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Article
Publication date: 14 December 2020

Luis-Alberto Casado-Aranda, Sandra Sofia Caeiro, Jorge Trindade, Arminda Paço, David Lizcano Casas and Ana Landeta

Universities are continually transforming its structure and governance in response to the new social, environmental and economic challenges. Particularly, there has…

Abstract

Purpose

Universities are continually transforming its structure and governance in response to the new social, environmental and economic challenges. Particularly, there has recently been a growing academic interest for measuring sustainable practices of higher education institutions (HEI) aiming to monitor and reduce their carbon emissions, as well as transform them into more sustainable organizations. More recent studies began to focus also on the sustainable performance of distance education Universities. So it became crucial to evaluate their sustainability practices through sustainability assessment tools with the aim of improving their sustainability performance and boosting their role as agents of academic, social and economic change. The purpose of this study is to assess and compare holistically sustainability implementation in two similar distance learning universities and to evaluate their advantages and disadvantages.

Design/methodology/approach

One of the most rigorous and internationally used sustainability assessment tools was used – the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System, to evaluate and compare sustainability implementation in two distance universities, one from Spain and another from Portugal: the Madrid Open University and Universidade Aberta. Indicators of both universities were compared and ways of improvement in both universities were widely discussed.

Findings

The results of this research show that there is a similar pattern in both universities. Both have low performance in campus operations and low levels of community participation but good performance in sustainability courses and programmes offer. The results of both institutions were compared and allowed a learning process for improvement.

Originality/value

This research hopes to contribute to the continuous research about the usefulness of sustainability assessment tools in particular when applied to distance universities at the time that offers new paths to carry out improved sustainable practices in crucial areas of interest such as research, administration, education and resource-saving. This research also highlights the value of distance learning universities and their ability to be more sustainable after the advent of COVID-19.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

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Article
Publication date: 1 June 2020

Murillo Vetroni Barros, Fabio Neves Puglieri, Daniel Poletto Tesser, Oksana Kuczynski and Cassiano Moro Piekarski

Some universities have a commitment to both academic education and sustainable development, and the sustainable development goals can support several sustainable actions…

Abstract

Purpose

Some universities have a commitment to both academic education and sustainable development, and the sustainable development goals can support several sustainable actions that universities may take as principles and attitudes. From this perspective, the purpose of this study is to present environmentally sustainable practices at a federal university in Brazil and to analyze and discuss the potential environmental impacts associated with an environmentally sustainable practice implemented using life cycle assessment (LCA) and its benefits for the university’s decision-makers.

Design/methodology/approach

To accomplish that, the study combines a description of environmentally sustainable practices at the 13 campuses of the Universidade Tecnológica Federal do Paraná (UTFPR) in terms of education, water and electricity consumption, waste management and emissions. As a result of this analysis, one campus identified that a high volume of disposable plastic cups were being disposed of, for which the use of reusable plastic cups was introduced. In addition, an LCA study (ISO 14040:2006 and 14044:2006) quantified the benefits of the introduction of said reusable plastic cups.

Findings

The results show that the university is working on environmentally sustainable initiatives and policies to become greener. At the same time, using a systematic LCA made it possible to measure that replacing disposable plastic cups for reusable ones reduced waste generation but increased water consumption on the campus. Faced with this, a sensitization was carried out to reduce water consumption. Finally, the current study provides lessons on the environmental performance to universities interested in sustainable practices, fostering perspectives for a better world. The findings of this study encourage organizations to accomplish environmental actions toward greener universities. The study shows that institutions need to be reflective and analytical about how even “greening” measures have impacts, which can be mitigated if necessary.

Practical implications

The sustainable practical implications were reported, and an LCA was conducted to assess potential environmental impacts of reusable plastic cups. It was identified that raw material production is the phase that generates most environmental impacts during the life cycle of the product, along with the consumer use phase, due to the quantity of water used to wash the reusable cups. In addition, the practical contributions of this study are to provide insights to institutions that aim to use environmental actions, i.e. suggestions of sustainable paths toward a greener university.

