ISB Sustainability Impact Report gives update on school's green leadership

 Solar panels on the roof of the ISB campus

By Nick Yates, ISB Communications

Published on Thursday, May 30, 2024

The International School of Beijing (ISB) has published its fourth Sustainability Impact Report, an update on progress in becoming a greener organization and inspiring students to be environmental leaders. 

ISB is a pioneer of sustainability in international schools. Five years ago, a long-term plan managing the school’s impact on people and the planet was drawn up in a process led by a dedicated sustainability manager on staff. With a lot of input from students and inspiration from organizations around the world including Harvard University and Unilever that have done likewise, ISB created a five-year roadmap with firm targets and commitments.

One of those commitments was to be open and transparent about progress made. Today, the school fulfills this promise once again with a Sustainability Impact Report covering the 2023 calendar year. (The first, second, and third editions of the report can be found on the ISB website.)

ISB students planting a tree

The new Sustainability Impact Report makes clear the role of students in ISB’s sustainability efforts. The school has Strategic Focus Areas that include using ISB’s resources to empower learners to purpose and compassion. ISB students have integrity, strength of character, awareness of global issues, and the drive and skills to do something about these issues. Through the school’s sustainability programs, ISB students have a chance in their classes and co-curricular activities to provide service to others and create a positive social impact.

There are many examples of this in the report, such as… 

  • A project proposed by the Green Impact student club came to life as solar panels were installed on ISB’s roof in the summer of 2023. High School and Elementary School students connected through their knowledge and interest in renewable energies, and together they initiated this way of ISB generating its own electricity. The solar panels, which cover a soccer field-sized expanse of the roof, reduce ISB’s carbon footprint by producing an average of 10-15 percent of the school’s annual electricity consumption. They also serve as a massive visible demonstration of dedication to sustainable practices.
  • Green Impact carried out awareness-raising activities during Earth Week in April 2023. These activities for Elementary, Middle, and High School students included educational lessons on deforestation, a newly established tradition of planting trees on campus, and promoting the environmental benefits of plant-based diets, among other relevant topics.
  • High school students made a food waste audit in December 2023. They conducted interviews to understand the reasons behind food waste and assessed the amount of waste during High School lunch time in ISB’s Middle/High School Cafeteria. The interviews provided valuable insights into individual behaviors and motivations, contributing to a good understanding of the issue. The collected data is helping ISB’s catering contractor to better serve specific needs and implement strategies to reduce waste.
  • ISB began holding regular Organic Farmers Markets in the spring of 2023. The next one is coming up on Thursday, June 7. Click the following video link for a look at what’s on offer at the Farmers Markets, how they enable good farming practices, and how students are involved in planning and organizing these events.

Other ISB sustainability successes in 2023 included…

  • ISB continued to lead the way in making changes and improvements within co-curricular activities, especially those that are part of the Asia Pacific Activities Conference (APAC) for students from ISB and other regional international schools. Consisting of students, teachers, and leaders from seven schools, ISB established the APAC Sustainability Committee. The committee will formulate a philosophy statement and a set of guidelines to be implemented across APAC events. These guidelines will focus on four specific areas identified by 484 students: Advertising/Marketing, Transportation, Clothing, and Single-use plastics.
  • A program of student learning activities was developed for ISB’s rooftop garden. Built in 2022, the garden provides a unique and enriching experience for students of all grade levels. This green space has become a thriving hub of hands-on learning and exploration for students, who not only learn about the importance of sustainable practices but actively engage in the entire plant lifecycle. From planting seeds and nurturing seedlings to observing growth and finally harvesting, they gain a comprehensive understanding of the process of food production.
  • ISB consumed a total of 74,668 cubic meters of water across the campus in 2023. This is a notable 12-percent reduction compared to a 2018 baseline. 
  • School leaders involved in procurement partnered with local company Good Cycle to produce new polo shirts for employees with the objective to cut down on purchasing additional T-shirts throughout the year. Each polo shirt is made with eight recycled PET bottles combined with synthetic cotton fabric.

Paola Alonso, ISB’s Sustainability Manager, said, “This report once again documents all the actions by the ISB community to make our school, Beijing, and the world a better place. I’m so proud of all our efforts, especially those of our students, who have leapt at opportunities to make a difference at ISB. They are truly empowered with purpose and compassion.

“This work wouldn’t be possible without support from ISB’s Board of Trustees and leadership. There is real conviction at ISB about using our resources to affect positive change and about using education to foster more agents for sustainability. This is why ISB has become a leader in this vital mission for the world. We are regularly asked for advice by other schools and organizations globally – and we’re happy to give it because we are in this battle for the future of our planet together.

“Coming to the end of our Sustainability Roadmap 2025, we are now working on a plan to ensure the continuation of our work. In this next period, we’ll be targeting deeper embedding of sustainability in our curriculum and making ISB a carbon neutral organization.”


ISB has Strategic Focus Areas – a list of core priorities that were identified after a community consultation and that act as a guide for everything the school does. One of the Strategic Focus Areas is empowering students to purpose and compassion, as ISB is doing through the student-led sustainability initiatives featured here. To find out more about the Strategic Focus Areas, click here.

ISB is an extraordinary school, made so by a tradition of educational excellence spanning 40 years. Establishing, nurturing, and growing such an exceptional learning community has been and remains intentional; we work hard to build strong relationships so our learning is at its best.

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