Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 28

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

A proposal for measuring sustainability in universities: a case study of Spain


Manuel Larrán Jorge, Jesús Herrera Madueño, Yolanda Calzado, Javier Andrades,
Article information:
To cite this document:
Manuel Larrán Jorge, Jesús Herrera Madueño, Yolanda Calzado, Javier Andrades, (2016) "A
proposal for measuring sustainability in universities: a case study of Spain", International Journal of
Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 17 Issue: 5, pp.671-697, doi: 10.1108/IJSHE-03-2015-0055
Permanent link to this document:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-03-2015-0055
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

Downloaded on: 19 April 2017, At: 10:39 (PT)


References: this document contains references to 70 other documents.
To copy this document: permissions@emeraldinsight.com
The fulltext of this document has been downloaded 388 times since 2016*
Users who downloaded this article also downloaded:
(2016),"Higher education for sustainable development: a systematic review", International
Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 17 Iss 5 pp. 633-651 http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/
IJSHE-01-2015-0004
(2016),"Integrating sustainability across the university curriculum", International Journal
of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 17 Iss 5 pp. 652-670 http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/
IJSHE-10-2014-0154

Access to this document was granted through an Emerald subscription provided by emerald-
srm:528762 []
For Authors
If you would like to write for this, or any other Emerald publication, then please use our Emerald
for Authors service information about how to choose which publication to write for and submission
guidelines are available for all. Please visit www.emeraldinsight.com/authors for more information.
About Emerald www.emeraldinsight.com
Emerald is a global publisher linking research and practice to the benefit of society. The company
manages a portfolio of more than 290 journals and over 2,350 books and book series volumes, as
well as providing an extensive range of online products and additional customer resources and
services.
Emerald is both COUNTER 4 and TRANSFER compliant. The organization is a partner of the
Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and also works with Portico and the LOCKSS initiative for
digital archive preservation.

*Related content and download information correct at time of download.


The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
www.emeraldinsight.com/1467-6370.htm

A proposal for measuring Measuring


sustainability
sustainability in universities:
a case study of Spain
Manuel Larrán Jorge, Jesús Herrera Madueño, 671
Yolanda Calzado and Javier Andrades Received 20 March 2015
Department of Finance and Accounting, University of Cadiz, Cadiz, Spain Revised 3 July 2015
16 September 2015
Accepted 29 September 2015

Abstract
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

Purpose – Numerous sustainability assessment tools are being created and applied in the higher
education sector. In light of such diversity, there is a need to provide a common guideline for
sustainability assessment which makes easier the comparison among universities. Using as a reference
the Spanish university system, the main aim of this paper is to develop a multi-item quantitative tool for
measuring sustainability performance at universities.
Design/methodology/approach – To accomplish this task, the first step was to review the literature
on sustainability assessment in universities. After reviewing the literature, the authors found more than
1,000 items. The next step was to select those items which were able to fit to the Spanish university
context. On this basis, the authors selected a total of 268 items. These items were discussed in a
workshop with senior management members from eight Spanish universities with the aim of analyzing
the validity and relevance of the items selected.
Findings – Then, the proposal for measuring sustainability in Spanish universities was composed of
a total of 156 relevant items. In addition, these items were grouped according to seven different
dimensions (corporate governance, students, staff, society, environment, companies and continuous
improvement). Also, it is important to note that these items were not associated with political risk and
they were linked to provide more reliable information to assess sustainability in universities.
Originality/value – Recent literature have stated that the existing tools specifically developed for
assessing higher education institutions performance toward sustainability have some weaknesses.
Then, one of the main contributions of this study has been the creation of a new multi-item quantitative
tool aimed at measuring the integrated consideration of social, economic and environmental dimensions
of sustainability in universities.
Keywords Case study, Relevance, Spanish universities, Sustainability performance, Tool
Paper type Case study

1. Introduction
Over the past two decades, sustainable development has become a central issue in
higher education at a global level (Lee et al., 2013; Yuan and Zuo, 2013)[1]. Higher
education institutions have been recognized as critical to the shift toward sustainable
development (Shephard, 2008; Waas et al., 2010). This may be arguably because of the
increasing importance of policies to promote sustainability at universities. Also, 10
years ago, Calder and Clugston (2003) stated that more than 1,000 university leaders
International Journal of
ratified their commitment to sustainability by signing the Talloires Declaration, the Sustainability in Higher Education
Kyoto Declaration and the Copernicus University Charter. Since then, many academic Vol. 17 No. 5, 2016
pp. 671-697
declarations, charters and partnerships have been developed to foster sustainability in © Emerald Group Publishing Limited
1467-6370
higher education (Lozano et al., 2013). DOI 10.1108/IJSHE-03-2015-0055
IJSHE In 2004, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
17,5 announced the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development
(2005-2014), which aims to “promote education as a basis for a more sustainable human
society and to integrate sustainable development into education systems at all levels”
(Velásquez et al., 2005, p. 384). Recently, the 2012 United Nations Conference on
Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro provided a forum where leaders of the
672 international academic community declared their commitment to the development of
practices on sustainability for higher education institutions (Rio⫹20) (United Nations,
2012). In 2013, the Global University Network for Innovation (GUNI, 2013) published a
new world report titled “Knowledge, Engagement and Higher Education: Contributing
to Social Change”. One of the main challenges of this report is to propose steps for
advancing the contribution of higher education to building a more just, equitable and
sustainable society.
Over the past ten years, the institutional context of Spanish universities has
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

significantly changed, and there are new challenges to be faced. On this basis, many
policy statements have been developed to increase the presence of sustainability issues
in Spanish universities (Larrán et al., 2015). The Spanish Government has also approved
new legislation with regard to the implementation of sustainability in the higher
education context. For example, the authors note the Organic Law 4/2007 on
Universities and the Law 2/2011 on Sustainable Economy (Ministry of Education, 2011).
Moreover, the Conference of Rectors of Spanish Universities has set up a Working
Group on Environmental Quality and Sustainable Development. This, in turn, has led to
the creation of a special commission focused on environmental quality, sustainable
development and risk prevention. The key publication made by this commission
focused on assessing the implementation of sustainability policies by Spanish
universities (Aznar et al., 2011).
Moreover, the Spanish Government developed the 2015 University Strategy to adapt
Spanish universities to the guidelines proposed by the European Higher Education
Area. In the context of this initiative, the Spanish Government established a special
commission responsible for the elaboration of a document titled “University Social
Responsibility and Sustainability” (Ministry of Education, 2011). Then, the new
legislation seems to suggest an imperative for urgent change in sustainable
development in higher education in Spain (Larrán et al., 2015).
In research, a number of studies have been undertaken on how to improve the
implementation of sustainability practices within educational institutions (Lozano,
2011). This is manifested in the large number of papers that have been published by the
specialized journals such as Journal of Cleaner Production, International Journal of
Sustainability in Higher Education or Environmental Education Research. Most
previous studies have been aimed at analyzing the sustainability assessment and
reporting in higher education institutions (Fonseca et al., 2011; Garde et al., 2013;
Alonso-Almeida et al., 2014). The findings of these studies suggest that sustainability is
still in its early stages in higher education institutions. On this matter, Ceulemans et al.
(2014) made a comprehensive review of the existing literature on sustainability
reporting in higher education. They found that the topic of sustainability reporting has
been approached in a rather fragmented way in the higher education for sustainability
literature. For this reason, they stated that the concept of sustainability reporting in
universities is until now relatively unclear.
In this context, sustainability indicators and assessment tools have been highlighted Measuring
as a priority for the sector (Fonseca et al., 2011). Universities need to understand whether sustainability
they are effectively contributing to sustainability. Numerous sustainability assessment
tools are being created and applied globally in response to this priority (Waheed et al.,
2011; Alonso-Almeida et al., 2014). These tools vary in scope and purpose. Some focus on
environmental aspects and eco-efficiency; other tools focus on social aspects and
community outreach; whereas others consider the embedment of sustainability in 673
curriculum and research (Vallaeys, 2006; Lozano, 2011; Fonseca et al., 2011). In the
context of the geographical pattern, most of tools for measuring sustainability
performance in universities have been focused on North America (Kamal and Asmuss,
2013). Universities from North America are strongly committed to sustainability in
terms of both the scale and impact of their actions in society and their tradition and
social influence (Garde et al., 2013). The Association for the Advancement of
Sustainability in Higher Education publishes a weekly list of sustainability initiatives
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

and the achievements of higher education institutions in the USA and Canada, thus
promoting the integration of sustainability in the spheres of teaching, research and
management (McNamara, 2008).
In Europe, some tools have been developed for measuring sustainability
assessment at universities (Roorda, 2002; Madeira et al., 2011). In the Spanish
context, Larrán et al. (2015) designed a new multi-item quantitative tool for
measuring sustainability at universities. To accomplish this task, they reviewed the
literature related to analyzing sustainability assessment in higher education
institutions. In light of such diversity, Shriberg (2004) raised the need to discuss a
“universal” sustainability assessment tool for the sector. This is line with the need to
provide a common guideline for sustainability performance, which makes easier the
comparison among universities.
Now, there is some concern among sustainability professionals about the impact
integrated reporting will have on sustainability reporting and the important work of
embedding sustainability into organizational strategy and practices (Adams, 2013). On
this matter, integrated reporting not only does not replace sustainability reporting but
also, in fact, requires well-developed sustainability materiality and risk assessment
processes. This is because integrated reporting:
• emphasizes on the need for long term planning;
• encourages thinking about the business model in much broader terms than flows
of money;
• focuses on creating value across all six capitals;
• gets senior execs and the board involved in considering these issues; and
• requires a culture of collaboration and breaking down silos – exactly what is
needed to embed sustainability (Adams, 2013).

Taking into account the previous comments, the main aim of this paper is aimed at
developing a multi-item quantitative tool for measuring sustainability performance at
Spanish universities. The authors seek to create a tool adapted to the integrated
reporting guidelines. To accomplish this task, the first step is aimed at reviewing the
literature related to sustainability assessment in higher education institutions. After,
data will be collected using focus group interviews with senior management members
IJSHE from eight Spanish universities with the aim of analyzing the validity and relevance of
17,5 these items.

2. Methods
2.1 Sample selection
674 The scope of the study is very broad and, therefore, for research purposes, the authors
considered a more specific context. According to the data published by the General
Secretariat of Universities in 2010, Spain has 78 higher education institutions, 50 of
which are public universities and 28 are private (General Secretariat of Universities,
2010). Moreover, more than 90 per cent of students are enrolled at public universities.
Therefore, the study focuses on public universities (Hernández, 2010). Spanish public
universities, although regulated by a common framework and coordinated on a national
level, are administered within 17 different university systems (one for each Autonomous
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

Community into which Spain is divided). The specific structure of each Autonomous
Community is quite diverse, although a common feature is the lack of student mobility
and the preference for studying near to home. Mobility between the various
Autonomous Communities is quite low, around 10 per cent of first year students
(Hernández, 2010). Therefore, the scope of the study is related to the selection of one of
these 17 different university systems. This is in line with the need of analyzing a specific
group of universities whose geographical, financial and legal context is as homogeneous
as possible. In terms of the overall context of universities in the Spanish education
system, the choice of Andalusia as a case study has several advantages for four main
reasons:
(1) Andalusian public universities offer the highest number of degrees in Spain and
account for 18 per cent of the total of degrees offered to Spanish students.
(2) Andalusian universities offer a large number of degrees. In fact, the University
of Granada is the second university in Spain in terms of degree courses taught
(second only to the University of the Basque Country) and offers 95 degree
courses (67.86 per cent of the total) of the 140 degree courses currently offered in
Spain.
(3) The number of new students enrolled in their first academic year in
Andalusian universities represents the highest proportion in comparison
with other universities in Spain. In fact, 50,000 of 308,000 of new
students in Spanish universities are enrolled in Andalusia (16 per cent of the
total).
(4) Finally, higher education institutions in Andalusia are composed of nine
public universities and are, thus, the Autonomous Community with the
highest number of public universities. The Andalusian public university
system represents a sample of the diversity of Spanish universities. There
are universities (Seville and Granada) with several centuries of history and
others [the Pablo de Olavide University in Seville, which has been created
quite recently (1997)]. There are some very large universities (Seville and
Granada), medium-sized universities (Malaga and Cadiz) and smaller
universities (the Pablo de Olavide University is the smallest).
Therefore, the authors have chosen Andalusian universities as a representative Measuring
framework respond to the size, both in terms of absolute and relative size and the sustainability
number and variety of degree courses offered.

2.2. Research design


The case study approach is appropriate for this research because of the scarcity of
relevant literature on the subject and the emergent nature of the concepts involved in 675
this study (da Silveira et al., 2014). Voss et al. (2002) commented that results of case study
investigations can lead to creative and new ideas. Yin (1984) defines the case study
research method as an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon
within its real-life context in which multiple sources of evidence are used. One aspect
that characterizes good case study research is the use of qualitative and quantitative
methods to provide a wider and deep understanding of the study phenomenon
(Cresswell, 1998; Stavros and Westberg, 2009). Data come largely from documentation,
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

archival records, interviews, direct observations, participant observation and physical


artifacts (Yin, 1993).
Data collection was structured in the following stages: The first step was to make an
extensive review of the literature on sustainability assessment in higher education
institutions. One of the most comprehensive lists of available indicators for reporting on
universities’ core activities has been presented in the Graphical Assessment of
Sustainability in Universities (GASU) tool (Lozano, 2006). GASU has been used by
Lozano (2011) to assess the state of sustainability reporting in higher education
institutions. The indicators of the GASU tool were based on indicators previously
developed by the Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future (ULSF,
1999), a group of universities at the forefront of sustainability integration in higher
education. Comparisons of sustainability assessment tools in the literature can be found
in Shriberg (2002), Yarime and Tanaka (2012) and Kamal and Asmuss (2013), whereas
in-depth reviews of individual tools are very scarce (Glover et al., 2011). The paper by
Ceulemans et al. (2014) offers a comprehensive review of the existing literature on
sustainability assessment of universities. Most sustainability assessment literature has
to date been more North America-focused. Among these tools, we can state the following
ones:
• The “Sustainability Assessment Questionnaire” (SAQ) by the ULSF (ULSF, 1999).
The goals of the SAQ are to offer its users a comprehensive definition of
sustainability in higher education and to provide a snapshot of their institutions
on the path to sustainability. The SAQ is composed of 25 questionnaires in seven
broad categories of sustainability: curriculum; research and scholarship;
operations; faculty and staff development and rewards; engagement and service;
student opportunities; and administration, mission and planning (Kamal and
Asmuss, 2013).
• The “Campus Sustainability Assessment Framework” (CSAF)(Cole (2003)). The
CSAF is an academically developed, standardized audit tool designed specifically
for Canadian campuses. This is in response to a demand from change agents
within Canadian universities to have a common framework to further develop the
sustainability in Canada (Shriberg, 2002). The CSAF was designed with the
following objectives: to identify needs and to advocate required policy changes; to
produce a common methodology and indicators for use in Canadian universities;
IJSHE and to build a profile which initiates sustainable discussion from a local (student,
17,5 staff and faculty) to a governmental (provincial and federal) level (Beringer et al.,
2008).
• The College Sustainability Report Card (CSRC; CSRC, 2011) by the Sustainable
Endowments Institute (2011). The CSRC is a quantitative tool for assessing
sustainability performance in higher educational institutions in the USA and
676 Canada. The goal of this report card is to provide free information to higher
educational institutions to learn the experiences from one another to establish
sustainable policies more effectively (Kamal and Asmuss, 2013).
• The “Sustainability Tracking Assessment & Rating System” (STARS) by the
Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE,
2013). STARS is the most recent tool for assessing sustainable development for
higher educational institutions in the USA and Canada. The goals of STARS are:
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

developing an effective framework for understanding sustainability in


universities; creating a common set of measurement to compare with time and
across institutions; recognizing the continual improvement in sustainability by
providing incentives; facilitating information on sustainable practice and
performance in higher education; and developing a campus sustainability
community that is stronger and more diverse.

From a European perspective, some tools have been developed (Ceulemans et al., 2014):
• The “Auditing Instrument for Sustainable Higher Education” (AISHE), by a
Dutch Higher Education Working Group on Quality Management (Roorda, 2002).
The AISHE method is based on a model for quality management, developed by
the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) and enhanced by the
Institute for Dutch Quality Management (INK). For this reason, it is called the
“EFQM-INK model”.
• The model Sustainability in Higher Education Institutions (SusHEI) developed by
Madeira et al. (2011). This tool takes into account the core activities of any
university (education and research), its impacts at economic, environmental and
social levels and the role of its community. SusHEI allowed for the establishment
of internal dimensions interrelated to the functioning of a university. Then, a
matricial representation of the model was developed. The matrix crosses internal
dimensions (and eventually sub-dimensions) with sustainability dimensions (and
eventually sub-dimensions) and is quantified through indicators.
• In a mixed context, it is important to note the Unit-Based Sustainability
Assessment Tool by the Swedish/African training initiative (Togo, 2009). The
main purpose of the tool is to facilitate reflexive learning, rather than precise
measurement of sustainability occurrence and improvements. It has therefore
been practically used for this purpose as an educational tool in the Africa-Asia
International Training Programme on ESD in Higher Education.

