The case for CSR/ Sustainability Reporting Done Responsibly


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Case study: How the University of Melbourne engages students in sustainability initiatives

The University of Melbourne is among the top universities worldwide and a member of the Group of Eight top universities in Australia. The vision of the University is to be one of the best universities worldwide contributing to society in ways that improve and change lives. Therefore, engaging students with sustainability issues is a key priority for the University.

This case study is based on the 2016 Sustainability Report by the University of Melbourne 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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With more than 48,000 students and over 8,000 employees, the University of Melbourne strives to engage the university community in social and environmental issues.  The University is dedicated to influencing public thought and practices to achieve a sustainable future. In order to encourage and enable students to engage with sustainability issues the University of Melbourne took action to:

  • Enable student engagement on campus
  • Arm graduate students with the knowledge and skills so they can contribute to sustainability through their future professions

What are the material issues the company has identified?

In its 2016 Sustainability Report the University of Melbourne has identified a range of material issues, most important of which are responsible investment, campus development, governance, sustainable campus operations, digital innovation and student engagement on sustainability issues. This case study is focused on how the University empowers students to take solid action on sustainability issues.

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 the University of Melbourne engages with:   

Stakeholder Group
Students
Employees
Business
Industry
Government and Community Partners
Suppliers

How stakeholder engagement was made to identify material issues

The University is committed to engage its stakeholders in decisions related to sustainability issues.  The stakeholders are identified based on their particular interests, as well as, their ability to determine the sustainability performance of the University. Specifically, within the year 2016, the University received feedback from internal and external stakeholders, student representatives, business partners, industry groups, government and community organisations. This feedback has been incorporated into sustainability decision making procedures.

Stakeholder engagement assisted the University of Melbourne to identify the issues of major importance to its community, to comprehend and address the University’s material impacts and acknowledge the necessary commitments to make the greatest contribution to undertaking sustainability issues.

What actions were taken by Melbourne University to engage students with sustainability issues?

In its 2016 Sustainability Report the University of Melbourne reports that it took the following actions for encouraging and enabling students to engage with sustainability issues:

  • Engagement of students in sustainability initiatives was wide-reaching in 2016, comparing to 2014, and included:
  • The Fairtrade Steering Committee. The students, both undergraduate and postgraduate, organized a one-day Fairtrade market across campus in May 2016, aiming to engage and raise awareness on Fairtrade and other sustainability related topics.
  • The “Follow Your Waste” tour. The university staff and students visits the landfill centre used by the University contactors.
  • The Student Union (UMSU) environment group organised a series of workshops to strengthen the University’s Sustainability Charter and Plan.
  • Active involvement of staff and students in the Sustainability Advocates Forum.
  • C16Hack held in April/May of 2016. The students participated in a series of workshops that challenged them to provide innovative solutions to various sustainability issues on campus.
  • Bee keeping tours and lectures. This educational and information sharing series engaged a large number of students, as well as, staff and the general public
  • Four “Ride to Uni” events, promoting cycling as a sustainable means of transport, health and wellbeing.
  • Launch of Green Impact in March 2017. Green Impact is an international, sustainability change and engagement programme launched in the UK by the National Union of Students. The programme aims at raising awareness of sustainability issues globally, by giving people a concrete approach to address sustainability issues and enabling them in achieving these actions. Engaging students is an essential component of the programme.
  • Arming graduate students with the knowledge and skills so they can contribute to sustainability through their future professions:

As the graduates must be ready to adapt to the industries of the future sustainable economy, the University of Melbourne is taking action and is committed to developing by 2020 all undergraduate degree programs (at the course and/or major level) to enable students to understand and apply sustainability knowledge in their field.

After finishing their studies, [tweetthis]University of Melbourne graduates have a well-developed approach on sustainability issues[/tweetthis].

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

 

References:

1) This case study is based on published information by the University of Melbourne, 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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