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Quest for a sustainable university: a review

Luís P. Amaral (Department of Economics, Management and Industrial Engineering, University of Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal)
Nelson Martins (Department of Economics, Management and Industrial Engineering, University of Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal)
Joaquim B. Gouveia (Department of Economics, Management and Industrial Engineering; Research Unit on Governance, Competitiveness and Public Politics (GOOVCOP), University of Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 2 March 2015

Abstract

Purpose

The paper aims to deliver a general review of the methods used to pursue the concept of a “sustainable university”.

Design/methodology/approach

The research was Internet based, and it included research papers, books, conference proceedings, technical reports and Internet Web sites. The review was divided in two main parts: sustainability implementation methods and assessment and report tools. In turn, the practices used on universities to implement included more “traditional” environmental sustainability initiatives and a more updated sustainable management systems.

Findings

Because “traditional” sustainability environmental sustainability initiatives have flaws, more recent tools were developed to help manage sustainability. Two sustainability management systems specifically oriented to universities are outlined on this paper. They both highlight the advantage of disposing a systematized management system; the need of address environmental issues and putting special attention on the use of resources, especially energy, on campus buildings; the social responsibility of the institution; and educational and research sustainability activities that must be taken on universities. Managing sustainability in a university would be facilitated if the procedure used to implement sustainability is aligned with the tool used that assesses its performance.

Originality/value

The paper presents an updated review of the efforts that universities have made in contributing to a sustainable development. It includes methods and tools used to manage sustainability within a university, including the ones used to implement, assess and report it. The paper also intends to highlight the need of consistency and coherence between the implementation method and the assessment and report tools.

Keywords

Citation

Amaral, L.P., Martins, N. and Gouveia, J.B. (2015), "Quest for a sustainable university: a review", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 155-172. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-02-2013-0017

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited