What should be considered a high priority material issue by Academic Institutions
In our view, all sustainability reports by Academic Institutions must emphasize how they arm students with the knowledge and skills needed to contribute to the creation of a sustainable global economy, through their future professions. Key questions in this quest must be:
- How does an academic institution help students identify their most important impacts that are specific to their future professions on the environment, economy and society? Tweet This! Impacts not just within the walls of their future company, but also indirect ones. For example:
- How will students assess suppliers in their future professions? We propose a good start would be to use GRI-308-supplier-environmental-assessment and GRI-414-supplier-social-assessment in combination with the GRI Standards for Environment and Society. To eliminate, let’s say, emissions from their supply chains they would use a combination of GRI 305 Emissions and GRI 308 supplier environmental assessment).
- Will students be provided with the processes needed to show what they will be specifically doing to minimise these most important negative impacts and increase positive impacts? Will students be empowered to show that they are able to proceed after identification to measuring, managing and changing?
Academic Institutions and the focus on sustainability in their GRI Standards reports
More and more, the world’s top universities strive to incorporate sustainability issues and principles into academic courses, research and teaching. Encouraging and enabling students to engage with sustainable development topics through a range of programmes, initiatives and activities has become a key priority for a growing number of top universities worldwide. Universities aim to enable students to successfully address sustainability challenges, in their future workplace and beyond.
- Committed to providing students with skills and opportunities to approach and effectively address complex sustainable development issues, ETH Zurich took action to:
- integrate sustainability across departments and degree programs
- encourage students to learn about sustainability through innovative activities and events
- offer summer and winter schools on sustainability
- bring students working on sustainability-related theses into contact with private and public sector partners
- Encouraging and enabling its almost 20,000 students to engage with sustainability topics, Plymouth University took action to:
- advance the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) agenda through the University’s Centre for Sustainable Futures
- embed sustainability into the formal and informal curriculum
- facilitate extra-curricular sustainability learning
- Striving to embed ethics, responsibility and sustainability (ERS) themes into educational programmes and research, to enable students to deal effectively with sustainability issues as future business leaders and policy makers, the KU Leuven FEB (Faculty of Economics and Business) took action to:
- ensure ethics, responsibility and sustainability are present in FEB courses
- promote education for sustainable development (ESD) through a range of learning activities
- focus research on ethics, responsibility and sustainability issues
- Engaging its more than 48,000 students and the wider university community with social and environmental issues is a top priority for the University of Melbourne, which took action to:
- actively involve students in campus sustainability initiatives
- arm graduate students with the knowledge and skills needed to contribute to the creation of a sustainable global economy, through their future professions
It is very important that Academic Institutions minimise their environmental footprint and direct negative impacts on the economy and society. But we believe it is also of utmost importance (materiality) that they arm the thousands of students that graduate every year with key sustainability skills and competencies. To take focused and effective action. To undertake sustainability in a responsible way.
Sustainability Reporting and Marketing Communication Strategy Expert. Simon is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (FCIM) a Fellow of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (FIEMA) and a Chartered Marketer, and holds an MBA in Marketing. He is a GRI and IEMA Trainer, the publisher of www.sustaincase.com and owner of www.fbrh.co.uk. Simon teaches the FBRH GRI Standards Certified, IEMA & CIM Recognised Course (venue: London School of Economics (LSE).
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This article was based on ETH Zurich’s, Plymouth University’s, the KU Leuven FEB’s and the University of Melbourne’s sustainability reports. 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 reports’ meaning. If you would like to quote these written sources from the originals, please revert to the originals on the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Disclosure Database at the link: