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Sustainability 2019, 11(1), 59; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11010059

Assessing the Impacts of Higher Education Institutions on Sustainable Development—An Analysis of Tools and Indicators

1
Institute for Managing Sustainability, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, Welthandelsplatz 1, A-1020 Vienna, Austria
2
Department of Industrial Development, IT and Land Management, University of Gävle, Kungsbäcksvägen 47, SWE-80176 Gävle, Sweden
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 31 October 2018 / Revised: 5 December 2018 / Accepted: 15 December 2018 / Published: 22 December 2018
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Abstract

Many higher education institutions (HEIs) have started to incorporate sustainable development (SD) into their system. A variety of sustainability assessment tools (SATs) have been developed to support HEIs to systematically measure, audit, benchmark, and communicate SD efforts. In recent years, stakeholders have increasingly asked HEIs to demonstrate their impacts on SD. These impacts are the direct and indirect effects an HEI has outside of its organizational boundaries on society, the natural environment, and the economy. This study analyzes to what extent SATs are capable of measuring the impacts that HEIs have on SD. A mixed-method approach, using descriptive statistics and an inductive content analysis, was used to examine 1134 indicators for sustainability assessment derived from 19 SATs explicitly designed for application by HEIs. The findings reveal that SATs largely neglect the impacts HEIs have outside their organizational boundaries. SATs primarily use proxy indicators based on internally available data to assess impacts and thus tend to focus on themes concerning the natural environment and the contribution to the local economy. Updating existing SATs and developing new ones may enable HEIs to fully realize their potential to contribute to SD. View Full-Text
Keywords: sustainable development; higher education; impacts; sustainability assessment; sustainability assessment tools; higher education institutions; sustainability indicators; sustainability reporting; education for sustainable development (ESD) sustainable development; higher education; impacts; sustainability assessment; sustainability assessment tools; higher education institutions; sustainability indicators; sustainability reporting; education for sustainable development (ESD)
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Findler, F.; Schönherr, N.; Lozano, R.; Stacherl, B. Assessing the Impacts of Higher Education Institutions on Sustainable Development—An Analysis of Tools and Indicators. Sustainability 2019, 11, 59.

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