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Sustainable ISB

The Sustainability Roadmap 2025 is ISB’s strategic pathway to evolve into a healthier, more sustainable place of learning. The Roadmap establishes a holistic vision for our future with clear goals and priorities in the areas of learning and sharing, people, planet, and campus. It also encourages students and staff to continue investigating, planning, creating, and acting on sustainability opportunities by using learning experiences inside and outside the classroom to tackle real-world challenges on our campus.

I’m delighted that ISB is making clear its commitment to sustainability. We are building our students’ futures, and our students happen to be about as well-informed on this issue as any adult I’ve met. Their participation in constructing a Roadmap for Sustainability at ISB impresses me and is a demonstration of applying knowledge to real-world situations and ensuring that that knowledge has a positive and measureable impact on everything taking place at ISB.

The Roadmap is one thing; we must commit as a school community to make sure the hard work of its creators is rewarded with action. Who can argue that a commitment to environmental stewardship is anything other than essential? If ISB is going to lead, it must lead in the right realms. Sustainability is a key part of our shared future.

I hope you enjoy reading all facets of this Roadmap and participating in discussions along the way.

Head of School Signature
Head of School Photo

Roadmap to a sustainable school

At the beginning of the 2018-2019 school-year, the International School of Beijing made the transformative decision to create a long-term plan of what sustainability should look and feel like at ISB. An essential part of the process is understanding what issues (e.g., climate change, green buildings, healthy food) are important to not just the school leadership but also to the students, staff, parents, alumni and our major partners. To this end, we assembled 25 stakeholders representing all sections of the ISB community along with representatives from the US Green Building Council and a leading green energy company. Using the same L21 skills that are fundamental in our teaching (e.g., global thinking), this stakeholder working group explored the question:

How does ISB impact people and the planet and how can we make sure that impact is a positive one?

During the process, we have identified a number of areas where we have an opportunity and responsibility to generate positive impacts and these were incorporated into the Roadmap. From this Roadmap, we aim to create a sustainable community that contributes to our community and planet. We are dedicated to institutionalizing best practices in sustainable operations and translating teaching into practice by using our campus to pilot innovative solutions. We also have a deeper mandate that goes to the heart of our teaching mission: to educate and empower our students to become the next generation of leaders who will use their knowledge to create sustainable impact in service to the world.

The Sustainability Roadmap 2025 is organized around the four branches (Learning and Sharing, People, Planet, and Campus). Each branch includes numerous leaves with specific statements that are organized within three categories:

1. TARGET/GOAL | Specific level of resource or impact improvement within a set time frame.

2. STANDARD | Operational standards guiding school-wide approach and actions.

3. COMMITMENT | A statement of commitment or recommendation for future research in areas where there was not enough information to set a specific target or a specific statement of support towards an approach or action.


picture of ISB Sustainability tree

This Roadmap should be seen as a living document. It provides us a common language and baseline from which to explore and innovate. By providing a foundation for reporting and accountability, it also helps us create a platform for assessing and sharing our progress and impact.

our process

Our approach towards developing ISB’s first Sustainability Roadmap was to bring together all parts of the school to provide a diverse set of perspectives. To this end, a Sustainability Working Group of 25 stakeholders including students, staff, parents, leadership, major partners, and external experts was assembled to represent the ISB community. At key stages within the Roadmap’s development, feedback processes were opened up to the entire community with the findings fed back to the Sustainability Working Group to support their work.

Our desire with this process was to create a document that represents the ambitions of the entire community, one that everyone will be committed in making a success.

Step 1 - Form Sustainability Working Group and develop list of topics (“leaves”) that are relevant and important to ISB.

A number of existing frameworks were reviewed to develop this list including:

  • Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating Systems (STARS) for Universities and Colleges

  • Green School Alliance’s Protostars Metrics

  • Eco-School

  • United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

  • Custom Roadmaps, particularly Harvard University

Step 2 - Community engagement period on the relevance and importance of the selected 17 leaves.

