Sustainable development , ESL CSR Self-assessment tool
Sustainable development

ESL CSR Self-assessment tool

ESL CSR Self-assessment tool

ESL CSR Self-assessment tool

Using our own experiences in the field of CSR and with strategic support from the consultancy firm ECO2 Initiative, we have developed a CSR self-assessment tool especially for language schools. Based on the ISO 26000 norm and validated by a consulting committee of renowned language schools, our tool helps schools evaluate the degree of maturity of their current approach to CSR issues. It then assists the schools with developing their own action plans according to their local circumstances, based on three key fields of action: 
  • Management & Operations
  • Education
  • Community
The results of the implementation process of CSR actions will be featured under the schools’ descriptions on our website, in order to spread awareness of sustainable values and stimulate further action. Our partner schools are part of our identity and their approach to sustainability matters to us. We want to provide you with as complete a picture of each school as possible, allowing you to make a decision based on all factors that are important to you.

As a company and as individuals, we believe passionately in sustainable development.

For more information about our initiative, consult our FAQ section.
The International Standards Organization defines CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) as the "responsibility of an organization for the impact of its decisions and activities on society and the environment, through transparent and ethical behaviour which contributes to sustainable development including health and the welfare of society; takes into account the expectations of stakeholders; is in compliance with applicable law and consistent with international norms of behaviour; and is integrated throughout the organization and practised in its relationships. Activities include products, services and processes. Relationships refer to an organization's activities within its sphere of influence."

The European Community proposes a more simple definition: "CSR is a concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with stakeholders on a voluntary basis."
The ESL CSR self-assessment tool is a checklist of commonly accepted actions to set up and/or reinforce a CSR process in a school in the language travel industry.
We therefore decided to compile CSR actions corresponding to the realities of a language school, taking into consideration three main topics:

1. Sustainable management and operations: how does the school plan and operate actions through CSR criteria?
2. Education: how does the school deal with sustainable development issues in an educational context?
3. Community: how does the school interact with and contribute to its local community and/or on a larger scale?
As actors in the language travel industry, we not only want to recognize the different CSR actions already in process in some of our partner schools but we also want to encourage all of them to do more by offering a comprehensive global vision of how and what a language school could focus on in terms of sustainable development.

As a representative of a wide number of language schools, we know our role can contribute modestly to helping achieve a more sustainable world by standardizing best practices in our industry. Because it is not always easy to know where to start or how to reinforce a corporate social responsibility action plan, the ESL CSR self-assessment tool aims at stimulating language schools to kick off their own strategy by providing guidelines and support.

In addition, our role starts by providing precise and extensive information about our partner schools. We aim at informing students about each school’s identity with different angles. The sustainable development one contributes to raise awareness to a wide public including our own team, our partners and finally our students.

Like many others, ESL Education Group has started a process of internal reflection and instigated an action plan for minimizing negative impacts from its activity while identifying how to contribute more positively to a changing world. ECO2 Initiative supports us on this path with their technical and strategic expertise.
All of the tool's self-assessment criteria are based on the ISO26000 norm, which offers guidance on social responsibility. A consulting committee comprising 7 different language schools participated in the validation of ESL's CSR self-assessment tool. Our partner schools that have volunteered to contribute to the tool’s final development represent the diversity of education providers of the language travel industry (i.e. cultures, cities, contexts, groups and individually-owned schools).

The goal of the consulting committee has been to make sure we are on track with a tool aimed firstly at being useful for the language schools. Each school's adherence to the tool is fundamental for our initiative's success.
Technically, the whole self-assessment exercise requires the user (the school) to follow steps that guarantee a sustainable process for each action in place.

In addition, the self-assessment structure safeguards against multiple interpretations about what is and what is not a sustainable process or about what is achieved and what is not in terms of CSR.
The CSR self-assessment tool can only be useful if questions are answered with honesty. Before creating an ESL CSR account, our partner schools agree upon submitting information on behalf of their company on a voluntary commitment of transparency.