Besides these tools, there are a number of other instruments available in the literature
offering ways to assess the sustainability performance within higher education
institutions. Examples of these are: tools developed by Latin-American organizations
which are focused on assessing the social sustainability of universities (Colombian
Universities Association, 2001; Latin American Universities Association, 2008; Vallaeys Measuring
et al., 2008); tools for providing sustainability rankings of universities (Lukman et al., sustainability
2010; Universitas Indonesia, 2014); and other types of composite indicators (Morhardt,
2009; Waheed et al., 2011; Urquiza, 2014).
As a result of the review of the literature, the authors found a total of 1,124 items for
measuring sustainability at universities. These items were grouped according to seven
different dimensions of universities: corporate governance (165 items); students (188 677
items); staff (106 items); society (235 items); environment (268 items); companies (113
items); and continuous improvement (49 items). This classification was provided as a
way of comparing with the proposal for sustainability reporting defined by Andalusian
universities (Larrán and López, 2010).
Once the authors identified the initial list of items from the literature review, the
second step was to select those items which were able to fit to the Spanish university
context. Many studies have highlighted the need to develop a common tool to compare
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

the sustainability performance of universities of different regions (Siboni et al., 2013).


For this reason, the number of items was reduced. To accomplish this task, the authors
conducted a recurrence analysis to check the items more frequently cited by different
researchers in previous studies. The presence of the same item in different proposals for
measuring sustainability in universities highlights their relevance for incorporating
them in this multi-item quantitative tool. Moreover, the authors selected those items
which were defined by different systems of information of Andalusian public
universities. The reason for incorporating these items was related to their usefulness as
indicators of the sustainability performance by different national and standardized
documents. On this basis, the number of items for measuring sustainability in
universities was reduced from 1,124 to 268 (Table I). For each one of the dimensions
selected, the list of items was grouped in accordance with different sub-sections to
provide a better understanding on the measurement of sustainability performance in
universities.
Third, the data collected (list of items) were discussed through group interviews with
senior management members of eight Andalusian universities carried out in a
workshop held at the University of Cordoba. The objective of this workshop was to
examine their opinion with respect to the validity of the 268 items selected for measuring
sustainability performance in universities. The methodology used for the different
group interviews was based on the principles of the nominal group technique, which has
been widely accepted in the literature (Chapple and Murphy, 1996; Carney et al., 1996).
The results of this type of data collection method frequently provide much more
valuable and informative data than that provided by a questionnaire. On this basis, the
interviewers are neither restricted by the strict format of the questions nor are they
limited to the options given as answers to certain questions (Bampton and Cowton,
2013). In this case, the group interviews by each group of senior management members
were made up of a number of people which ranged from 10 to 20, including
vice-presidents, heads of departments, deans of faculties, etc. This workshop took place
in May 2011.
To analyze the validity of each item, the authors conducted a relevance analysis,
understood as the extent to which the tasks of the test are relevant to the aim of the
research (Stelly and Goldstein, 2007). Moreover, two additional analyses were conducted
to select the final list of items. First, a reliability analysis was made to check whether the
IJSHE Dimension Sub-dimensions Indicators
17,5
Corporate governance Statement from the most senior decision maker 69
of the organization
Organizational profile
Resources (operational, human, material,
678 technological and economic)
Students Professional skills and values 46
Integration
Students involvement
Mobility
Training performance (process)
Students satisfaction surveys
Evolution of training demand
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

New student orientation


Innovative teaching
Staff Training 45
Commitment to equal opportunities
Career plans
Reconciling work and family life
Social action
Improving working environment
Improving labor health
Rational allocation of resources
Society Access to future labor market 32
Cultural activities
Participating in non-governmental organizations and
with social associations
Social values
Cooperation and development
Classes for older people
Opinion by society
Sport activities
Environment Environmental policy and management 36
Reducing energy consumption
Reducing water consumption
Waste management
Reducing pollution
Compliance with the normative
Biodiversity
Environmental awareness and research
Companies Cooperation with companies 25
Knowledge transfer to society
Continuous improvement Attention to suggestions and complaints raised in the 15
university
Table I. Assessment of university functions
Items for measuring Total dimensions Total sub-dimensions 268
sustainability in
universities Source: Own elaboration
information access for calculating sustainability items was easy or difficult. Second, a Measuring
political risk analysis was carried out to identify the more controversial items in terms sustainability
of measuring sustainability performance in universities. Then, the procedure was
structured as follows:
• A plenary session was organized to explain the objectives of the workshop.
• To make easier the assessment process, two different working groups were
designed. For each working group, a coordinator was appointed. Every working 679
group had a list of items for measuring sustainability performance in universities
in accordance with the different dimensions selected.
• Each item had an independent assessment according to the relevance, reliability
and political risk analyses. This procedure was carried out in 50 min
approximately. The assessment of each item was recorded on a 11-point Likert
scale; Relevance (rating scales: 0 ⫽ sustainability item was not considered
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

relevant; 10 ⫽ sustainability item was strongly defined as relevant); reliability


(rating scales: 0 ⫽ information access for calculating sustainability item was
strongly easy; 10 ⫽ information access for calculating sustainability item was
strongly difficult); and political risk (rating scales: 0 ⫽ sustainability item was not
associated with political risk; 10 ⫽ sustainability item was strongly associated
with political risk). Likert scales are usually composed of closed-ended questions
which are used to allow the respondents to express how much they agree or
disagree with a particular statement (Dillman, 2000). Many studies focused on
assessing sustainability using a survey which collected data on Likert scales
(Maxham and Netemeyer, 2003; Roy and Thérin, 2008; Zhu et al., 2008). According
to Netemeyer et al. (2003), a primary advantage of Likert scales over dichotomous
scales is that they tend to create more scale variance.
• Once the items were assessed, each coordinator of the different working groups
received the documentation. Below, a discussion session was conducted to
provide some insights and opinions by the different senior management members
presented in each working group. This discussion session took about 60 min.
• The assessment made by each senior management member with respect to the
different items selected was compiled in an Excel database to determine their
relevance, difficulty/reliability or political cost.

3. Results and discussion


In accordance with the opinion of senior management members of Andalusian
universities interviewed, 156 of 268 items selected were considered as the most relevant
indicators for evaluating the sustainability performance in universities. The criterion
used is explained as follows: the authors considered that the most relevant items for
measuring sustainability performance in universities would be those ones with a mean
value between 7.5 and 10. The rationale for using this reference point is explained by the
fact that senior management members perceived these items as strongly relevant. In
fact, a mean value higher than 7.5 is close to 10, which is the highest value in the Likert
scale used. The same criterion was used to determine the level of reliability and political
cost associated with the 156 most relevant items for measuring sustainability
performance in universities.
IJSHE The greater difficulty in accessing the information of an item was interpreted as
17,5 follows: values between 7.5 and 10 noted that the information access for calculating
sustainability item was strong difficult. The items with a mean value between 7.5 and 10
were strongly associated with political risk. As a result, 1 of the 156 most relevant items
identified for evaluating sustainability performance was classified as not reliable
(Table II). This item belonged to the social dimension and was defined as follows:
680 percentage of graduates who have been working for one year after completing their
studies in activities linked to their qualification profile. This fact explains that there is a
general lack of political costs related to sustainability performance in universities. This
finding is in contrast with the study by Larrán and Andrades (2013). They found that
one of the main difficulties to implementing sustainability practices by universities is
related to the political cost. They highlighted that the publication of an audited annual
sustainability report could be seen by many university managers as an additional
element of criticism of the public university system.
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

In all, 155 relevant items have been defined as indicators for measuring the
sustainability performance of universities taking into account the opinion of the senior
management members interviewed. These items were grouped as follows: corporate
governance (37 items); students (24 items); staff (18 items); society (22 items);
environment (30 items); companies (16 items); and continuous improvement (8 items). In
this way, some sub-dimensions have been left out the final proposal of the multi-item
tool. Regarding students, the sub-dimensions not included have been: evolution of
training demand, new students’ orientation and innovative teaching. With respect to the
staff, the sub-dimension not incorporated has been the rational allocation of resources.
In terms of society, the sub-dimension related to sport activities has not been included in
the final proposal.
A more in-depth analysis suggests that there is greater number of items related to the
corporate governance dimension in terms of measuring the sustainability performance
of universities. There is a need for improving the commitment toward corporate
governance issues by universities. Accordingly, several authors have noted that the lack
of support from university administrators could obstruct the implementation of
sustainability practices by higher education institutions (Velásquez et al., 2005;
Ferrer-Balas et al., 2008). Wright and Wilton (2012) commented that higher education
seems resistant to having sustainability infiltrate all levels of the university. Leadership
promotes needed change accompanied by proper assignment of responsibility and
rewards, which are committed to a long-term transformation of the university and are
willing to be responsive to society’s changing needs (Lozano, 2006). According to
Ferrer-Balas et al. (2008), leadership may also be a driver when the leader sees
transformation as a way to leave his or her legacy on the organization. On this basis,
sustainability champions, often seen as “lone wolves” or “innovators” at their