This activity is called a materiality assessment and is considered critical to ensure the organization is focusing on the issues that matter to it the most. On the left side of the resulting matrix is the average importance identify by all stakeholders outside of the school leadership for each leaf. On the bottom is the average importance identify by school leadership. Those leaves that are most important to both float to the top right part of the graph. Leaves in the blue part of the matrix are generally considered important enough to spend time and resources on, while leaves falling into the whiter part of the matrix would be removed from further consideration. In this case all 17 leaves were considered important by both stakeholders and school leadership.

Step 3 - Branch Team breakouts (Learning and Sharing, People, Planet, Campus).

These teams were responsible for answering two questions along a number of criteria for each of their leaves:

  • where we are today?
  • where do we want to be in five years?

Out of those answers, the teams drafted proposed targets/goals, standards and commitments.

Step 4 - Community engagement of the draft Roadmap.

The full draft Roadmap was revealed to the entire community for feedback and understanding on which statements the community felt strongest towards. We had over 200 members of the community engaged with us during this step.

Step 5 - Finalize the Roadmap utilizing community feedback.

Final review and approval made by the Sustainability Working Group and Head of School.

Sustainability Roadmap 2025

ISB began a journey towards a more sustainable future in 2018 with the creation of its Sustainability Working Group, a multi-stakeholder group consisting of students, staff, administration, parents, partners and global businesses, with the aim of answering two questions: Where are we now? Where do we aspire to be?

Targets, Standards & Commitments

Learning & Sharing

We will empower the ambitions of our student’s to change their world for the better - provide them with knowledge, guidance, and our campus as a living laboratory to turn dreams into reality - support their developing into the next generation of leaders who understand the balance between people, planet, and profit. In the same manner, we will share our story to the world empowering others to take these steps alongside us.


Targets, Standards and Commitments related to this leaf are managed by the Office of Learning and may be shared publicly at a later date.


GOAL | Develop and introduce serving learning and sustainability guidelines for whole school co-curricular program with the intent of establishing holistic impact thinking and action by 2020.

COMMITMENT TO | Foster a new generation of environmental leaders by providing mentoring, networking, experiential learning opportunities that prepare students with the insight and foresight to safeguard our environment in the years and decades to come.

COMMITMENT TO | Support student entrepreneurship by facilitating sustainability-minded opportunities on campus.


GOAL | Establish Sustainability Guiding Statements and develop a Sustainability Action Plan to support achievement of the Sustainability Roadmap 2025 by 2019.

GOAL | Develop and integrate a Social Cost of Carbon and Water* into purchasing processes by 2021.

* A Social Cost of Carbon and Water is the estimated societal cost associated with the negative impacts of emitting climate change greenhouse gases and consuming water, which are not included in the purchasing price of the good or service.

COMMITMENT TO | Facilitate strong governance structures to ensure integration of sustainability into all operational practices and participation of the ISB community.

COMMITMENT TO | Create, maintain and continuously improve programs that drive progress towards this Sustainability Roadmap.

Impactful Sharing

COMMITMENT TO | Transparent and open sharing of ISB’s progress to this Roadmap via ISB’s public website on an annual basis starting in 2019.

COMMITMENT TO | Communicate ISB’s ‘People, Planet, Purpose’ sustainability story to educate, engage, and motivate the ISB community.

COMMITMENT TO | Recognize individuals providing significant contributions to ISB’s sustainability accomplishments.

COMMITMENT TO | Cultivate external partnerships within the wider community, that help inform ISB’s efforts and amplify our local and global impact.


People are our foundation, they make us who we are. We will strive to enhance the health, productivity, and quality of life of each of our community members; students, staff, parents, and partners alike.


STANDARD | Develop Sustainable + Healthful Food Standard (w/consideration towards nutrition, labeling, sourcing, and impact) by 2020.

