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Determinants, mechanisms and consequences of UN SDGs reporting by universities: conceptual framework and avenues for future research

Charl de Villiers (Department of Accounting and Finance, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand) (University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa)
Ruth Dimes (The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK)
Matteo Molinari (The University of Roehampton, London, UK)

Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management

ISSN: 1096-3367

Article publication date: 2 April 2024

163

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present a conceptual framework that explores the determinants, mechanisms and consequences of reporting on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) by universities. The framework considers the relationship between reporting on the SDGs and the three main activities of universities: research, teaching and service. As universities hold a unique position in society, understanding their experiences with SDG reporting offers insights into the promotion and integration of SDGs into reporting and practice more broadly.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper adopts a conceptual approach and draws on existing literature to develop a framework for understanding reporting on the UN SDGs by universities. The framework considers the challenges faced by universities in providing sustainability information and examines the motivations and outcomes associated with reporting. It also explores the coordination and collaboration necessary across departments within universities and discusses the risks associated with greenwashing.

Findings

The paper highlights that reporting on the UN SDGs can enhance university engagement with stakeholders, improve their reputation, and foster innovation and transdisciplinary research ideas. However, universities encounter challenges such as limited data availability, resource constraints, lack of coordination and competing priorities. The growing scepticism surrounding reporting motives has led to increased allegations of greenwashing within the sector.

Originality/value

This paper contributes to the accounting literature by presenting a comprehensive framework that explores the determinants, mechanisms and consequences of reporting on the UN SDGs by universities. The framework offers insights into how reporting on SDGs can lead to embedding the SDGs in research, teaching and service activities and can be adapted to other organisational contexts. The paper also emphasises the need for further research on the mechanisms of reporting, which play a crucial role in driving long-lasting change.

Keywords

Citation

de Villiers, C., Dimes, R. and Molinari, M. (2024), "Determinants, mechanisms and consequences of UN SDGs reporting by universities: conceptual framework and avenues for future research", Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPBAFM-07-2023-0125

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2024, Emerald Publishing Limited

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