Society Item Risk Relevant Difficulty

Commitment to % of graduates who have been working for one year 3.57 8.5 8.92
society after completing their studies in activities linked to
Table II. their qualification profile
Items with greater
difficulty Source: Own elaboration
universities, can be important agents for change (Lozano, 2006). Analyzing the items of Measuring
the corporate governance dimension, the authors consider that they can be structured in sustainability
two different parts: human/technical resources and economic information (Tables III-V).
This fact could be explained by most of these items that can be clearly defined in the
annual reports disclosed by universities. In accordance with Lozano (2011), universities
tend to focus on the economic dimension in their sustainability reports as a result of
utilizing the information available in their annual reports. Most of this information is 681

Corporate governance I Items Risk Relevant Difficulty

Statement from the most Strategic priorities and key topics for the 1.75 8.63 4.00
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

senior decision maker of short/medium-term with regard to


the organization sustainability
Key events, achievements and failures 4.38 8.38 3.88
during the reporting period Table III.
Views on performance with respect to 4.25 8.00 4.13 Items for measuring
targets sustainability from
Outlook on the organization’s main 4.00 8.43 5.14 corporate governance
challenges and targets for the next year dimension: statement
and goals for the coming three-five years from the most senior
decision maker of the
Source: Own elaboration organization

Corporate
governance II Items Risk Relevant Difficulty

Organizational Report scope and boundary 3.56 8.44 5.33


profile Statements of mission or values relevant to 1.89 9.22 2.67
sustainability performance
Description of the most important risks and 4.00 8.56 4.78
opportunities for the organization arising from
sustainability trends
Codes of good governance implemented 2.44 8.78 3.44
Improvement management through 4.22 8.67 5.44
benchmarking between universities
Codes of conduct approved 2.22 8.11 3.33
Long-term strategies (strategic plan) 2.25 8.44 2.67
Awards received in the reporting period 2.11 7.67 2.89
Externally developed sustainability charters, 1.89 8.44 3.00
principles or other initiatives to which the
university subscribes or endorses
Mechanisms for students, staff and society to 2.44 7.78 3.56 Table IV.
provide recommendations to the highest Items for measuring
governance body sustainability from
Commitments to external sustainability initiatives 1.78 7.78 3.33 corporate governance
dimension:
Source: Own elaboration organizational profile
IJSHE Corporate governance III Items Risk Relevant Difficulty
17,5
Operational structure Services to the university community (links) 0.89 7.89 1.33
Human resources Number of full-time faculty/total number of 2.44 7.56 2.78
faculty) ⫻ 100
Total workforce by employment type and 2.22 7.78 2.56
682 employment contract
Material and Teaching and research infrastructures 2.33 7.56 3.67
technological resources (evolution)
Number of students enrolled compared to 3.00 7.67 3.78
the total of training rooms
Number of students enrolled in degree 3.22 8.00 3.56
programs that require the use of laboratory
compared to the total of laboratory rooms
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

Total number of students enrolled compared 3.44 8.11 2.33


to the total of library rooms
Wireless network (Existence and scope) 2.44 7.78 2.44
Total number of computers and laptops 2.56 8.00 3.44
available by the university
Total number of students enrolled compared 2.67 7.56 3.00
to the total number of computers available
in the computer room
University space per square meter 2.67 7.56 3.78
Economic information Budget settlement during the last two years 4.00 8.22 1.89
(link)
Funding and grants for research compared 3.56 8.44 3.11
to the total budget
Financial Statements and Management 3.78 8.22 2.22
Report (links)
Costs of the university services 4.89 8.11 5.11
Cost per graduate and degree 4.33 7.89 5.00
Contribution to the local economy (economic 4.33 8.89 6.22
impact)
Grants and labor contracts funded by 3.11 8.33 3.22
research projects or contracts
Budget settlement: Total revenues classified 3.89 8.11 1.89
by categories
Table V. Budget settlement: Total public 3.78 8.11 1.78
Items for measuring expenditures classified by categories
sustainability from Infrastructure investments (Evolution) 3.11 8.00 2.33
corporate governance Percentage of students receiving grants for 2.89 8.25 3.50
dimension: resources studying
(operational, human, Debt level at year end (Long-term debt and 6.11 8.22 3.89
material, short-term/Equity ⫹ Liabilities) ⫻ 100
technological and
economic) Source: Own elaboration
compulsory in the budget that the universities are required to report every year together Measuring
with the rest of the financial statements (Moneva and Martín, 2012). The budget has sustainability
traditionally been, according to Martin (2006), the central element in the accountability
of universities, more focused on the stewardship of public money than on performance
measurement and management control.
Moreover, the results show that the second dimension with a greater number of items
selected is related to the environment. These results are similar to previous studies. Lozano 683
(2011) found that the focus on the environmental dimension may be from sustainability
having primarily environmental connotations. Traditionally, sustainability has been linked
to the environmental dimension. It may also be, as Dresner (2002) posits, that in developed
countries, there is a tendency to be more concerned with environmental issues rather than
with social ones. It may also be that environmental issues are easier to measure, whereas
social issues tend to be less matured, making them difficult to monitor, assess and analyze
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

(Velásquez et al., 2005; Larrán et al., 2015). Table VI shows that most of environmental items
are related to the following issues: implementation of long-term policies and strategies,
reducing energy or water consumption, increasing the environmental awareness,
encouraging the research on sustainability and establishing protocol for waste management
residues.
The third dimension with a greater number of items selected is related to the
students. Some tools consider the embedment of sustainability in curriculum and
research. Lozano (2006) adapted the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines for
measuring sustainability in universities by means of the inclusion of the dimensions
related to education and research. In the case of universities, the indicators should cover
the entire system to address: education, research, campus operations and community
outreach (Cortese, 2003). The main items for measuring the commitment toward
sustainability from a student’s point of view are related to the following areas:
professional skills, mobility, improvements in disability assistance and performance
learning process. The research findings of the study have provided a list of 22 items for
measuring sustainability from students’ dimension (Table VII).
Taking into account the society dimension, items related to the improvement in
dialogue with stakeholders should be highlighted. Accordingly, Garde et al. (2013)
suggested that the pursuit of sustainability in universities necessarily involves wider
considerations, such as identifying and addressing stakeholders’ expectations,
establishing mechanisms for dialogue with them and improving information
transparency. Table VIII states that the main topics covered for measuring
sustainability are as follows: cooperation and development activities, community
outreach, graduate employability or cultural activities.
Staff dimension is composed of a total of 18 items (Table IX). Among others, the
commitment to sustainability from this perspective is focused on measuring the faculty
and service staff training, policies toward equal opportunities, policies for career plans,
policies for reconciling work and family life, policies for improving working
environment or policies for improving labor health.
Finally, the dimensions with lower number of items are related to companies and
continuous improvement. Table X shows that the main area covered by companies’
dimension is related to improving the creation of university-business chairs and to
enhancing knowledge transfer activities.
IJSHE Environment Items Risk Relevant Difficulty
17,5
Environmental Initiatives to implement long-term environmental 1.89 9.22 2.22
policy and policies (links)
management Initiatives to implement environmental management 2.44 8.33 3.00
systems (ISO 14001 or other type of environmental
684 management system)
% of the university budget for environmental 4.33 8.78 3.00
protection activities
% of the university budget for research on 3.38 8.75 3.50
environmental sustainability
Reducing energy Regular energy audits (scope) 2.78 8.56 4.11
consumption Initiatives to reduce energy consumption 2.33 8.89 4.22
% of the energy used from renewable sources such as 2.56 8.56 3.44
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

wind, solar, hydroelectric or other renewable sources


Initiatives to provide alternative energy 2.44 7.78 4.63
Installment of systems to save electrical energy 2.33 9.00 4.56
Planning directed to redesigning buildings (energy) 3.11 8.33 4.11
Reducing water Practices related to reducing water consumption 1.89 8.78 3.89
consumption Practices related to implementing regular audits for 3.00 8.56 3.44
consumption of water (scope)
Water usage 2.44 8.11 5.22
Total volume of water recycled and reused 2.89 7.89 5.67
Protocol for preventing contamination of waste water 2.11 8.78
Planning directed to redesigning buildings (water) 2.38 8.50 4.88
Water consumption 2.44 7.67 2.11
Waste Recycled products consumption classified by type 2.33 8.89 4.67
management Tons of rubbish from university canteens 2.11 7.89 4.78
Total weight of waste by type and disposal method 2.78 9.00 4.67
Practices related to implementing protocol for waste 2.11 8.33 3.33
management residues (links)
Reducing pollution Practices related to implementing measures to reduce 2.56 7.78 4.33
noise for each building
Initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and 3.00 8.38 3.88
reductions (links)
Practices related to reducing use of private vehicles 1.78 9.00 3.78
Total direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions 3.22 8.56 6.22
by weight
Compliance with Number of sanctions for non-compliance with 5.56 7.89 3.89
the normative environmental laws and regulations in the past years
Biodiversity Identity, size, protected status and biodiversity value 3.89 7.78 5.67
of water bodies and related habitats significantly
affected by the reporting organization’s discharges of
water and runoff
Environmental impacts from university functions 4.67 9.11 6.00
Environmental Activities to promote environmental awareness 2.00 8.78 4.00
Table VI. awareness and (activities, impact and participants)
Items for measuring research Number of research projects on environmental topics 1.88 8.13 4.25
sustainability from (groups, projects and researchers)
environment
dimension Source: Own elaboration
Students Items Risk Relevant Difficulty
Measuring
sustainability
Professional skills Visit to companies in function of academic major of 1.14 7.92 3.78
and values degrees. Internship evolution
Initiatives to enhance employability 2.14 8.50 5.28
Initiatives to enhance self-employment 1.61 8.53 4.92
Extent to which sustainability topics are integrated 1.00 7.71 3.21
in the undergraduate degree programs
685
Extent to which sustainability topics are integrated 1.00 7.71 3.28
in the postgraduate degree programs
Number of students enrolled which have been 1.07 7.78 3.85
trained in sustainability-related courses
Integration Initiatives to improve disability assistance 1.00 8.85 3.64
Percentage of buildings and infrastructures for 2.07 8.85 3.35
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

