A tool for easy benchmarking sustainability reports in Universities

A tool for easy benchmarking sustainability reports in Universities,Rodrigo Lozano

A tool for easy benchmarking sustainability reports in Universities   (Citations: 1)
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This research presents: a. a comparison between different tools that have been developed to assess and report academic institutions' sustainability efforts; b. a modification of one of these tools, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Guidelines, to be applied to universities; and c. a graphical analysis and representation, developed by the author and based on the modification of the GRI. This tool allows an easy comparison, over time, of the sustainability achievements of the university. It can be used also as a comparative benchmarking tool for universities that use this assessment and reporting tool. In order to assess progress towards sustainability, whether in companies, governments or institutions, three main approaches can be used according to Dalal-Clayton & Bass (2002): 1. Accounts, 2. Narrative assessments, and 3. Indicator-based assessments. This author considers the last one the most suitable for reporting since it offers the advantages of indicators, which have the characteristics of: a. covering the most important parts of the component concerned and b. showing trends over time and differences among places and groups of people. In the research, 24 different tools to measure sustainability, from different sources such as corporations and education institutions, were reviewed. Some of the tools presented are GRI sustainability report, ISO 14000, Local Agenda 21, AISHE, etc. The majority of the tools reviewed converge, according to Shriberg (2002) on a. the decrease of throughput, b. the incremental and systematic progress, c. the sustainability education as a core function, d. the cross-functional reach, and e. the cross-functional action. Many of these tools include or are based on the triple-bottom-line approach (economic, environmental and social aspects). This author believes that the GRI offers one of the most complete set of indicators; the GRI guidelines were designed to assess and report sustainability of corporations and can not be applied directly to universities because they do not cover the Educational Aspects. This author attempted a modification of the GRI in order to include these aspects (Lozano (2003)). This was built upon work that has been under the guidance of (ULSF) (2003). The GRI guidelines tend to be difficult to compare and benchmark due to the many indicators; therefore, this reason this author proposes the use of radar graphs, which are generated by a series of equations applied to the indicators of the GRI. The graphs obtained can help the university personnel grasp easily their areas of good performance, opportunity and urgent attention. The graphs can also be used to compare the current sustainability situation of the university with one of the past, and to benchmark against other universities that use the same assessment and reporting tool.
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