Originality/value

This is one of the first studies to investigate and discuss sustainable practices at UTFPR/Brazil. The study assessed one of the practices using a scientific technique (LCA) to assess the impacts of reusable plastic cups distributed to the students of one of the 13 campuses. Although there are other studies on LCA in the literature, the value of this study lies in expanding what has already been experienced/found on the use of LCA to assess environmental practices in university campuses.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 21 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

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Article
Publication date: 6 March 2017

Deniz Zaptcioglu Celikdemir, Gonca Gunay, Alev Katrinli and Sebnem Penbek Alpbaz

The purpose of this paper is to define the sustainable university in Turkey, by considering perspectives of various stakeholders such as experts, intellectual, public…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to define the sustainable university in Turkey, by considering perspectives of various stakeholders such as experts, intellectual, public, political parties and media using public opinion formation analysis. The paper aims to re-define the “sustainable university” with all dimensions including environmental, economic and social factors in Turkey.

Design/methodology/approach

In this study, the model of shaping the policy agenda and public opinion formation by certain groups, presented by Papadakis (1996), was used to determine the main characteristics of a sustainable university. Based on this model, the researchers collected data from intellectuals, experts, political parties, media and public simultaneously. Focus groups and archival search were used.

Findings

The results of the public opinion formation process presented that the definition of sustainable universities in Turkey includes the economic, ecological and social aspects and a holistic view of different groups. The findings of the study presented that the definition of sustainable universities in Turkey has many facets. Different groups in the public opinion formation process share almost similar views, though these points are usually mentioned under different headings. Thus, nearly each respondent in the public opinion formation process discusses the concept of being a “trade mark” as a university.

Research limitations/implications

The research may lack generalizability, as it takes place in Turkey, which is a non-Western country.

Practical implications

The research sheds a light for universities, which are the major cornerstones of higher education, especially in the area of sustainability and sustainable development. Also, universities have a great impact in regional development, which stresses once again the importance of sustainability in higher education. They should modify their education programs and curricula in accordance with sustainability. University–industry cooperation should be provided. They should manage to become a trademark.

Social implications

Universities being the major cornerstones of higher education play a vital role in regional development of countries; therefore, their sustainable development should be well handled to enable regional development.

Originality/value

The universities are the major actors which should pursue sustainability, as they affect society. The studies on sustainability and universities have been generally grouped under two main subjects in the literature. First group of studies highlights the support of universities for sustainability of corporations, whereas other studies stress the importance of becoming a sustainable university. There are not many studies on this subject which considers the public opinion formation process throughout the literature; therefore, this study contributes to the literature with this aspect. The study takes place in Izmir, Turkey, which is a non-Western country. Most of the studies on this subject take place in Western countries, so as the study is deployed in a non-Western country, it reflects a different point of view.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 18 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

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Abstract

Purpose

There is a widely held belief that sustainable development (SD) policies are essential for universities to successfully engage in matters related to sustainability, and are an indicator of the extent to which they are active in this field. This paper aims to examine the evidence which currently exists to support this assumption. It surveys a sample of universities in Brazil, Germany, Greece, Portugal, South Africa and the UK and the USA to ascertain the extent to which universities that are active in the field of sustainable development have formal policies on sustainable development, and whether such policies are a pre-condition for successful sustainability efforts.

Design/methodology/approach

The study involved 35 universities in seven countries (five universities respectively). A mixed-methods approach has been used, ranging from document analysis, website analysis, questionnaires and interviewing.

Findings

Although only 60 per cent of the sampled universities had a policy that specifically addressed SD, this cannot be regarded as an indicator that the remaining 40 per cent are not engaged with substantial actions that address SD. Indeed, all of the universities in the sample, regardless of the existence of a SD formal policy, demonstrated engagement with environmental sustainability policies or procedures in some form or another. This research has been limited by the availability and ability to procure information from the sampled universities. Despite this, it is one of the largest research efforts of this kind ever performed.

Research limitations/implications

This research has been limited by the availability and ability to procure information from the sampled universities.

Practical implications

The findings provide some valuable insights into the connections between SD policies on the one hand and the practice of sustainable development in higher education institutions on the other.

Social implications

Universities with SD policies can contribute to models of economic growth consistent with sustainable development.

