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Stakeholder engagement in sustainability reporting in higher education: An analysis of key internal stakeholders’ expectations

Idoya Ferrero-Ferrero (Department of Finances and Accounting, University Jaume I Castellón, Castello de la Plana, Spain)
María Ángeles Fernández-Izquierdo (Department of Finances and Accounting, University Jaume I Castellón, Castello de la Plana, Spain)
María Jesús Muñoz-Torres (Department of Finances and Accounting, University Jaume I Castellón, Castello de la Plana, Spain)
Lucía Bellés-Colomer (Department of Finances and Accounting, University Jaume I Castellón, Castello de la Plana, Spain)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 19 December 2017

Issue publication date: 18 January 2018

5560

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to improve the understanding of stakeholder engagement in the context of sustainability reporting (SR) for higher education institutions (HEIs), together with the materiality principle and stakeholder expectations.

Design/methodology/approach

This research uses an exploratory approach based on content analysis, a case study and descriptive and inferential statistics.

Findings

Three key findings come out of this research. First, the results indicate that HEIs use diverse criteria for grouping stakeholders and that stakeholder engagement is a heterogeneous process. Second, the expectations of internal stakeholders align with the material aspects of SR. Finally, among internal stakeholders, students and academics disagree on the prioritisation of some sustainability aspects, with non-academic staff adopting an intermediate position.

Practical implications

This analysis improves our knowledge of stakeholder engagement in HEIs. It helps to identify the relevant impacts of stakeholder engagement, enhances the quality of reporting and encourages a real dialogue with stakeholders.

Originality/value

The study examines stakeholder engagement and how the materiality principle is adopted by HEIs through SR. Furthermore, it compares these results with stakeholder expectations, considering the discrepancies between stakeholders. The results open the way to future research to explore the potential conflicts and collaborations between and within stakeholders to advance towards more sustainable institutions in the higher education sector.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to acknowledge the financial support received from 3293/16 project through Programme of Educational Innovation 2016/2017 – Educational Support Unit (Universitat Jaume I - UJI), from the Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility Master Degree (UJI–UNED) and specially, from the pre-doctoral scholarship ACIF/2015/178 of the Generalitat Valenciana (Spain). The authors thank the group of experts that elaborated the survey for their extremely helpful contribution and the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions.

Citation

Ferrero-Ferrero, I., Fernández-Izquierdo, M.Á., Muñoz-Torres, M.J. and Bellés-Colomer, L. (2018), "Stakeholder engagement in sustainability reporting in higher education: An analysis of key internal stakeholders’ expectations", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 19 No. 2, pp. 313-336. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-06-2016-0116

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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