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The state of sustainability reporting at Canadian universities

The state of sustainability reporting at Canadian universities Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to describe the state of sustainability reporting in Canada's higher education sector, while understanding who is reporting on sustainability performance, how is information being reported, and what is being reported. Design/methodology/approach – A framework with ten categories and 56 indicators based on the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines and campus sustainability assessment tools was developed to analyse the contents of a cross‐sectional sample of sustainability reports published by Canada's largest 25 universities (by student enrolment). Each author analysed two to three reports. Evidences were checked for accuracy by a different author and finally discussed in a focus group. Findings – The analysis has shown that sustainability reporting is an uncommon and diverse practice at Canadian universities. Primarily under the coordination of sustainability offices or students, seven universities published sustainability reports in the analyzed period (2006‐2008). While all reports shared a non‐integrated indicators framework, a variety of approaches were used in the selection of indicators. Reports generally had limited scopes emphasizing eco‐efficiency. The potential value of current documents as a tool to inform sustainability‐oriented decisions is limited. Practical implications – Findings are particularly relevant to university administrators and sustainability offices planning to publish or enhance sustainability reports. The paper also explores the challenges of applying the GRI guidelines to the higher education sector. Originality/value – Most descriptive studies on sustainability reporting have addressed large multinational corporations. This paper is one of the first to address the incipient practices of higher education institutions. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education Emerald Publishing

The state of sustainability reporting at Canadian universities

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
Copyright © 2011 Emerald Group Publishing Limited. All rights reserved.
ISSN
1467-6370
DOI
10.1108/14676371111098285
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to describe the state of sustainability reporting in Canada's higher education sector, while understanding who is reporting on sustainability performance, how is information being reported, and what is being reported. Design/methodology/approach – A framework with ten categories and 56 indicators based on the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines and campus sustainability assessment tools was developed to analyse the contents of a cross‐sectional sample of sustainability reports published by Canada's largest 25 universities (by student enrolment). Each author analysed two to three reports. Evidences were checked for accuracy by a different author and finally discussed in a focus group. Findings – The analysis has shown that sustainability reporting is an uncommon and diverse practice at Canadian universities. Primarily under the coordination of sustainability offices or students, seven universities published sustainability reports in the analyzed period (2006‐2008). While all reports shared a non‐integrated indicators framework, a variety of approaches were used in the selection of indicators. Reports generally had limited scopes emphasizing eco‐efficiency. The potential value of current documents as a tool to inform sustainability‐oriented decisions is limited. Practical implications – Findings are particularly relevant to university administrators and sustainability offices planning to publish or enhance sustainability reports. The paper also explores the challenges of applying the GRI guidelines to the higher education sector. Originality/value – Most descriptive studies on sustainability reporting have addressed large multinational corporations. This paper is one of the first to address the incipient practices of higher education institutions.

Journal

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher EducationEmerald Publishing

Published: Jan 11, 2011

Keywords: Sustainable development; Higher education; Canada

References

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