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Structural key factors of participatory sustainability reporting for universities

Coco Klußmann (Freie Universitat Berlin, Berlin, Germany)
Remmer Sassen (Fakultät für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany)
Elisa Gansel (Sustainability Process of the University of Duisburg-Essen, Universität Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg, Germany)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 3 October 2019

Issue publication date: 4 October 2019




The purpose of this paper is to answer the following research question: What are the key factors of the participatory process for establishing sustainability reporting in German universities?


To answer the research question, this study uses qualitative methodology, following the grounded theory approach and triangulation of qualitative methods for accessing data.


The findings show that universities face a high level of difficulty in introducing sustainability reporting, which has an external and an internal dimension.


This paper contributes to the understanding of sustainability reporting processes of universities from an internal perspective, specifically through experts who are involved in the preparation of sustainability reports. Furthermore, it delivers insights for a theory-based discussion, which may support universities in starting sustainability reporting activities and improving reporting processes.



The authors are grateful to Aytan Guluzade, Sylvia Ooi Sil Wei, Hanh Doan My, and the session participants at the Hamburg Sustainable Development Summit (Hamburg, 26.-29.09.2017) for their helpful comments and suggestions. This paper is a result of the project “Sustainability at Higher Education Institutions: develop – network – report” (HOCH-N) that is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research under the code 13NKE007A. The responsibility for the content of this publication lies with the authors.


Klußmann, C., Sassen, R. and Gansel, E. (2019), "Structural key factors of participatory sustainability reporting for universities", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 20 No. 6, pp. 1080-1098.



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