How colleges and universities plan the right ESG & sustainability mission
There is confusion over what is the right approach, correct standards, appropriate benchmarks, current terminology and best priorities. Further, colleges and universities have seen significant challenges to their budgets not least from the impacts on COVID.
Therefore, a commercially minded and structured approach to ESG and sustainability is critical. If this sounds like a big ask, schedule a free chat with us around your ESG and sustainability journey.
Understand the context and landscape of ESG & sustainability
The landscape of evolving standards and expectations does reflect the swiftly changing consumer and generational attitudes.
In fact, 3/4 of consumers say sustainability is important and are far more likely to be loyal to those that support ESG.
Millennial & Gen Z feelings on these matters are strong too, and this is important as by 2029, Millennial & Gen Z will represent the majority of the workforce.
Colleges and universities are seeing this demand and interest. According to recent Times Higher Education research, “Prospective international students say they are more likely to choose a university based on its commitment to sustainability than for its location”.
Reflect on your mission and campus culture for authenticity
Most universities and colleges have meaningful missions and guiding principles that have been adopted and tested over-time. Reviewing these in context of sustainability and ESG is critical.
Themes that may exist could include inclusivity, leadership and community that map well to various aspects of ESG.
Further, the strengths and focuses of the curriculum and of the campus culture may well sign-post an authentic approach.
For example, the University of Plymouth in the UK has a strong history in maritime sciences. Through its Marine Institute, the university will play a critical role in a $1+ million dollar UNESCO project including “offshore wind, aquaculture, marine biodiversity and ‘blue carbon’”.
Another example, Alvernia University in Pennsylvania has a rich heritage in community engagement. Through its regional improvement vision, the university is leading regeneration projects in Reading CollegeTowne and Pottsville CollegeTowne each attracting muti-million dollar grants.
Review relevant standards, benchmarks and peer comparisons
The landscape of reporting standards and technical benchmarks at both the organizational and building level can at times feel overwhelming.
While CDSB, UNSDG, IIRC, VRF, SASB, ISSB, TCFD and GRI may only sound like secret agencies or hopeful scrabble choices, they may be relevant at the organization level of reporting.
Further, at the building level, LEED, EnergyStar, BREEAM, NGBS and GreenGlobes to name but a few may offer certification relevance for you.
Ensuring that you consider what is relevant is important. Starting with the right ESG and sustainability consultant (such as Veritrove) to help you through this, and considering first the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education (UNPRME) offers the best jumping in point.
Understand attitudes and preferences of prospects, students, faculty and staff
ESG and sustainability topics cover such a broad array of potential actions, that understanding what your prospect students, current students and faculty expect is critical.
As the recent Times Higher Education research shared:
Most respondents also said that they believed it was important for their future career prospects to demonstrate to employers that during their time at university they developed into a sustainability-minded citizen (69 per cent).
An understanding of which topics and actions matter most for your institute and your region is important. Biodiversity? Recycling? Water conservation? Community engagement? Social inclusion?
Undertaking well designed attitudinal insight surveys to get a pulse and perspective can be of much value. Veritrove uses digital tools to gather these insights that can drive confidence and action.
Get in touch to learn more.
About the author
Matt Wheatley is the founder of Veritrove: a strategic & digital ESG partner that gets you insights and value from across your supply chain.
Our team finds you cost efficiencies, business value and market differentiation, not just compliance.
We drive insights and unlock value from ESG, sustainability and responsibility initiatives; helping you set, measure, and maximize your ESG actions within your overall mission.