Implementing sustainability policies in higher education institutions

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Sustainability is a way of living that tries to create a balance between the economic, social, and environmental performance of an organization. 

It is a guideline that organizations use to conduct their business activities in a way that minimizes negative impacts on the social and environmental communities. According to Salas-Zapata and Ortiz-Muños (2016), sustainability is organized into criteria (such as balancing financial, social, and environmental performance), goals, objects, and approaches. Implementation of sustainable approaches must be designed to achieve the expected goals. The concept of sustainability can be used by management to align the organizational culture with sustainable principles.

Many organizations have worked to promote sustainability, mainly nonprofits that are related to sustainability issues. Frame and Newton (2007) said that people become more concerned about sustainability when they are exposed to information about the negative impacts of business activities on the social community and the environment. Universities can play an important role in promoting sustainability by teaching their respective communities about the concept and how to apply it to organizations. Alshuwaikhat, Adenle, and Saghir (2016) discussed that the concept of sustainability can be useful in universities, but more effort needs to be put into implementing it. Some of the challenges faced include the lack of awareness among university staff and management about the concept, as well as the need for support from the government. Leaders and staff at universities must agree that sustainability is an important concept and work together to develop strategies for implementing it within the university.

The concept of sustainability can help universities improve their internal business processes and their policies, which will benefit all stakeholder groups. Universities that have implemented the concept of sustainability have generally received better ratings from social performance analysis. Universities can improve the quality of education and research related to this concept by integrating it into the curriculum. Additionally, by balancing financial, social, and environmental performance, universities can help promote a more sustainable society.

Stakeholders play an important role in the process of implementing sustainability in universities. This includes groups from both inside and outside of the university, which will be affected by the university's decisions. There are two main groups of stakeholders: internal university stakeholders, which include students, employees, and teaching staff, and external university stakeholders, which include government agencies or ministries, regional governments, communities, and nonprofit organizations. The process of stakeholder engagement is very important because it helps unite the vision and mission of the university and its stakeholders.

How can we gauge the perspectives of university stakeholders when it comes to sustainability? Focus group discussions may be utilized to build social networks with university stakeholders and its leadership. Focus groups draw recommendation from internal and external partners planning procedures and directions for achieving sustainability.

The next step in implementing sustainability is formulating policy and guidelines. This process must consider the advice and input that university stakeholders have given. After this stage is completed, the exposure draft of the policies and guidelines is submitted to university stakeholders for feedback. The final stage of implementing sustainability includes two sub-stages: (1) the implementation of policies and agreed-upon sustainability concepts guidelines, and (2) monitoring and evaluation. The implementation stage can be carried out at the fastest for three months and can be done in phases, for example, starting at the level of study programs and faculties. If the implementation stage is considered to have run well, the implementation process can be carried out in all parts of the university. The monitoring and evaluation stage can be done simultaneously with the implementation stage to get an overview of the implementation process and to identify things that need to be improved.

References:

Alshuwaikhat, H.M., Adenle, Y.A., & Saghir, B. (2016) Sustainability assessment of higher education institutions in Saudi Arabia. Sustainability, 8(8), 750. https://doi.org/10.3390/su8080750

Frame, B. & Newton, B. (2007) Promoting sustainability through social marketing: Examples from New Zealand. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 31(6), pp. 571-581. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1470-6431.2007.00600.x

Salas-Zapata, W. A. & Ortiz-Muñoz, S.M. (2019) Analysis of meanings of the concept of sustainability. Sustainable Development, 27(1), pp. 153- 161. https://doi.org/10.1002/sd.1885

 

Dr. Sharon (Shaimah) Mendoza Dreisbach
Author: Dr. Sharon (Shaimah) Mendoza Dreisbach
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