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Assessing sustainability reports of US universities

Remmer Sassen (Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany)
Leyla Azizi (Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 9 January 2018

Issue publication date: 7 December 2018

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to assess sustainability reports of US universities to provide findings on the relative importance of disclosure topics.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors conducted content analysis by using a specific university-oriented catalogue of indicators to cover the specific sustainability-related aspects of this sector.

Findings

Sustainability reporting by universities is still in its early stages. The findings show a clear focus on the environmental dimension, whereas the university and the economic dimensions see lower levels of reporting. The social dimension is rarely addressed.

Research limitations/implications

Future research could use the results of this study as a basis for investigating stakeholder expectations towards universities’ sustainability reporting and developing university-specific sustainability reporting standards.

Practical implications

The results could be used to improve universities’ sustainability reporting, as “good” practices are now readily available.

Social implications

The level of reporting on the social dimension is very low. Therefore, developing political incentives to improve universities’ social performance might be of interest.

Originality/value

The investigated setting is unique and contributes several findings in a less-researched area along with several practical, social and research implications.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Leyla Azizi was supported by a scholarship of the Hanns Seidel Foundation funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Erratum: It has come to the attention of the Publisher that the article by Remmer Sassen and Leyla Azizi, “Assessing sustainability reports of US universities” published in the International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 19 No. 7, was not included in Vol. 19 No. 2, 2018, which was guest edited by Professor Ralf Isenmann, Professor Remmer Sassen and Professor Walter Leal-Filho. This occurred because of an error in the production process. The Publishers of the journal sincerely apologize to the authors and readers for this error.

This article forms part of the special section “Sustainability reporting in higher education institutions”.

Citation

Sassen, R. and Azizi, L. (2018), "Assessing sustainability reports of US universities", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 19 No. 7, pp. 1158-1184. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-06-2016-0114

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited