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A grid approach to managing sustainability: evidence from a multiple Italian case study

Deborah Agostino (Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering, Politecnico di Milano, Milano, Italy)
Martina Dal Molin (Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering, Politecnico di Milano, Milano, Italy)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 7 November 2016

492

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the coherence between sustainability conceptualization (the “what”) and its implementation (the “how”) in terms of implemented actions and stakeholders’ interactions. The paper proposes a grid approach for the simultaneous evaluation of sustainability conceptualization and implementation.

Design/methodology/approach

This research is based on a multiple case study conducted in ten Italian Universities. In-depth interviews with general directors and administrative staff responsible for sustainable activities have been conducted together with documents and websites analysis.

Findings

The coherence between sustainability conceptualization and its implementation showed heterogeneity of practice. Results propose a grid approach, which highlights six different approaches to explain the connection between the “what” and the “how” of sustainability.

Research limitations/implications

The research is focused on Italian universities and may have overlooked approaches to campus sustainability specific of other countries.

Practical implications

Understanding the coherence between the “what” and the “how” of sustainability can provide university managers with a practical tool of analysis when approaching and evaluating the sustainable campus.

Originality/value

While higher education scholars are widely exploring the conceptualization of a sustainable campus and its implementation, little is known about the coherence between these two realms, despite their importance to facilitate the transition of sustainability vision into real practice. This study contributes to this area by proposing a grid approach to evaluate the coherence between sustainability conceptualization and implementation.

Keywords

Citation

Agostino, D. and Dal Molin, M. (2016), "A grid approach to managing sustainability: evidence from a multiple Italian case study", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 17 No. 6, pp. 875-894. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-11-2014-0160

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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