Title: Sustainability reporting for universities: a review of existing instruments and tools and opportunities for further research
Authors: Ceulemans, Kim
Molderez, Ingrid
Van Liedekerke, Luc
Issue Date: 2012
Conference: International Sustainability Conference, Strategies for Sustainability: Institutional and Organisational Challenges edition:3 location:Basel, Switzerland date:August 29-31, 2012
Abstract: The pursuit of a sustainable society has received more and more attention during the last decades, due to global problems of population growth, climate change, financial crises, and others the world has been confronted with. This aspiration of achieving a society that creates value on economic, social, and environmental level has inspired many actors of our society to take action. Higher education institutions are among these actors, and they hold a unique position in society, because of their potential to facilitate, promote, and encourage societal response to a diverse array of sustainability challenges facing communities around the world (Stephens, Hernandez, Román, Graham & Scholz, 2008). Over the years, universities have tried to take up their role within the process of achieving sustainable development, by sharing thoughts and ideas via conferences (e.g., the Halifax Conference on University Action for Sustainable Development in 1991, the Johannesburg Summit in 2002 or the UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development in 2009) and the subsequent development and signing of declarations (e.g., Stockholm Declaration, Talloires Declaration, or Ubuntu Declaration), and through individual actions in the field (e.g., development of SD courses, teacher trainings on SD, or “campus greening” initiatives). Despite the diverse array of sustainability integration initiatives undertaken by higher education institutions, it is very difficult for both their internal and external stakeholders to objectively assess the extent to which a university has implemented sustainability integration initiatives within the four major core functions of a university (i.e. education, research, operations and community outreach (Cortese, 2003)). The definition of appropriate instruments for monitoring, analyzing and controlling the performance of sustainability initiatives and of the institution as a whole (Velazquez et al., 2006) could contribute to resolving some of these problems for university stakeholders. But although some university specific tools for sustainability assessment have been developed over the years (e.g. the Sustainability Tool for Auditing Universities Curricula in Higher Education (STAUNCH) (Lozano, 2010), and the Auditing Instrument for Sustainability in Higher Education (AISHE) by Roorda (2010)), it is generally stated that little research has been done to investigate the current situation of SD integration in higher education institutions (Shriberg, 2002; Desha, Hargroves & Smith, 2009; Ceulemans, De Prins, Cappuyns & De Coninck, 2011). Universities have also tried to voluntarily report on their efforts of SD integration via sustainability reporting, following the upsurge of this type of reporting in the corporate world (Daub, 2007). Transparent and standardized reporting on sustainability performance should provide a clear view on universities’ current state of progress towards sustainability for internal and external stakeholders (Lozano, 2006), clearly increase cross-institutional comparability, in addition to providing managers with new insights and tools for strategic planning of sustainability integration in the organization (Burritt & Schaltegger, 2008). In this paper, a comprehensive literature review will be provided on the state of research on sustainability reporting in higher education. Besides giving an overview of current reporting tools and initiatives in universities, it will also be thoroughly studied what higher education can learn from the business and non-profit sector within this field. This will lead to some new paths for further research within the broad topic of sustainability integration in higher education.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Centre for Economics and Ethics, Leuven
Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB) - miscellaneous
Research Centre for Economics and Corporate Sustainability, Campus Brussels

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