people with disabilities


Students Studies related to reducing architectural barriers 1.84 8.30 3.46
involvement Initiatives to improve dialogue and internal 1.57 8.57 3.14
communication with students (links)
Initiatives to enhance students’ involvement in 1.5 8.64 3.28
university management teams
Student associations 1.42 7.76 3.07
Mobility % of the number of national students who have 1.30 8.21 2.71
participated in international mobility programs
compared to the total students enrolled
Number of foreign students who have participated 1.21 8.15 2.15
in international mobility programs compared to the
total students enrolled
Initiatives to enhance the participation of students 1.30 8.38 3.38
in mobility programs
Training Initiatives to improve scholarships for students 1.69 8.14 3.85
performance Number of PhDs by year compared to the number 2.42 7.76 2.00
(process) of full-time faculty
(number of PhDs in the past five years compared to 2.30 7.53 2.38
the total of existing doctors) ⫻ 100
Number of credits (courses) passed by the students/ 2.07 7.92 2.84
number of credits (courses) did in the tests) ⫻ 100
Number of credits (courses) passed by the students 1.76 7.76 2.23
in an academic year/number of credits (courses) for
which have been enrolled) ⫻ 100
Satisfaction Satisfaction with studies 3.23 7.69 5.46
surveys Satisfaction with faculty 3.30 7.61 4.66
Satisfaction with resources 3.15 7.53 3.69 Table VII.
Global satisfaction index (evolution) 3.69 7.76 3.76 Items for measuring
sustainability from
Source: Own elaboration students’ dimension

In another way, Table XI shows that evaluating the presence of complaints and
suggestions by different stakeholders and assessing the improvements in service or
degrees accreditation are the main issues for measuring the sustainability performance
in universities in accordance with continuous improvement dimension.
IJSHE Society Items Risk Relevant Difficulty
17,5
Access to future labor % of graduate who have been employed in the 3.57 8.71 5.00
market first year after completing their studies
Percentage of graduates who have been 3.23 8.21 5.92
working for five years after completing their
686 studies in activities linked to their
qualification profile
Cultural activities Initiatives related to enhancing community 1.42 8.13 3.53
outreach activities
Activities and services provided by the 1.78 7.78 4.50
university aimed to public benefit
Participating in non- Initiatives related to developing sport 1.57 8.57 3.35
governmental activities
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

organizations and Cooperation with different groups: description 2.35 8.13 4.21
with social and targets
associations Number of activities related to scientific 1.57 8.00 3.85
disclosure by year
Social values Initiatives related to enhancing volunteer and 2.07 8.33 3.42
social work programs
Initiatives related to improving dialogue with 2.28 8.13 3.85
stakeholders in terms of linking university
and society
Financial resources aimed to social activities 2.35 7.80 3.50
Initiatives related to enhancing equality 2.14 8.40 3.35
Initiatives related to enhancing research based 2.35 7.78 4.35
on sustainable criteria
Initiatives aimed to improving the research or 2.57 8.64 4.85
knowledge transfer to the society
Cooperation and Joining the code of conduct of universities in 1.00 8.00 1.76
development terms of cooperation and development
Initiatives to support international cooperation 1.64 8.50 3.57
Development agreements and funding 2.21 8.00 3.78
Number of international cooperation 1.78 7.78 2.35
agreements signed by the institution
Research on international cooperation topic 1.84 7.84 3.38
(groups, project and members)
Number of faculty involved in international 2.14 7.50 2.78
networks of mobility compared to the total
number of faculty
Classes for older Training for older people. Organization, 1.64 8.42 2.14
people resources, activities and impacts
Initiatives related to supporting students over 1.42 7.85 2.78
25 years of age
Table VIII. Opinion by society Initiatives related to satisfaction surveys to 3.71 8.07 4.85
Items for measuring assess social attitudes
sustainability from
society dimension Source: Own elaboration
Staff Items Risk Relevant Difficulty
Measuring
sustainability
Training Initiatives related to staff taking part in the 1.85 7.71 3.50
design of their training programs
Initiatives to improve training to faculty and 1.71 7.64 4.35
service staff
Staff satisfaction with training 3.00 8.00 3.78
Evolution of training hours per 2.00 8.00 3.85
687
employee/category/gender
Commitment to equal Policies aimed at equal opportunities/professional 2.57 8.35 5.07
opportunities careers
Career plans Evolution of the number of grants incorporated in 2.23 8.15 2.46
the research plan
% of staff who have promoted over the past three 2.35 7.85 2.28
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

years
% of faculty involved in competitive research 1.23 8.00 3.15
projects compared to the total of the faculty
Reconciling work and Initiatives related to reconciling work and family 1.92 8.28 3.21
family life life
Social action Financial aid to the tuition rates 1.85 7.92 2.42
Kindergartens and summer workshops for 1.84 7.50 2.30
children of members of the university community
Improving working Working environment: data from surveys 3.23 8.28 5.00
environment Initiatives to assess regarding performance and 1.92 7.84 5.15
professional development
Satisfaction index with staff 3.38 8.71 5.46
Improving labor Initiatives related to improving labor health and 1.30 7.78 3.30
health promoting healthy life
Initiatives related to compliance with labor risk 1.07 7.50 3.30
prevention norms
Rates of absenteeism by type of employee 4.38 7.76 4.07
Rates of injury, occupational diseases, lost days 3.07 8.07 3.61
and total number of work-related fatalities by Table IX.
type of employee Items for measuring
sustainability from
Source: Own elaboration staff dimension

According to the results, three groups can be identified depending on the number of
items included in each dimension. The first group is composed of the two
dimensions with a greater number of items (corporate governance and
environment). On this basis, most of previous tools have incorporated many
indicators on corporate governance and environment categories in their assessment
criteria. As an example, the report card has a total of 52 indicators in nine categories.
This tool contains some categories which could be linked with the corporate
governance dimension. CSAF tool contains over 170 indicators to assess
sustainability in higher education. These indicators lie in two broad categories:
people and ecosystem. The people category includes five sub-categories, such as
governance dimension. Madeira et al. (2011) identified five internal dimensions of
the university. One of them is related to the governance. From an environment
IJSHE Companies Items Risk Relevant Difficulty
17,5
Cooperation with Research networks between university and 1.80 7.71 2.50
companies companies to create, share and transfer
knowledge to society
Institutions between university and 2.67 7.71 2.36
688 companies (objectives, employers and
activities)
Companies participated by the university 3.07 7.93 3.50
(participation, activity and purpose)
Proportion of number of doctors by the 2.47 7.60 5.86
university that they have incorporated to
work in a company in the past 10 years
with respect to the total of doctors in the
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

past 10 years
% of the graduate students that have 3.20 8.00 6.73
found an employment in the three years
after completing their studies
Designing criteria and special recruitment 2.36 8.57 5.00
programs with companies with integration
of groups at risk of social exclusion
% of goods bought which are socially 1.86 7.64 5.64
responsible (social brand reputation)
Presence of sustainable criteria in the 2.57 8.57 4.15
contracting and selection of suppliers
Knowledge transfer Promoting knowledge transfer activities 1.50 7.92 4.08
to society Number of business start-ups promoted by 1.83 7.83 3.92
consulting companies
Number of business projects by year 2.17 7.50 4.08
promoted by consulting companies
Activities related to enhancing scientific, 1.67 7.83 4.08
humanistic and/or technological disclosure
Total revenue evolution from research and 3.17 7.75 3.50
knowledge transfer university activities
Total revenue evolution from regional, 1.83 7.83 3.33
national or European research projects
Number of knowledge-based companies 2.17 7.83 4.50
created in the past 10 years as a result of
the research and knowledge transfer
Table X. activities
Items for measuring Practices related to facilitating outsourcing 1.75 7.50 4.25
sustainability from procedures
companies’
dimension Source: Own elaboration

