The case for CSR/ Sustainability Reporting Done Responsibly


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Home / case studies / Case study: How ETH Zurich cultivates sustainability-related competencies in students and staff

Case study: How ETH Zurich cultivates sustainability-related competencies in students and staff

As one of the world’s top technology and natural science universities, with over 18,500 students from more than 110 countries, ETH Zurich tries to make sure that sustainability is firmly embedded into campus life and teaching, and to familiarize students and staff with sustainable development issues.

This case study is based on the 2013-2014 Sustainability Report by ETH Zurich published on the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Disclosure Database that can be found at this link. Through all case studies we aim to demonstrate that CSR/ sustainability reporting done responsibly is achieved by identifying an organization’s or company’s most important impacts on the environment and stakeholders and by measuring, managing and changing. 

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Committed to providing students and staff with skills and opportunities to approach and effectively address complex sustainable development issues, ETH Zurich has made sustainability a central priority.  Tweet This! In order to cultivate sustainability-related competencies in students and staff ETH Zurich took action to:

  • integrate sustainability across departments and degree programs
  • encourage students and staff to learn about sustainability through innovative activities and events
  • offer summer and winter schools on sustainability
  • bring faculty and students working on sustainability-related theses into contact with private and public sector partners

What are the material issues the organization has identified?

In its 2013-2014 Sustainability Report ETH Zurich identified a range of material issues, such as quality of research, knowledge transfer, talent attraction and retention, diversity, recycling and waste, personnel development, sustainable catering. Among these, cultivating sustainability-related competencies in students and staff stands out as a key material issue for ETH Zurich.

Stakeholder engagement in accordance with the GRI Standards

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) defines the Principle of Stakeholder Inclusiveness when identifying material issues (or a company’s most important impacts) as follows:

“The organization should identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations.”

Stakeholders must be consulted in the process of identifying a company’s most important impacts and their reasonable expectations and interests must be taken into account. This is an important cornerstone for CSR / sustainability reporting done responsibly.

Key stakeholder groups ETH Zurich engages with:   

Stakeholder Group
Vice Presidency for Research and Corporate Relations
Industry
Faculty (Professors)
Federal Parliament
Departments
ETH Domain
Competence centers
Swiss universities
Scientific staff
International universities
Funding agencies and organizations (Swiss National Science Foundation, Commission for Technology and Innovation, European Union etc.)
Rector
High schools
Rectorate
Study Commissions
Directors of Study
Students
ETH Global
Public administration
Corporate Communications
Public authorities
NGOs
Media
Vice Presidency for Human Resources and Infrastructure
Local neighborhoods of ETH Zurich at Campus Zentrum and Campus Hönggerberg
Local neighborhood to ETH Zurich in other locations in Switzerland and abroad
ETH Zurich Executive Board and Associate Vice Presidents
Secretary General
Staff Units
Infrastructure Divisions
Administrative and technical staff
Student organizations
Sports facilities
Catering facilities
Vice Presidency for Finance and Controlling
Tax payer
Finance and Controlling
Donors
Foundations
Other third-party funding
Alumni of ETH Zurich

How stakeholder engagement was made to identify material issues

To capture stakeholder perspectives on ETH Zurich’s material issues and explore stakeholders’ expectations, interviews with 21 representatives of stakeholder groups were conducted.

What actions were taken by ETH Zurich to cultivate sustainability-related competencies in students and staff?

In its 2013-2014 Sustainability Report ETH Zurich reports that it took the following actions for cultivating sustainability-related competencies in students and staff:

  • Integrating sustainability across departments and degree programs
  • ETH Zurich’s commitment to sustainability encompasses a number of courses and programs, such as the Department of Environmental System Sciences’ education programs, promoting sustainable development for more than 25 years.
  • Encouraging students and staff to learn about sustainability through innovative activities and events
  • Students and staff at ETH Zurich have the opportunity to better understand sustainable development issues through various activities and events, including the following:
    • The event series “Pioneers in Sustainability”, launched in 2013, offers students an opportunity to learn how to combine professional success with a commitment to sustainability.
    • The Energy Efficiency Challenge, in 2014, brought together more than 400 members of the ETH community, to suggest actions for improving energy efficiency at ETH Zurich.
  • Offering summer and winter schools on sustainability
  • ETH Zurich offers a number of summer and winter schools on sustainability topics, such as the ETH Sustainability Summer School, the World Food System Center’s three summer schools and the winter school of the Competence Center Environment and Sustainability (CCES).
  • Bringing faculty and students working on sustainability-related theses into contact with private and public sector partners
  • ETH Seed Sustainability is a project platform within which faculty and students working on sustainability-related theses are able to come into contact with partners from the private sector, public administration or other ETH Zurich units. In 2013 and 2014, 15 Bachelor’s and Master’s theses and one project thesis were written and finalized within ETH Seed Sustainability.

Which GRI indicators/Standards have been addressed?

The GRI indicator addressed in this case is: G4-EC8: Significant indirect economic impacts, including the extent of impacts and the updated GRI Standard is: Disclosure 203-2 Significant indirect economic impacts

 

80% of the world’s 250 largest companies report in accordance with the GRI Standards

SustainCase was primarily created to demonstrate, through case studies, the importance of dealing with a company’s most important impacts in a structured way, with use of the GRI Standards. To show how today’s best-run companies are achieving economic, social and environmental success – and how you can too.

Research by well-recognised institutions is clearly proving that responsible companies can look to the future with optimism.



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By registering for the next 2-day FBRH GRI-Standards Certified and IEMA approved Course you will be taking the first step in gaining the many benefits of sustainability reporting.

 

References:

1) This case study is based on published information by ETH Zurich, located at the link below. For the sake of readability, we did not use brackets or ellipses. However, we made sure that the extra or missing words did not change the report’s meaning. If you would like to quote these written sources from the original, please revert to the original on the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Disclosure Database at the link:

http://database.globalreporting.org/

2) http://www.fbrh.co.uk/en/global-reporting-initiative-gri-g4-guidelines-download-page

3) https://g4.globalreporting.org/Pages/default.aspx

4) https://www.globalreporting.org/standards/gri-standards-download-center/

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