Sustainability performance measurement inside academia : The case of a north Italian University

Caterina Cavicchi (Department of Economics and Management, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy)
Emidia Vagnoni (Department of Economics and Management, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy)

Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change

ISSN: 1832-5912

Publication date: 4 June 2018



This paper aims to analyze the process of implementation of a sustainability performance measurement (SPM) system by a North Italian university, which was constructed based on a participatory multi-stakeholders’ approach. In addition, it provides evidence on the use of outcome indicators.


The methodology is based on a single exploratory case study research.


The process of implementation of the new SPM system started with the intervention of an academic in accounting who acted as a propeller. The adoption of the framework required a shared meaning of sustainability among different stakeholders and indicators to track the shift toward sustainable development (SD). Despite the authors could not prove the stable adoption of the framework for the future, as new governing bodies were appointed in Beta, that framework could be considered a valid attempt to move from a single projects’ evaluation on sustainability performance to a systemic approach and introduce outcome indicators in performance appraisal. The framework supported university’s decision-making related to SD actions.

Research limitations/implications

Difficulties in the measurement process were linked to the information system which was not designed to allow the collection of some of the newly introduced sustainability data. However, an attempt to introduce a personalized assessment tool fostered the improvement of planning activities for 2015.


The originality of the paper is twofold: first, it represents an attempt to discuss the process of implementation of a SPM system that was designed by a participatory multi-stakeholders’ approach. Second, the framework was designed to consider also outcomes’ indicators as urged by scholars calling universities to promote the shift toward a sustainable society.



Cavicchi, C. and Vagnoni, E. (2018), "Sustainability performance measurement inside academia : The case of a north Italian University", Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change, Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 138-166.

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