category, Waheed et al. (2011) proposed a new evaluation model of sustainability


performance in universities. They identified a total of 56 indicators. In addition, 26
of these 56 items are classified under environment category. Nevertheless, only ten
indicators are classified under social category. Three of the nine categories defined
in the report card are related to the environment dimension (climate change and
Continuous
Measuring
improvement Items Risk Relevant Difficulty sustainability
Attention to suggestions Regular publication of statistics about 3.78 7.78 2.78
and complaints raised in complaints and suggestions by
the university categories by different stakeholders
Links to the university Ombudsman 1.33 8.33 2.00
report
689
Assessment of Assessment of official undergraduate 2.63 8.25 3.44
university functions and post-graduate degrees (%)
% of masters with quality assurance 3.38 7.78 3.13
systems
Number of unaccredited degrees 3.11 7.56 1.89
assessed by the national agency of
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

quality compared to the total number


of unaccredited degrees offered by the
university
Assessment of certified services (%) 2.67 8.22 4.22 Table XI.
Service reporting (links) 2.38 8.38 2.63 Items for measuring
Compliance with the strategic plan 5.63 8.50 4.13 sustainability from
and electoral commitments continuous
improvement
Source: Own elaboration dimension

energy, food and recycling and green buildings). The ecosystem category defined by
CSAF includes the following sub-categories: air, water, land, energy and materials.
The second group is composed of the three dimensions with a medium number of
items (students, society and staff). In terms of the commitment to students and staff, the
SAQ is composed of 25 questionnaires in seven broad categories of sustainability, such
as curriculum; research and scholarship; or faculty and staff development and rewards.
Moreover, STARS has 84 indicators in four categories. Example is education and
research dimensions. Waheed et al. (2011) identified a total of ten indicators under social
category. One of the seven broad categories of sustainability identified in the SAQ tool
is related to the society dimension (engagement and service).
The third group is composed of the two dimensions with a lower number of items
(companies and continuous improvement). The explanation could be the fact that
previous tools did not include specific categories on companies or continuous
improvement. For example, CSAF includes one sub-category (people category) which
could be linked with companies (economy and wealth).

4. Implications for practice and research


One of the main contributions of this study has been the creation of a new multi-item
quantitative tool for measuring sustainability in universities. As Lozano (2006) pointed
out, several tools have been created to assess and report sustainability at the corporate,
regional and national levels. Some universities already assess and report their
performance toward sustainability by adapting the existent tools for other types of
organizations or by creating specific tools (Madeira et al., 2011).
IJSHE From the available tools, the GRI guidelines offer one of the best options to assess and
17,5 report sustainability, and they are some of the most widely adapted for higher education
institutions. Its strengths lie in its multi-stakeholder approach and its number of
indicators in the economic, environmental and social dimensions (Lozano, 2006). Cole
(2003) evaluated a list of tools for measuring sustainability performance of different
organizations which were not developed to be used within universities. Even though,
690 some of them could be modified for this purpose and some of their strengths could be
helpful within universities. For example, ISO 14000 offers the advantages, amongst
many, of: a systematic approach and clarity, a third-party certification and international
recognition. However, it focuses primarily on the environmental dimensions, giving
little or no consideration to economic or social issues. This is not in accordance with
sustainability where all three dimensions should be equally important and fully
addressed. In accordance with Lozano (2006), none of these tools (designed for
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

corporations, regions or countries) includes sections that are explicitly designed for
education or research, the core competences of universities. Also, they do not encompass
the five parts of the university system (education, research, campus operations,
community outreach and reporting). Thus, their effectiveness for assessing and
reporting universities’ sustainability efforts is reduced.
Focusing on the higher education context, various tools for measuring sustainability
have been developed. For example, Lozano (2006) proposed some performance
indicators for the educational dimension of the GRI guidelines. He considered, however,
only two categories: curriculum and research. Based on this adaptation, this author
developed a graphical tool to assess and report sustainability – the so-called Graphical
Assessment of Sustainability in Universities. The more interesting feature is that this
tool allows for benchmarking among different universities. Madeira et al. (2011)
highlighted that the existing tools specifically developed for assessing higher education
institutions performance toward sustainability have some weaknesses, as described
below. Regarding these weaknesses, most of the existing tools do not enable
comparison-making among different institutions (benchmarking); others are too
focused on environmental and eco-efficiency issues, omitting the social dimension
(Shriberg, 2002); some are focused on education for sustainable development, neglecting
other important aspects such as those relating to the day-to-day operation; and finally,
there is no methodology available to select sustainability indicators that have been
adapted to the intended needs.
To solve these limitations, the authors have developed a new multi-item tool aimed at
measuring the integrated consideration of social, economic and environmental
dimensions of sustainability in universities. To accomplish this task, a
multi-stakeholder approach has been used in accordance with the different dimensions
of the university (students, staff, corporate governance, society, companies,
environment and continuous improvement). According to the notion of a sustainable
university proposed by Lozano (2006), the list of items seeks to measure the commitment
toward sustainability within different university areas: education, research, community
outreach, management, campus operations or assessment and reporting.
Methodologically, the proposal is supported from the opinion of the senior management
members of universities. They will be in charge of implementing strategies on
sustainability in higher education institutions.
Nevertheless, the opinion of senior management members may not have brought the Measuring
most solid understanding of sustainability in universities. Sometimes, the lack of sustainability
support from university administrators has been defined as a barrier to sustainability
on campuses. Lack of support is presented not only with the absence of funds but also
with the absence of leadership among university management (Velásquez et al., 2005).
Next step should be aimed at discussing this multi-item tool in a workshop with the
members of Social Councils of Spanish universities. In this way, Social Councils are 691
composed of different stakeholders, such as staff service, faculty, students, companies
and society. On this basis, the sustainability paradigm requires multidisciplinary
actions and involvement of all stakeholders in the decision-making process (Waheed
et al., 2011). This could be known as sustainability assessment, defined as a way to
measure and compare universities to each other in terms of their efforts toward
sustainability integration. Thus, sustainability assessment stresses the use of
instruments and tools for internal sustainability performance management (Ceulemans
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

et al., 2014).
Once this process has been completed, this multi-item tool could represent a good
reporting standard for Spanish universities. The diffusion of sustainability reporting is
still in an early stage in the case of Spain (Moneva and Martín, 2012; Garde et al., 2013;
Alonso-Almeida et al., 2014). At this moment, few Spanish universities have published
a sustainability report. On this basis, there is no consensus about the sustainability
guidelines used by these institutions. Therefore, this multi-item tool could provide
benefits in terms of standardization and benchmarking for sustainability reporting in
the context of Spain. Moreover, the adoption of this multi-item tool as a sustainability
reporting standard can help to add value to all Spanish universities’ sustainability
initiatives and improve their visibility and reputation. Because of the reputation
improvement derived from sustainability reporting, universities could lever more
funding and attract better students and researchers (Alonso-Almeida et al., 2014).
In this way, the indicators incorporated in this tool could be a good point to develop
quality management models for sustainability integration in universities, as a way to
monitor, analyze and control the performance of sustainability initiatives and
subsequently communicate about them to stakeholders. Sustainability assessment in
universities is also sometimes mentioned as an additional topic in the development of
environmental management systems for universities (Ceulemans et al., 2014). Other
possible application of this multi-item tool could be linked with the analysis of the
strategic plans of Spanish universities. The aim of this approach would be to identify the
presence of strategies on sustainability in this kind of policy documents.

5. Conclusions
Sustainability issues in higher educational institutions have attracted increasing levels
of attention from both the public and policy makers in recent decades. A number of
previous studies have called for a more comprehensive integration of sustainable
development into mainstream university operations and curricula. Nevertheless, the
concept of sustainability reporting and assessment in universities is until now relatively
unclear.
The purpose of this study was to address this gap in research in the emerging field of
higher education for sustainability. Then, a multi-item tool has been developed to assess
and report sustainability in universities. To accomplish this task, an extensive review of
IJSHE the literature was made. On this matter, it has been assumed that sustainable
17,5 development in higher education should be integrated into a holistic and organic
manner into their systems, rather than only as “add-ons” to existing practices.
After reviewing the literature, the different items identified were discussed in a
workshop with senior management members of eight Spanish universities. The reason
for this is explained by the key role exerted by university leadership members in the
692 process of defining the indicators for measuring the sustainability performance in
universities. They are responsible in putting certain strategies and practices. The final
list of items has been composed of 155 indicators divided in seven university dimensions
(corporate governance, students, staff, society, environment, companies and continuous
improvement).
Finally, the results show that three different groups of dimensions can be identified
according to the number of items. First, the authors have found that there is greater
number of items related to the following dimensions: corporate governance and
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

environment. Items related to corporate governance can be identified in the annual


reports published by universities. With respect to the environment dimension, the
greater presence of items could be linked with the fact that they are usually easy to find
and measure. The second group is composed of the following dimensions: students, staff
and society. Third, companies and continuous improvement dimensions contain the
lowest number of indicators for measuring sustainability in universities.
One of the main implications of this multi-item tool is linked with sustainability
reporting. Indeed, the different indicators included in this tool could be a good standard
for sustainability reporting in Spanish universities. This multi item tool could be
improved by means of holding a working meeting with different universities
stakeholders (staff, students, companies or society). For better performance, this tool
could be integrated at the management level, that is, into every management decision.
Another interesting aspect of this multi-item tool is to allow benchmarking against other
universities in Spain. However, to do so, further work should be developed, for instance,
starting with a pilot group of Spanish universities and then extending to a group of
European universities.

