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The contemporary definition of university social responsibility with quantifiable sustainability

Issam Kouatli (ITOM, Lebanese American University, Byblos, Lebanon)

Social Responsibility Journal

ISSN: 1747-1117

Article publication date: 30 November 2018

Issue publication date: 27 September 2019




The university social responsibility (USR) is still in embryonic stage compared to corporate social responsibility (CSR) which is still debatable by researchers. The purpose of this paper is to propose the contemporary dimension (on top of teaching and research dimensions) of USR in most educational institutes. Based on this new definition, a proposal of a mechanism to quantify USR sustainability was presented.


Based on a review of the theme of the CSR with the inter-related recent research on USR with researchers perspectives, characteristics of USR were identified and incorporated in the proposed newly definition of USR. The new definition takes into account the interrelationship of university–corporate communication and create shared value (CSV) principle, as well as the knowledgeability and sustainability.


Based on the review of most active research in the USR development and the concluded contemporary definition of USR, this paper proposes a new extended version of sustainability suitable for educational institutes, where it is composed of different zones, and each zone was defined in terms of value of sustainability with associated knowledgeability in each zone. The Green Cloud project was taken as a vehicle to demonstrate collaboration between a university and cloud service provider located in Middle East (Dubai). Sustainability quantification was provided with hypothetical numbers to illustrate the technique.

Research limitations/implications

This paper is focused on University-specific social responsibility rather than general CSR. The proposed contemporary definition of the USR is a hybrid of a mutated latest research on CSR as well as cascaded recent development on USR. The view of this new definition can have different arguments depending on the ideology (communitarianism as opposed to individualism) adopted by specific university admiration of the objective of social responsibility which is sometimes driven by the political and strategic views of countries and the regions. However, the proposed sustainability zone-split between the CSV type of projects and the reputation values (described via hypothetical example) can minimize the gap between the two ideologies.


This paper attempts to provide a universally acceptable definition of the USR based on different points of views of researchers and tries to accommodate both ideologies toward social responsibility into one coherent framework. The sustainability Venn diagram was extended and made suitable for educational institutes. This approach facilitates the mechanism of quantifying the value of sustainability of a university or educational institutes. Hypothetical “Green Cloud” project was used as a mechanism to show the quantification process.



Kouatli, I. (2019), "The contemporary definition of university social responsibility with quantifiable sustainability", Social Responsibility Journal, Vol. 15 No. 7, pp. 888-909.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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