Our initiative is not based on a process of controlling anyone. It aims at being useful for all types of education providers around the world, sharing the same values, commitments and goals for a better world.

However, the details of the school’s self-evaluation are public and in case of false information observed by ESL or any student onsite, we would address the issue communicating directly with our partner school to clarify the situation either by requiring the self-assessment to be corrected or by stopping our partnership representation of the school.
The tool is built on a qualitative approach as opposed to a quantitative one. This means that the focus is not on measuring the results of the actions but on offering a global vision of the implementation process of these actions and the improvements that can be achieved.

The method of self-assessment is to answer to the questions by YES or NO. A positive answer is subdivided into 4 LEVELS of achievement to self-assess progress and performance.

There are 4 LEVELS of achievement. Each LEVEL corresponds to a number of points for the global grade of self-assessment of the school:

• LEVEL 1:
CSR action is envisaged but not implemented, not related to an operational mission in services.
Effectively, it almost means NO, but it might be part of the school's management discussions and future plans.

• LEVEL 2:
CSR action is in process, but it is not incorporated into a global CSR strategy of the school.
Although a specific CSR action is in process, it is not under the school's management responsibility and formal action plan. The action in question might be a test or the initiative of a member of the staff, but it hasn't been officially backed up by the school's CSR strategy and policy. However, it has the potential of being incorporated into it and its implementation reinforced in a sustainable way (see LEVEL 3).

The border between LEVEL 2 and LEVEL 3 is at the heart of the ESL CSR self-evaluation. The difference between LEVEL 2 and LEVEL 3 highlights the importance of formalizing a CSR plan into an official strategy as a key step towards involving a company in a solid CSR process. If any of the 8 main CSR criteria (questions "A" to "H") are at LEVEL 2, it is not possible to answer the further, more detailed CSR actions related to that individual criterion (a1, a2, … h1, h2) until the main CSR criterion is at LEVEL 3.

• LEVEL 3:
CSR action is in process of implementation, under the responsibility of one or more persons acting pursuant to the formal action plan of the school's CSR strategy.
From LEVEL 3 on, each CSR action benefits from the consistency of being part of the official strategy and planning of the school's management. That way, the CSR action is known by the school's team and all stakeholders, allowing more awareness and leadership from everybody in a sustainable way.

• LEVEL 4:
CSR action completed, feedback on results and monitoring phase

This is the highest level of the self-evaluation. Therefore, when a question is self-assessed as being at LEVEL 4, it needs to be validated by answering YES or NO to additional questions (or uploading a document as evidence) in order to avoid different interpretations and to have a common understanding of what is a completed action.
Validation of LEVEL 4 information and details are not public but can be provided by the school or ESL upon request.
0 – 2: the school is not yet acting concretely for sustainable development
2,1 – 4,5: the school is in the early stages of a sustainable development initiative
4,6 – 6,9: the school has launched a sustainable CSR implementation process
7 – 9: the school is committed to sustainable development with a CSR policy in place
9,1 – 10: the school is strongly committed to sustainable development with a solid CSR policy in place
CSR is an ongoing process. Therefore, the self-assessment tool offers practical support to be regularly updated by each school that wants to detail its own progress and achievements in terms of CSR strategy and operations.
Not necessarily but we hope they will and actively encourage them to do so! Our CSR self-assessment tool relies on each school’s voluntary commitment to act and take decisions with CSR principles and values in mind and to be transparent about it. It only concerns those among our partner schools who are willing to say what they do and what they don’t do. Our goal is to motivate the largest number to consider these actions in their developments and, why not, in their priorities.
It will help start and/or enhance language schools’ involvement in sustainable development as well as help everyone visualize the level of consideration and implementation of CSR policies.
The results allow the language school to self-assess the degree of maturity of their CSR plan and improve it.
The tool also offers language schools the opportunity to promote CSR values and support us in raising awareness of sustainable development to a larger international public.