COMMITMENT TO | Education and empower the ISB community to make sustainable food choices and form healthy eating habits.

COMMITMENT TO | Promote drinking water on campus to support healthy choices and hydration.


TARGET | Reduce waste per student by 60% by 2025 from a 2017 baseline. Where waste is defined as ‘no longer wanted materials leaving the campus not managed by one of the 5Rs’.

COMMITMENT TO | Improve awareness and education of the ISB community on the 5Rs (refuse, reduce, reuse, recycling, rot) and the impacts of the waste we generate.

COMMITMENT TO | Long-term ambition to become a zero-waste school.


TARGET | Reduce water withdrawal by [percent to be determined in 2020] by 2025 from a 2018 baseline.

COMMITMENT TO | Review water withdrawal campus-wide with the intent of establishing a water reduction target on a per occupant basis by 2020.

COMMITMENT TO | Minimizing additional stress on the Beijing water system from new site water needs through focus on reuse and efficiency.

Wellness + Safety

COMMITMENT TO | Review staff and student injury rates with the intent of establishing a target by 2020.

COMMITMENT TO | Assessing compensation of all on-site workers with comparison to the Beijing-specific living wage.

COMMITMENT TO | Promote healthy lifestyles via existing wellness + safety programs and positive campus nudges.

COMMITMENT TO | Assess and communicate results of community satisfaction with indoor environmental biannually.


We have a special role and responsibility to our students, not only in their development as caring members of this global community, but also in the protection of their planet’s future. We will confront the challenge of climate change through purposeful actions with the urgency demanded by their generation.


TARGET | 100% of electricity from renewable sources starting in 2020.

TARGET | Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by [percent to be determined by 2020] by 2025 from a 2018 baseline.

COMMITMENT TO | Reducing greenhouse gas emissions to align with the most ambitious aim of the Paris Agreement, to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, meaning to reach net-zero emissions by no later than 2050.


TARGET | Achieve an ENERGY STAR* building score of [score and achievement year to be determined by 2020].

* ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager is a benchmarking program developed by the USEPA to provide building owners with an understanding on how their building compares to similar buildings with consideration of size, no. of occupants, and climate. 

COMMITMENT TO | Assess energy use by building and space type to inform ENERGY STAR goal setting by 2020. 

COMMITMENT TO | Engaging campus in energy conservation 

COMMITMENT TO | Conduct on-site renewable energy study to inform goal setting.

COMMITMENT TO | Assess feasibility, timeline and develop initial action steps for the transition into a fossil-free campus. 


TARGET | [Percent to be determined by 2020] of procurement spend meeting sustainability purchasing standard by 2025, 100% by 2030.

STANDARD | Develop sustainable purchasing standard for paper, lighting, electronics by 2020, other relevant items by 2022.

COMMITMENT TO | Purchasing in an environmental, social, and financially sustainable manner.

COMMITMENT TO | Creating a culture of sustainable purchasing across the community.

COMMITMENT TO | Including environmental and social criteria as part of major partner procurement and require major partners to support the achievement of and provide reporting for relevant ISB targets and commitments.

Resilience + Adaptation

GOAL | Develop a Climate Preparedness and Campus Resilience Plan by 2021.


The campus is where we learn, where we play, where we spend nearly a third of our time every year. As a result how we design and operate the buildings and spaces within the campus have not only play a significant role on how we see the world, but also the impact we have on it.


COMMITMENT TO | Responsible campus design that minimizes negative impacts on the local community. 

COMMITMENT TO | Enhance student and staff well-being and productivity through incorporation of biophilia* into campus design and subsequent ISB strategic planning processes.

* Biophilia refers to the inherent need to experience and love nature. In terms of building design this means to increase occupant connectivity to the natural environment directly via plants, green walls, waterfalls or indirectly via natural colors and shapes. ISB's new facade is an example of biophilia with the wood paneling and natural color highlights. This type of design has been shown to improve student and employee performance and well-being. 