Originality/value

The study is the one of the largest research efforts of this kind ever performed.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 19 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

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Article
Publication date: 22 October 2020

Gisele Mazon, João Marcelo Pereira Ribeiro, Carlos Rogerio Montenegro de Lima, Brenda Caroline Geraldo Castro and José Baltazar Salgueirinho Osório de Andrade Guerra

This paper aims to analyze the sustainability approach within higher education institutions. Universities, as institutions of knowledge, play an important and strategic…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to analyze the sustainability approach within higher education institutions. Universities, as institutions of knowledge, play an important and strategic role in maximizing social and economic benefits in a hands-on way. However, some studies on sustainable development and HEIs reveal a distancing between students and the application of sustainable initiatives in universities. This fact differs from the premises of the Talloires Declaration, which points to students as a community and as global leaders and ambassadors for sustainability.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper mapped the approaches, present in the literature, used to develop sustainable campuses and in particular the apparent dichotomy between the changes indicated as top-down or bottom-up in HEIs. To that end, scientific articles focused on sustainable actions in HEIs were analyzed to identify implementation approaches for sustainable development and student involvement in the process.

Findings

Results have shown that sustainability promotion models in universities generally occur in a top-down manner, where students are receptors and not sources of development for sustainable policies in universities. Thus, the authors highlight the importance of students becoming central players in sustainable initiatives.

Originality/value

The article becomes original when it identifies the dichotomy between top-down and bottom-up approaches. It does so through multidimensional scaling and exploratory factorial analysis in scientific articles on the topic Sustainability Funding in Higher Education. These findings show that, unlike what is discussed in the literature, sustainability promotion in universities generally occurs in a top-down manner, where students are receptors and not active agents in promoting sustainability. In response to this, the authors discussed the importance of the bottom-up approach, where they are key players.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 21 no. 7
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

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Article
Publication date: 1 April 2000

Hans van Weenen

Sustainable development is the biggest challenge to universities in the twenty‐first century. As many different definitions and interpretations of the concept exist, it is…

Abstract

Sustainable development is the biggest challenge to universities in the twenty‐first century. As many different definitions and interpretations of the concept exist, it is not surprising that the strategies of the universities that are beginning to strive for sustainability show some differences. Various universities have already become engaged in the process of integrating sustainable development in their activities. Some examples of such universities are presented, including the experiences of the University of Amsterdam. The diverging strategies of sustainable universities are classified to clarify the differences and to stimulate and advance the debate. Inevitably, management, research, education, communication and operation of any university with a genuine interest in sustainable development will have to change. However, if, as it seems, universities are deeply involved in current world‐wide patterns of unsustainability, could it perhaps be that existing university structures need to be replaced by a completely new type of “universal knowledge network” which is derived from a totally different paradigm of their role and function? In this article some clear indications are given about the meaning of sustainable development in this context in order to provide directions and guidelines for university strategies and practices. The consequences of the concept for universities are indicated and, finally, a possible model for a sustainable university is proposed.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 1 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

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Article
Publication date: 5 April 2013

Tarah Wright and Naomi Horst

The purpose of this paper is to examine how a cohort of university faculty leaders in Canadian universities conceptualize sustainable development, sustainable universities

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine how a cohort of university faculty leaders in Canadian universities conceptualize sustainable development, sustainable universities, the role universities play in achieving a sustainable future, key issues facing the university, and the barriers to implementing sustainability initiatives on campus.

Design/methodology/approach

Research was collected through in‐depth interviews with university faculty leaders from university members of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. Interviews included both closed and open‐ended questions and two checklists focused on sustainable development and sustainable universities. Interview transcripts are analyzed through the identification of respondent themes and using N'Vivo software.

Findings

The majority of participants demonstrated they had previously given thought to their own understanding of sustainable development, but less had thought about the term sustainable university. The majority of participants would like to see their institutions incorporate sustainability in the avenues of education, research and daily operations. Participants agreed that the most obvious barriers to sustainability were financial and that leadership, incentive and demand are required to move forward with improving sustainability at universities.

Originality/value

There are few studies that explore the conceptualizations of sustainability, what constitutes a “sustainable university” and what role universities should play in achieving sustainability held by major stakeholders, including faculty leaders. Higher education scholars share a reasonably common understanding of these concepts, but if universities are accountable for creating a sustainable future, all university stakeholders too must share a common understanding. This paper attempts to make a contribution to this significant gap in the literature.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 14 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

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Article
Publication date: 12 January 2010

Tarah Wright

The purpose of this paper is to examine how a cohort of university presidents and vice‐presidents in Canadian universities conceptualize sustainable development…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine how a cohort of university presidents and vice‐presidents in Canadian universities conceptualize sustainable development, sustainable universities, the role universities play in achieving a sustainable future, key issues facing the university, and the barriers to implementing sustainability initiatives on campus.

