PCR development criteria for educational services

The promotion and implementation of practices that aim to contribute to the achievement of the objectives of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development must necessarily also involve the tertiary sector and therefore also educational services which, like any other human activity, inevitably produce environmental damage. .

With this in mind, the initiatives of Italian universities in recent years have multiplied. Suffice it to recall the interface actions between the university system and society of the CRUI Foundation [1], the activities of the network of universities for sustainable development, RUS [2], as well as those of the Italian alliance for sustainable development [3], to which several universities also join.

UNIMORE initiatives at the service of sustainability

Our university, the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (UNIMORE), has also recently committed itself in this direction, for example by promoting the UNIMORE Sustainable initiative [4], which aims to implement actions aimed at Environmental Sustainability, Economic and Social, firstly internal to the University, and secondly to the promotion and enhancement of initiatives external to the University itself (e.g. research projects, public engagement activities).

However, it is necessary to monitor and quantify as objectively as possible the environmental impacts associated with the practices and actions promoted and implemented, in such a way as to verify their actual greater sustainability than current practices.

In this regard, recently UNIMORE has also engaged in these activities of monitoring and quantifying its environmental impact, including various initiatives in this direction within its strategic plan of the university 2020-2025 [5]. These include the realization of an LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) analysis to quantify the environmental impacts associated with the entire life cycle of educational services promoted by a department of your organization, in order to obtain an EPD (Environmental Product Declaration) certification. and to create a protocol to be extended to the entire University. This would make it possible to generate a profile of the environmental performance of the service in question and to communicate objective data and information, which can be compared and verified by a third-party certification body.

The definition of PCR for educational services

To undertake this path, UNIMORE has relied on the research group LCA Working Group which has a long experience in the application and development of the LCA methodology [6]. The Department selected for this first study / certification was that of its staff, namely the Department of Engineering Sciences and Methods (DISMI) located in Reggio Emilia.

The development of the reference PCR (Product Category Rule) was necessary due to their verified absence among the many already published by the main Program Operators (Italian, Swedish and North American).

In particular, PCRs have been developed for the following CPC (Central Product Classification) codes, in accordance with the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD):

-92: “Education services” (core PCR)
-92510 “First stage tertiary education services (sub-category PCR)

The aspects that have been taken into consideration in these PCRs are in our opinion all those that can potentially cause damage to the environment (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Main contributions considered in the PCRs of educational services.

The evaluation criteria

In particular, in defining the environmental assessment criteria, the teachers who transfer knowledge, the necessary tools that favor learning, the users who benefit from these services were considered, as well as the place (building) in which the service is provided, the energy needed to illuminate, heat and cool the rooms. The educational service also includes toilets and the relative water consumption.

The buildings must be periodically subjected to maintenance and cleaning with the consequent collection of waste as well as the surrounding area must be cared for and cleaned to maintain its characteristics. The buildings necessary for the provision of the service include the library and didactic laboratories.

In order for the service to be provided, operators are required to follow the administrative aspects. Teachers, students and administrative staff must reach the workplace by private or collective means.

The service must also include the nutrition of students, teachers and staff; therefore, if the canteen is present within the same place where the teaching is provided, it is considered to be part of the service. If not present, the consumption of vending machine products and meals brought from home should be considered.

The inclusion of these latter aspects in the PCR and consequently in the LCA study also derives from the results recently published in international scientific journals relating to an LCA study referred to the University of the Basque Country [7] which highlighted how the contribution of meals and waste is significant for certain impact categories and therefore not negligible [8, 9].

For both PCRs developed, the service was considered to be provided during a school or academic year, while the functional unit chosen is the product of the total number of students to whom the service under study is guaranteed and the total number of hours annuals characterizing that particular educational service. However, the results must necessarily refer to a single student who receives a single hour of teaching. In this way, a fair comparison will also be made between different educational services (with the same level of training) and characterized by different numbers.

We hope that the proposed PCRs will gather a large following, so that all training institutions can adopt this protocol to objectively quantify their environmental impacts, in such a way as to effectively contribute to the sustainable development of the primary, secondary and tertiary school system. of our country.



[1] https://www.fondazionecrui.it/

[2] https://reterus.it/

[3] https://asvis.it/

[4] https://www.unimoresostenibile.unimore.it/

[5] https://www.unimore.it/editoria/ps_2025/piano_strategico_2020-2025_OK3.pdf

[6] www.lcaworkinggroup.unimore.it

[7] https://www.ehu.eus/en/en-home

[8] G. Bueno, M. de Blas, E. Pérez-Iribarren, I. Zuazo, E. Torre-Pascual, A. Erauskin, I. Etxano, U. Tamayo, M. García, O. Akizu-Gardoki, I. León, C. Marieta, G. Zulueta, I. Barrio. The environmental and social footprint of the university of the Basque Country UPV / EHU. J. Clean. Prod. 315, 2021, 128019.

[9] G. Bueno, M. de Blas, E. Perez-Iribarren, I. Zuazo, E. Torre-Pascual, A. Erauskin, I. Etxano, U. Tamayo, M. Garcia, O. Akizu-Gardoki, I. Leon, C. Marieta, E. S. de Camara, G. Zulueta, I. Barrio, Dataset on environmental and social footprint of the University of the Basque Country UPV-EHU. Date in Brief 41, 2022, 107847.