TARGET | Electrify 75% of maintenance equipment by 2025; 100% by 2030.

STANDARD | Develop Sustainable Landscape Guidelines to outline methods to review, discuss, and decide how best to maintain or improve campus landscape space from an ecological, functional, and aesthetic perspective.

COMMITMENT TO | Reduce the negative impacts of landscape design and maintenance practices towards the wellness of the ISB community and ecosystem.


STANDARD | Develop ISB Green Building Standards by 2020, reviewed and revised every four years. 

COMMITMENT TO | All significant standalone new construction to achieve LEED* certification at Silver level or higher.

* The United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the most widely adopted green building framework globally. LEED is not a standard, but a set of credits to strive for - based on the number of credits achieved a building with receive certification at one of four levels (e.g. certified, silver, gold, or platinum). 

COMMITMENT TO | Prioritizing sustainable design elements determined by research to have a positive impact on student and staff wellness and academic learning and performance. 


GOAL | Achieve LEED Operation + Maintenance certification by [year to be determined by 2020] at Silver level or higher.

STANDARD | Develop ISB Green Cleaning Standard by 2022.

COMMITMENT TO | Develop best practice guidelines for managing and operating buildings and capital goods in excess of 500,000 RMB in a sustainable and energy-efficient manner in order to assist in achievement of sustainability-related targets, standards, and commitments. 


TARGET | Electrify 75% of bus and taxi fleet by 2025; 100% by 2030.

COMMITMENT TO | Reduce emissions of harmful vehicle-related air pollutants within the community and particularly on campus.

Opportunities for Student Growth

Utilizing a Service Learning Experience approach in combination with the United Nation Sustainability Development Goals, students across ISB are provided opportunities to engage in responsible global citizenship both in the curriculum and in co-curricular activities.

The UNSDGs provide a wonderful platform to generate service learning opportunities around the greatest global issues of our generation. The commitments made in this Sustainability Roadmap positively correlate with a number of targets developed by the United Nations to address these issues, including:

Target 4.A | Build and upgrade education facilities that are child disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, nonviolent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all.

Target 6.4 |  By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity.

Target 7.2 | By 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

Target 11.6 | By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management. 

Target 12.5 | By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling, and reuse.

Target 13.3 | Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning.

photo of students and new recycling bins
photo of students receiving award
photo of students carrying out waste audit
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picture of noticeboard with UNSDGs
picture of students with electric bus
picture of new bins
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Implementing & Impactful Sharing

ISB’s sustainability program is overseen by our Head of School and Chief Financial/Operating Officer with develop and implementation of the program, including strategy and initiatives, being the responsibility of Sustainability Manager. Students and staff voice will continue to be an integral part of the program’s implementation via the Net Impact ISB student club and staff Green Team.

The Sustainability Manager works in close collaboration with departments throughout the school that oversee specific operational or administrative areas to reach the targets/goals, standards, and commitments of the Roadmap.

This Plan should be viewed as a living document: it will evolve and change over time, with a formal process to review, update, or establish new targets/goals, standards, and commitments every five years (next iteration being 2025).

In our commitment to sharing our story and amplifying our impact, progress towards the Roadmap and subsequent Action Plan will be communicated internally and external periodically including an annual online Sustainability Impact Report.

Latest News

Climate action - thumb

Students coordinated with school administration to make a symbolic yet impactful statement on sustainability, in the latest sign of a new generation of environmental leaders rising at ISB.

Recycling - bins

Visitors to campus lately will have seen neat new recycling bins in the hallways. They are the work of a new generation of environmental leaders committed to transforming how the ISB community manages its waste.

ISB students electrify their transportation

Students got what they campaigned for when two emission-free vehicles were added to ISB's bus fleet recently. A survey has fueled plans to introduce more of these green chariots.

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