Design/methodology/approach

The research comprises in‐depth interviews with university presidents (rectors) and vice‐presidents from Talloires Declaration signatory universities in Canada. Interviews include both closed and open‐ended questions and two checklists focused on sustainable development and sustainable universities. Interview transcripts are analyzed through the identification of respondent themes.

Findings

The majority of participants are well versed in the concept of sustainable development, but less familiar with the concept of a sustainable university. The majority are dedicated to having their university become more sustainable. The most significant constraints to moving toward sustainability reported are financial predicaments, lack of understanding and awareness of sustainability issues amongst the university population, and a resistance to change.

Originality/value

While higher education scholars have a reasonably common conceptualization of sustainable development and what constitutes a “sustainable university”, there are few studies to date that investigate the level of sustainability knowledge of the major stakeholders within the university, or that examine what stakeholders feel is the role of the university in creating a sustainable future. If the university is tasked with responsibilities for creating a sustainable future, it is essential that all university stakeholders have a common understanding of the term sustainable development. This paper attempts to make a contribution to this significant gap in the literature.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 11 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

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Article
Publication date: 8 May 2018

Isabel Novo-Corti, Liana Badea, Diana Mihaela Tirca and Mirela Ionela Aceleanu

This paper aims to emphasize how economics courses offered at higher education institutions can influence sustainable development, in general, and Romania’s sustainable

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to emphasize how economics courses offered at higher education institutions can influence sustainable development, in general, and Romania’s sustainable development, in particular.

Design/methodology/approach

The conclusions are based on a pilot questionnaire conducted by the authors on the level of Romanian students enrolled in public and private economic faculties. The results were based on a sample of 1,250 respondents – students, master and PhD – from the economic faculties of some prestigious Romanian universities. To identify differences between some groups, t-test analysis and ANOVA were conducted.

Findings

Education is an important pillar for ensuring sustainable development because through education, people understand and learn how to become more responsible toward the environment. Studies conducted in the twenty-first century are showing a direct link between the investment in education and economic, social and human development. The present study revealed that the economic higher education system in Romania has started with small steps to adapt to the environmental requirements. Unfortunately, the efforts still required to be made are significant, since it is observed that all undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD require a change of attitude and mentality. Romanian public universities are more involved than private universities in the implementation of programs, projects, debates and courses on sustainable development and students’ reactions are positive.

Originality/value

This paper provides useful insights, allowing a better understanding of the role of universities in fostering sustainable development. This research is useful to find solutions for developing education for sustainable development in Romania and it can be a starting point for ESD programs and policies.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 19 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

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Article
Publication date: 5 February 2018

Kerstin Kräusche and Stefanie Pilz

The purpose of this paper is to present the development of an integrated sustainability reporting. In this paper success criteria are named and empirical values when…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present the development of an integrated sustainability reporting. In this paper success criteria are named and empirical values when dealingwith specific challenges are formulated. The focus is on the development of criteria for reporting, the involvement of university members and quality assurance.

Design/methodology/approach

The voluntary and compulsory reporting requirements of German universities are presented, and the concept for integrated reporting is developed from them. Possible criteria catalogues for the evaluation of sustainable development are presented and evaluated. However, the focus is on the practical experience that the university has made in the launch and implementation of an integrated sustainability reporting – both in terms of content and organisation.

Findings

A prerequisite for the preparation of a sustainability reporting is that the university develops a common understanding of sustainability and formulates objectives. This results in a structure for the reporting which is self-explanatory. For the project management before, during and after the reporting, it is indispensable to structure the work sequence (data collection, data analysis, text editor, etc) and to ensure a process-accompanying communication. Participation by all university groups in reporting is necessary.

Practical implications

Universities have a special responsibility for the sustainable development of society. To be accountable for their activities in the field of sustainability, the practical report provides a handbook on which universities can set up their own sustainability reporting.

Originality/value

At German universities, there is a lively discussion on how to define a criteria catalogue to report objectively on sustainability. The Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development is involved in the discussion and, at the same time, sets a good example. This article describes the practical implementation of the Sustainability Report.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 19 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

Keywords

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