University stakeholders want to know about sustainability performance

An article published in the La Trobe University Bulletin in June 2011 titled World-first for sustainability reporting tops the list of all-time page views,  ahead of other issues that University is/has been known for, such as autism research and student radicalism of the 70s.  The Bulletin is a key communication medium with external stakeholders and the data sends a clear signal that they are interested in sustainability.

Yet, despite its interest to stakeholders, the level of sustainability reporting by Universities worldwide is low with a limited number of University sector sustainability reports in well known databases at Global Reporting Initiative and www.corporateregister.com

The article in the La Trobe University Bulletin discusses the University’s social and environmental initiatives as well as areas where performance needs to improve.  The inclusion of this information helps build trust and gives confidence that problem areas are being addressed. It refers to the University’s first sustainability report Responsible Futures which, in addition to environmental performance and targets discussed sustainability education and research initiatives and community engagement work.

The article World-first for sustainability reporting was published when I led sustainability at the University.  The university’s international award winning sustainability reports are an outcome of a processes involving University managers and staff in: developing governance and stakeholder engagement processes; determining material issues; determining performance indicators; bench-marking performance; setting short, medium and long term targets; developing skills and identifying actions required to improve performance; and embedding those actions in divisional and faculty plans.
Responsible Futures

“Given the potential of the university sector to influence sustainability outcomes, the sector’s slow progress with respect to sustainability reporting and management is surprising. Through education and research, the sector prepares large numbers of people for careers and engages with a range of stakeholders to address key issues, including climate change and sustainability. Universities have material direct and indirect social, environmental and economic impacts through the research we do, through the experience and education we provide future leaders and parents and through the way in which we engage with communities, government, business and our broader society.”

Many sectors have material impacts and the process of developing a report is a starting point for addressing them, identifying risks, building trust with stakeholders and enhancing reputation.

Related posts on this website

Sustainability reporting – finally taking off?

Sustainability reporting and performance management in Universities: challenges and benefits

Linking stakeholder engagement and strategy in Universities

The UN Global Compact, GRI and embedding sustainability in Universities: presentation

Additional useful resource: Learning and Teaching Sustainability

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