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After spending 3 months of pure happiness, it’s sad that I have to leave this incredible place with the head full of good memories and magical experiences like Niagara Falls, basketball game, visits in downtown, ice skating and celebrations far from our families like Christmas organized by the school. In addition to that I enjoyed participating in the after school clubs allowing me to learn even more and have a great time. Thanks to this experience I met incredible people (Brazilians, Asians, Russians, Mexicans, etc.) from all over the world that I want and will visit. The supervisors are excellent and always listen to my requests. I definitely recommend to everybody to live the same experience as me but all good things have an end and now it’s my time.

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Sirine Tounsi

In October 2017, I decided to go to Toronto for 2 months. I had just finished my studies, and I had always dreamt about going to Canada. I wanted to improve my English, so I decided to take an 8-week intensive course at OHC – a school I highly recommend. I became friend with students from all over the world and with very nice teachers. I was surprised to see how fast I improved; I passed 2 levels in 8 weeks! In order to be in total immersion, I chose to live with a host family. If you don’t like rules, I suggest staying in a student residence – you’ll have more freedom. I loved the style of the city (I’m Parisian, so everything looked very different). Toronto has the advantage of being close to French-speaking Québec and to the US – you should visit New York, as I did! If I could do it all over again, I would! Thank you ESL for making my dream come true in a few days only.

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Sara Mateos Arévalo

My name is Sara and I decided to take a course in Lyon to improve my level of French. I had started to take French classes again in Barcelona and I thought it would be a good idea to give them a boost.

I wasn’t very clear on my destination, but I finally chose Lyon because it’s a city that has everything but it’s not as big as Paris. And, as the language travel advisor that I am, and knowing the academic quality of the Alpadia school, I thought it would be a good option.

After having been there, I can say that Lyon is an ideal destination for linguistic immersion. As a city, it has everything: shops, good public transport, restaurants, bars, tourism, parks, etc. What’s more, you’re constantly surrounded by events, culture and French cuisine, and it’s a city where a lot of French natives live. That’s why you can also learn about its customs and lifestyle in addition to the language.

The first day when I arrived to my host family’s home, it was a little difficult for me to speak even though I understood Sylvie (the woman who was hosting me) very well. In the mornings, she was already working, but I enjoyed waking up and having a leisurely breakfast. In the afternoons after the activities, I went home and she was preparing dinner. I sat in the kitchen with her while she taught me French recipes. Every night we cooked a different dish, and she even taught me how to make French crêpes! I stayed in her daughter’s room who was studying in Toulouse. To this day, we still write to each other.

With regard to the school, the first day they had me arrive half an hour early to show us new students the school, city, etc. and introduce us to each other. We had 4 and a half hours of class, but the time flew by, as the teaching method that they use is very dynamic and you have two different teachers. My morning teacher made the classes very exciting and helped us improve our weaknesses. The afternoon teacher, on the other hand, gave us a topic to debate and she made us talk a lot while she provided us with useful, daily vocabulary.

There were only 6 students in class, perfect for learning more easily. At school there was a great atmosphere with a good group of students open to meeting new people and making plans after class. I felt like a part of the group from day one. The mix of nationalities was very good with few Spanish-speaking students. In the whole school, there were only two Spanish and two Mexican students, although we weren’t in the same class. Almost all of them were Swiss (from different regions), and there were students of all ages (18-22, 25-28 and 40+).

Every afternoon, the school offered an activity for whoever wanted to participate (movie, visits around Lyon, wine tasting, etc.). At the beginning of the week, they posted a schedule of the week’s activities on the bulletin board. You just needed to sign up and show up at the meeting point at the time specified (even though almost all of us went there together directly from school). The activity I liked the most was wine tasting because we went to a really authentic wine cellar where they gave us different wines and cheeses. For me, this was a very French experience!

To sum up, I’d like to say that for me, it was a great decision to take an intensive course and stay with a host family, since I learned a ton and at the end of my stay, I noticed that I really improved my fluency when speaking French. The truth is that I had a great experience and I would have liked to be able to stay for another week.

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