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The implementation of sustainability practices in Arab higher education institutions

Muhammad Al Mahameed (Department of Accounting, University of Sharjah College of Business Administration, Sharjah, UAE and Department of Operations Management, Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark)
Umair Riaz (Accounting Department, Aston University, Birmingham, UK)
Mohammad Salem Aldoob (Accounting Department, Aston University, Birmingham, UK)
Anwar Halari (Department of Accounting and Finance, The Open University Business School, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK)

Journal of Financial Reporting and Accounting

ISSN: 1985-2517

Article publication date: 2 February 2023




This paper aims to explore how sustainability practices were implemented in a higher education institution within a local setting in the Gulf and Arab Emirates Region. This study examined the impact of social and cultural requirements on the development of the master plan for the New Kuwait University campus with regards to sustainability to illustrate how current social and cultural requirements impact the design of a future learning environment whilst highlighting the essential role of organisational actors in this implementation process.


Using an in-depth case study approach, the authors conducted 21 semi-structured interviews with educators and administrative staff who had been involved in the sustainability implementation process at Kuwait University. These participants were involved at different stages in the implementation of a major sustainability project at Kuwait University. The interviews were further supplemented by analysing supporting documents and communications.


The analysis reveals that sustainability was embedded in a narrative that was repeated at the practice level; this directed the setting of objectives for the project and its various sub-tasks. It also helped actors to develop their understandings of practice and the importance of social emotions, self-intentions and patterns of culture in the process. This study further reveals that participants mainly focused on environmental issues regarding saving paper/electricity and overlooked aspects of a wider concepts and core values of sustainability, and there is a significant amount of lack of knowledge and awareness on matters about sustainability, especially with the understanding of its definition.


This study draws on practice-organisation framework used by Schatzki (2002, 2010), suggesting that sustainability implementation is a process led by rules, practical understanding, general understanding and teleoaffective structures, to highlight the role of agency and change among various actors in implementing sustainability. A practice-theory framing is used to signpost the roles played by various actors in establishing goals and tasks for the project while taking account of local understanding and independence in the implementation of sustainability practices. Engaging with practice theory framework offers us theoretical basis that is fundamentally different from the theories of interaction-oriented approaches in sustainable design.



The authors would like to acknowledge the cooperation extended by the participants of this study. Earlier versions of the paper were presented at a workshop at Aston University, UK, in January 2020. Thanks to the participants for their comments on the paper. The usual disclaimer applies.

Conflict of interest statement: All authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


Al Mahameed, M., Riaz, U., Aldoob, M.S. and Halari, A. (2023), "The implementation of sustainability practices in Arab higher education institutions", Journal of Financial Reporting and Accounting, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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