Note
1. This paper is part of a research project focused on analyzing sustainability in Spanish
universities which was funded by the Forum for Social Councils of Andalusian Universities.

References
AASHE (2013), “STARS, a Program of AASHE”, available at: https://stars.aashe.org/ (accessed 15
September 2013).
Adams, C.A. (2013), “Understanding integrated reporting: the concise guide to integrated thinking
and the future of corporate reporting do sustainability”, ISBN 9781909293847.
Alonso-Almeida, M.M., Marimon, F., Casani, F. and Rodríguez-Pomeda, J. (2014), “Diffusion of
sustainability reporting in universities: current situation and future perspectives”, Journal
of Cleaner Production, Vol. 106, pp. 144-154.
Aznar, M., Martínez, P., Palacios, B., Piñero, A. and Ull, M.A. (2011), “Introducing sustainability
into university curricula: an indicator and baseline survey of the views of university
teachers at the university of Valencia”, Environmental Education Research, Vol. 17 No. 2,
pp. 145-166.
Bampton, R. and Cowton, C. (2013), “Taking stock of accounting ethics scholarship: a review of the Measuring
journal literature”, Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 114 No. 3, pp. 549-563.
sustainability
Beringer, A., Wright, T. and Malone, L. (2008), “Sustainability in higher education in Atlantic
Canada”, International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 9 No. 1,
pp. 48-67.
Calder, M. and Clugston, M. (2003), “International efforts to promote higher education for
sustainable development”, Planning for Higher Education, Vol. 31, pp. 30-44. 693
Carney, O., Mcintosh, J. and Worth, A. (1996), “The use of the nominal group technique in
research with community nurses”, Journal of Advanced Nursing, Vol. 23 No. 5,
pp. 1024-1029.
Ceulemans, K., Molderez, I. and Van Liedekerke, L. (2014), “Sustainability reporting in higher
education: a comprehensive review of the recent literature and paths for further research”,
Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 106, pp. 127-143.
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

Chapple, M. and Murphy, R. (1996), “The nominal group technique: extending the evaluation of
students’ teaching and learning experiences”, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher
Education, Vol. 121 No. 2, pp. 147-159.
Cole, L. (2003), “Assessing sustainability on Canadian Universities’ campuses: development of a
campus sustainability assessment framework”, Master’s Thesis in Arts in Environment
and Management, Royal Roads University.
College Sustainability Report Card (2011), “Indicators”, available at: www.greenreportcard.org/
report-card-2010/indicators (accessed 24 February 2012).
Colombian Universities Association (2001), “Propuesta de indicadores de evaluación de la función
de proyección social (Extensión universitaria, Interacción en la educación superior)”,
available at: www.ascun.org.co/?idcategoria⫽2306# (accessed 14 February 2012).
Cortese, A. (2003), “The critical role of higher education in creating a sustainable future”, Planning
for Higher Education, Vol. 31 No. 3, pp. 15-23.
Cresswell, J.W. (1998), Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Traditions,
SAGE, Thousand Oaks; London.
Da Silveira, G., Pereira, M., Jabbour, C., Borges de Oliveira, S.V.W. and Teixeira, A.A. (2014),
“Greening the campus of a Brazilian university: cultural challenges”, International Journal
of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 34-47.
Dillman, D.A. (2000), Mail and Internet Surveys: The Tailored Design Method, 2nd ed., John Wiley
& Sons, New York, NY.
Dresner, S. (2002), The Principles of Sustainability, 1st ed., Earthscan, London.
Ferrer-Balas, D., Adachi, J., Banas, S., Davidson, C.I., Hoshikoshi, A., Mishra, A., Motodoa, Y.,
Onga, M. and Ostwald, M. (2008), “An international comparative analysis of sustainability
transformations across seven universities”, International Journal of Sustainability in
Higher Education, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 295-316.
Fonseca, A., Macdonald, A., Dandy, E. and Valenti, P. (2011), “The state of sustainability reporting
at Canadian universities”, International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education,
Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 22-40.
Garde, R., Rodríguez, M.P. and López, A. (2013), “Online disclosure of university social
responsibility: a comparative study of public and private US universities”, Environmental
Education Research, Vol. 19 No. 6, pp. 709-746.
General Secretariat of Universities (2010), “Estrategia Universidad 2015: Contribución de las
universidades al progreso socioeconómico español 2010-2015”, available at: www.
IJSHE educacion.gob.es/dctm/eu2015/2011-estrategia-2015-espanol.pdf?documentId⫽0901e72b8
0910099 (accessed 18 March 2015).
17,5
Global University Network for Innovation (2013), “Higher education in the world 5 knowledge
engagement and higher education: contributing to social change”, available at: www.
guninetwork.org/guni.report/heiw-5-2013 (accessed 12 March 2014).
Glover, A., Peters, C. and Haslett, S.K. (2011), “Education for sustainable development and global
694 citizenship: an evaluation of the validity of the STAUNCH auditing tool”, International
Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 125-144.
Hernández, J. (2010), La Universidad Española en Cifras 2008, CRUE, Madrid.
Kamal, A.S.M. and Asmuss, M. (2013), “Benchmarking tools for assessing and tracking
sustainability in higher educational institutions: identifying an effective tool for the
university of Saskatchewan”, International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education,
Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 449-465.
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

Larrán, M. and Andrades, F.J. (2013), “Frenos y aceleradores para la implantación de la


responsabilidad social en las universidades españolas”, Prisma Social, Vol. 10, pp. 233-270.
Larrán, M., Herrera, J., Calzado, M.Y. and Andrades, F.J. (2015), “An approach to the
implementation of sustainability practices in Spanish universities”, Journal of Cleaner
Production, Vol. 106, pp. 34-44.
Larrán, M. and López, A. (2010), “Una propuesta de memoria de sostenibilidad universitaria como
vía de diálogo con los diferentes grupos de interés”, in De La Cuesta, M., De La Cruz, C. and
Rodríguez, J.M. (Eds), Responsabilidad Social Universitaria, NETBIBLO, La Coruña,
pp. 99-122.
Latin American Universities Association (2008), “Políticas e indicadores de responsabilidad social
universitaria en AUSJAL”, available at: www.ausjal.org/files/rsu.pdf (accessed 12 March
2012).
Lee, K., Barker, M. and Mouasher, A. (2013), “Is it even espoused? An exploratory study of
commitment to sustainability as evidenced in vision, mission, and graduate attribute
statements in Australian universities”, Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 48 No. 10,
pp. 20-28.
Lozano, R. (2006), “A tool for a Graphical Assessment of Sustainability in Universities (GASU)”,
Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 14 Nos 9/11, pp. 963-972.
Lozano, R. (2011), “The state of sustainability reporting in universities”, International Journal of
Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 67-78.
Lozano, R., Lukman, R., Lozano, F., Huisingh, D. and Lambrechts, W. (2013), “Declarations for
sustainability in higher education: becoming better leaders, through addressing the
university system”, Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 48, pp. 10-19.
Lukman, R., Krajnc, D. and Glaviè, P. (2010), “University ranking using research, educational and
environmental indicators”, Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 18, pp. 619-628.
McNamara, K.H. (2008), “Fostering sustainability in higher education: a mixed methods study of
transformative leadership and change strategies”, PhD dissention, Leadership & Change
Program, Antioch University.
Madeira, A.C., Carravilla, M.A., Oliveira, J.F. and Costa, C. (2011), “A Methodology for
sustainability evaluation and reporting in higher education institutions”, Higher
Educations Policy, Vol. 24, pp. 459-479.
Martin, E. (2006), “La rendición de cuentas en la educación superior: Un análisis de la información
revelada en los estados financieros”, Presupuesto y Gasto Público, Vol. 43, pp. 39-63.
Maxham, J.G. III and Netemeyer, R.G. (2003), “Firms reap what they sow: the effects of shared Measuring
values and perceived organizational justice on customer’s evaluations of complaint
handling”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 67 No. 1, pp. 46-66.
sustainability
Ministry of Education (2011), “Social responsibility and sustainable development at Spanish
universities”, available at: www.crue.org/Sostenibilidad/CADEP/Documents/Documentos/24.
La_RSU_y_el_desarrollo_sostenible_2011.pdf (accessed 12 March 2014).
Moneva, J.M. and Martín, E. (2012), “Universidad y desarrollo sostenible: Análisis de la rendición 695
de cuentas de las universidades públicas desde un enfoque de responsabilidad social”,
Revista Iberoamericana de Contabilidad de Gestión, Vol. 10 No. 18, pp. 1-18.
Morhardt (2009), “Pacific sustainability index 3.0 scoring sheet”, available at: www.roberts.cmc.
edu/PSI/ScoringSheets/PS3/Q0.pdf (accessed 5 December 2012).
Netemeyer, R.G., Bearden, W.O. and Sharma, S. (2003), Scaling Procedures: Issues and
Applications, Sage Publications.
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

