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Is the global reporting initiative suitable to account for university social responsibility? Evidence from European institutions

Iratxe Amiano Bonatxea (Hegoa Institute, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), Bilbao, Spain)
Jorge Gutiérrez-Goiria (Hegoa Institute, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), Bilbao, Spain)
Maria Jose Vazquez-De Francisco (Fundación ETEA, Development Institute, Universidad Loyola Andalucia, Córdoba, Spain)
Antonio Sianes (Research Institute on Policies for Social Transformation, Universidad Loyola Andalucia, Córdoba, Spain)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 27 September 2021

Issue publication date: 26 April 2022

646

Abstract

Purpose

Recognising the importance of universities in the achievement of social and global objectives, this paper aims to study the relevance of the global reporting initiative (GRI) methodology for reporting University Social Responsibility (USR) activities, taking into account the specificity of higher education institutions (HEI).

Design/methodology/approach

After a review of the literature and background, the European HEI reports prepared according to the latest version of GRI standards are selected and a comparative study is carried out. The analysis focusses on comparing to what extent the standards are responding to the information needs generated in the field of higher education.

Findings

General issues, common to all types of organisations, are adequately reported by HEIs, but difficulties are encountered in integrating a vision that incorporates the role of their missions in standards related to economic, social and environmental aspects.

Research limitations/implications

There are few GRI reports with this format and further research is encouraged as the number of reports increase. So far, major limitations have been found by HEIs to account for their societal missions when using the GRI.

Practical implications

The debates on USR are promoting an increase in the number of reports on sustainability. This paper provides some examples of the use of disclosures that can be adapted in this context, to move towards the systematisation of these practices.

Originality/value

This is, to the authors’ knowledge, the first comparative study on the application of GRI to sustainability reports at a European level, focussing on the adequacy between disclosures and missions.

Keywords

Citation

Amiano Bonatxea, I., Gutiérrez-Goiria, J., Vazquez-De Francisco, M.J. and Sianes, A. (2022), "Is the global reporting initiative suitable to account for university social responsibility? Evidence from European institutions", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 23 No. 4, pp. 831-847. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-04-2021-0129

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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