criteria are mandatory, and which are optional?

A. To reach a standard beyond Working towards accreditation (Good, Very good, or Excellent), you need to achieve all the relevant mandatory criteria and the minimum threshold score. Mandatory criteria are listed in the table below, and identified in the toolkit by the word ‘MANDATORY’. All other criteria are optional but, as with previous versions of GISU, you will need to complete some of them to get enough points if you want to progress beyond Working Towards accreditation.

Good (LD001) The union has one or more elected representative that proactively champions sustainability.
(LD002) The union has an active and productive sustainability committee or working group.
(PA001) The union’s website contains information on what the union is doing on sustainability, and how students can get involved. The information is easy to find, up to date and engaging. 
(SU001) The union has identified its most significant negative environmental impacts, and published them.
(SU002) The union does not significantly over-order the number of copies of the union newspaper or magazine. ROLLING
(SU003) All fridges, freezers and ice-making machines within the union are positioned away from direct heat sources, are in well ventilated areas and are well-maintained. ROLLING
(SU004) The union's expenses policy includes a mileage rate for cyclists. ROLLING
Very good (KN001) The union has carried out relevant primary research amongst its students to inform its sustainability work, and has published the findings. 
(LD003) There is demonstrable commitment to sustainability from one or more senior member of staff in the union. 
(PA002) The union adequately resources its sustainability work. 
(PA003) The union actively supports staff in professional development on sustainability.
(PA004) The union has successfully engaged with its clubs, societies, and other student networks on sustainability.
(SU005) All cotton-based clothing sold by the union is Fairtrade.
(SU006) The union has a SMART action plan on sustainability, and has published it. It should include both operational sustainability and campaigning and influencing.
Excellent (LD004) Sustainability is substantively included in the union’s strategic plan.
(LD005) The union has proactively and constructively engaged senior institutional leaders and/or trustees in sustainability, resulting in positive outputs. 
(PA005) The union is actively working in partnership with the institution to attain and/or retain one or more external sustainability accreditation programme.
(SU007) The union has reduced the amount of one or more utility over the last three years through efficiency.
(SU008) The union is powered by more than 10% renewable energy either bought or generated and/or the union is working with the institutions to increase the percentage of renewables in its energy mix. 
(OT001) The union has identified positive outcomes for students through its sustainability work. 
(OC001) The union has collaborated with, or supported, another students’ union (FE or HE) on sustainability. 
Q. How will the range of points available work?

A. The old GISU used to award a fixed score for achieving a criteria, regardless of whether implementation was good, very good or excellent. We have successfully trialled using ranges in both Responsible Futures and Alcohol Impact. In these schemes, applicants state what score they think they should get, up to the maximum, and we validate it compared to others as part of a moderation process. This allows us to identify how unions are doing on any particular criteria in relation to others. In the new GISU, you state your suggested score and we will validate it through the evidence and any audit. If you have not met the criteria, you should give yourself a score of 0. If you think you are only just compliant with a criteria, you should estimate your score at the lower-end of the range. If you think are demonstrating best practice for the movement on a criteria, then estimate a score at the upper end of the range.

Q. What evidence do we need to provide?

A. Each criteria will be accompanied by a description of the evidence that we would expect to see, including the process for you to present it to us. There are two ways we will ask you to present it: i) upload the evidence through the toolkit at the time of submission; ii) have the evidence ready to show us during an audit visit.

Q. How will the audits work?

A. We intend to audit all Excellent and Very good applicants in the first year, and half of the Good and Working towards accreditation applicants. We are keen to carry out as many audits as possible, as we know that visits are a valued part of the programme. 

Q. What has happened to GISU Excellence?

A. Excellence was available to unions that had achieved the Gold standard for two consecutive years, supporting them to run a bigger picture initiative or campaign in lieu for the toolkit. We have replaced Excellence with the new campaigning and influencing criteria (CI001 to CI010), making campaigning central to the new GISU. In these criteria, you need to describe a sustainability-related campaign or initiative that you have run this academic year. The new campaigning and influencing criteria are worth up to 20% of the total points available.

Q. I’m from an FE union, can I take part?

A. Alongside the new GISU programme, we have launched a pilot of Green Impact Colleges. This is a new scheme based on feedback from colleges and FE unions, designed to be more relevant, more impactful, and better suited to a further education context. You can still take part in GISU if you wish, but we would strongly advise that FE unions join the new GI for FE programme. You can learn more about GI for FE here.

Q. Why do some of the criteria relate to what the institution is doing?

A. This applies to a single criteria, LE006. Inclusion of sustainability in the institution’s main strategy could be significantly transformative, so we opted to include this as an aspirational criteria. As such we hope that you will try and engage and influence the institution on this subject whenever the opportunity arises. This could take many years, building up evidence of demand (KN001 and KN002), constructively engaging with institutional leaders (LE005), even running an initiative or campaign (CI001 to CI010). If you are lucky enough to have an institution that has already made these commitment, then hopefully the criteria will be an impetus to encourage the institution to keep them through any strategic reviews.

Q. What do we need to do for the self-defined criteria?

A. The purpose of the self-defined criteria is for you to tell us about innovative actions or initiatives that you have done that you think are worthy of recognition. You should only write about actions or initiatives that you feel are not adequately covered elsewhere in the toolkit.

Q. How does the new GISU fit in with NUS’ Quality Students’ Unions mark?

A. GISU used to fit into the impact section of QSU, with unions needing to achieve a Gold in GISU to get the Very Good or Excellent standard in QSU. QSU is in the process of being reviewed, and it is likely that sustainability will be seen as an indicator of quality across all aspects of the mark, with participants encouraged to use their sustainability work as case studies as part of the assessment process. Details of threshold requirements will be published alongside the new QSU but, for now, we expect unions will again need to achieve Very Good in GISU to get Very Good or Excellent in QSUs.

Q. How will we find out about any updates to GISU this year?

A. We will send all updates out through the EandE jiscmail. You can subscribe to the jiscmail here. For any other queries, please contact us on gisu@nus.org.uk.