Roorda, N. (2002), “Assessment and policy development of sustainability in higher education with
AISHE”, in Filho, W.L. (Ed.), Teaching sustainability at Universities: Towards Curriculum
Greening, Environmental Education, Communication and Sustainability, Peter Lang,
Frankfurt.
Roy, M.J. and Thérin, F. (2008), “Knowledge acquisition and environmental commitment in
SMEs”, Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, Vol. 15 No. 5,
pp. 249-259.
Shephard, K. (2008), “Higher education for sustainability: seeking affective learning
outcomes”, International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 9 No. 1,
pp. 87-98.
Shriberg, M. (2004), “Assessing sustainability: criteria, tools, and implications”, in Blaze, P. and
Wal, E.J. (Eds), Higher Education and the Challenge of Sustainability: Problematic, Promise
and Practice, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Berlin, pp. 71-86.
Shriberg, M.P. (2002), “Sustainability in US higher education: organizational factors influencing
campus environmental performance and leadership”, PhD dissertation, University of
Michigan.
Siboni, B., del Sordo, C. and Pazzi, S. (2013), “Sustainability reporting in state universities: an
investigation of Italian pioneering practices”, International Journal of Social Ecology and
Sustainable Development, Vol. 4, pp. 1-15.
Stavros, C. and Westberg, K. (2009), “Using triangulation and multiple case studies to advance
relationship marketing theory”, Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal,
Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 307-320.
Stelly, D.J. and Goldstein, H.W. (2007), “Application of content validation methods to broader
constructs”, in McPhail, S.M. (Ed.), Alternative Validation Strategies: Developing New and
Leveraging Existing Validity Evidence, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.
Togo, M. (2009), Unit-Based Sustainability Assessment Tool: A Resource Book to Complement the
UNEP Mainstreaming Environment and Sustainability in African Universities Partnership,
Howick, Share-Net, ISBN: 978-1-919991-09-2.
United Nations (2012), “Report of the United Nations Conference on sustainable development”,
available at: www.uncsd2012.org/content/documents/814UNCSD%20REPORT%20final
%20revs.pdf (accessed 14 March 2014).
Universitas Indonesia (2014), “UI green metric World University Ranking”, available at: http://
greenmetric.ui.ac.id//ranking (accessed 18 March 2015).
IJSHE University Leaders for a Sustainable Future (1999), “Sustainability Assessment Questionnaire
(SAQ) for colleges and universities”, available at: www.ulsf.org/pdf/SAQforHigherEd09.
17,5 pdf (accessed 5 December 2011).
Urquiza, F.J. (2014), “Adaptable model to assess sustainability in higher education: application to
five Chilean institutions”, Dissertation thesis, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile.
Vallaeys, F. (2006), Breve Marco Teórico de la Responsabilidad Social Universitaria, Pontificia
696 Universidad Católica del Perú, Lima (Perú).
Vallaeys, F., De la Cruz, C. and Sasia, P. (2008), Responsabilidad Social Universitaria, Mc Graw Hill,
New York, NY.
Velásquez, L., Munguia, N. and Sanchez, M. (2005), “Deterring sustainability in higher education:
an appraisal of the factors which influence sustainability in higher education institutions”,
International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 6 No. 4, pp. 383-391.
Voss, C., Tsikriktsis, N. and Frohlich, M. (2002), “Case research in operations management”,
International Journal of Operations and Production Management, Vol. 22 No. 2, pp. 195-219.
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

Waas, T., Verbruggen, A. and Wright, T. (2010), “University research for sustainable
development: definition and characteristics explored”, Journal of Cleaner Production,
Vol. 18 No. 7, pp. 629-636.
Waheed, B., Khan, F., Veitch, B. and Hawboldt, K. (2011), “Uncertainty-based quantitative
assessment of sustainability for higher education institutions”, Journal of Cleaner
Production, Vol. 19, pp. 720-732.
Wright, T. and Wilton, H. (2012), “Facilities management directors’ conceptualizations of
sustainability in higher education”, Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 31, pp. 118-125.
Yarime, M. and Tanaka, Y. (2012), “The issues and methodologies in sustainability assessment
tools for higher education institutions: a review of recent trends and future challenges”,
Journal of Education for Sustainable Development, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 63-77.
Yin, R.K. (1984), Case Study Research: Design and Methods, Sage, Newbury Park, CA.
Yin, R.K. (1993), Applications of Case Study Research, Sage, Newbury Park, CA.
Yuan, X. and Zuo, J. (2013), “A critical assessment of the higher education for sustainable
development from students’ perspectives: a Chinese study”, Journal of Cleaner Production,
Vol. 48, pp. 108-115.
Zhu, Q., Sarkis, J., Lai, K. and Geng, Y. (2008), “The role of organizational size in the adoption of
green supply chain management practices in China”, Corporate Social Responsibility and
Environmental Management, Vol. 15 No. 6, pp. 322-337.

Further reading
Comisión Técnica de la Estrategia Universidad 2015, (2011), “Responsabilidad social y sostenibilidad
de las universidades. Ministerio de Educación”, available at: https://sede.educacion.gob.es/
publiventa/descargas.action?f_codigo⫽14925&codigoOpcion⫽3 (accessed 17 September
2012).
Ley 2/2011 de Economía Sostenible. Available at www.boe.es/boe/dias/2011/03/05/pdfs/BOE-A-
2011-4117.pdf (accessed 5 December 2012).

About the authors


Manuel Larrán Jorge is a Professor at Department of Finance and Accounting in University of
Cadiz. He is currently the Dean of the business school. He was the coordinator of the Strategic Plan
of the University of Cadiz when he was Vice Chancellor for planning in this institution (2005-2010).
On the other hand, he is a member of the Commission of the Ministry of Education which has
developed the manual on corporate social responsibility at universities. He has published more Measuring
than 80 papers in national and international prestigious journals and 12 books. He is a researcher
in charge of various research projects related to valuation of listed companies, the efficiency of sustainability
SMEs and social responsibility in SMEs and universities.
Jesus Herrera Madueño (PhD) is a professor at the Financial Economics and Accounting
Department, University of Cadiz. He has BA in Business Administration from the University of
Cadiz and PhD in Social Business. His research covers the areas of family firms and corporate
social responsibility. He is a member of several research projects. He has participated in 697
conferences in different national and international congresses and has been a member of the
organizing committee of different workshops on Social Responsibility at Universities (SRU). He
has published four books and has published papers in refereed national and international
prestigious journals.
Yolanda Calzado (PhD) is an Associate Professor of Business at the University of Cadiz. She
holds BA in Business Administration, Universidad de Málaga (1988) and PhD in Economics and
Business, Universidad de Cadiz (2004). She got the first prize for her doctoral research (best honors
Downloaded by Universidad de Sonora At 10:39 19 April 2017 (PT)

thesis, 2004). Among her academic positions, she has been Director of the Financial Economics
and Accounting Department, Universidad de Cadiz (5/11/2004-3/4/2008), and Vice-dean for
Planning and Teaching Innovation (from 4/4/2008 to 12/7/2011) and Vice-dean for Quality. In
relation to her scientific activity, she has more than 14 contributions to national and international
congresses. She has published six books, seven chapters in Books and some Conference volumes.
Also, she has published papers in refereed national and international journals. She has been a
member of the organizer committee on different national and international congresses. She has
also been an evaluator and reviewer of journals.
Javier Andrades is an Assistant Professor at Department of Finance and Accounting in
University of Cadiz. His research interest is focused on higher education for sustainability from
several perspectives (reporting, planning, tools and teaching). He is member of the research group
related to the value of accounting information in the business management context and is part of
different res research projects related to corporate social responsibility. He has published several
papers in national and international journals specialized in research on sustainability (Journal of
Cleaner Production, Environmental Education Research, International Journal of Sustainability in
Higher Education, among others). Javier Andrades is the corresponding author and can be
contacted at: javier.andrades@uca.es

For instructions on how to order reprints of this article, please visit our website:
www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/licensing/reprints.htm
Or contact us for further details: permissions@emeraldinsight.com