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The state of sustainability reporting in Australian Universities: Overall and across different categories

Zeng, Yun-Ting (2018) The state of sustainability reporting in Australian Universities: Overall and across different categories. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Abstract

Over the last decades, sustainability reporting (SR) has gained importance in line with the environmental movements advocating sustainable organisational development. Within this context, universities as one of the main stakeholders of higher education sector (HES) are expected to be at the forefront due to its foremost educational role. The recent literature indicates that the university sector has increasingly embraced sustainability in their curricula, research, operations and reporting. However, there is still little study done on the SR practice made by Australian universities, and therefore, the state of SR in Australian universities is still unclear.

The present study investigates the state of SR in Australian universities through examining the extent of sustainability disclosure in three major reporting media, namely stand-alone sustainability reports, annual reports and official websites. This is also the first study that compares and contrasts the state of SR in Australian universities based on several university categories, including university grouping (i.e., Group of Eight (Go8), Australian Technology Network (ATN), Innovative Research Universities (IRU), and Regional Universities Network (RUN)), year of establishment (i.e., Sandstone Universities and Young Universities under 50), and geographical location, striving for more insight.

Using the Graphical Assessment of Sustainability in Universities (2011) as a set of sustainability reporting guidelines and scoring index adopted from Djajadikerta and Trireksani (2012), this study applies a content analysis approach to analyse the extent of sustainability disclosure made by Australian universities. The Mann-Whitney test and descriptive statistics were employed for analysing the results.

This study finds that the extent of sustainability disclosure made by Australian universities is still overall low, indicating that the state of SR in Australian universities is still at infant stage. The results also reveal that there is no difference in the extent of sustainability disclosure among various university groups and between the older and younger Australian universities. However, significant differences are found in the state of SR among Australian universities at different geographical locations.

This study contributes to the limited SR research in the HES, particularly within the context of Australian universities. The research findings could assist Australian universities to understand the current state of SR for their future planning. Potentially, local governments and policymakers could also use the findings from this study for their future sustainability-related policy or strategy.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation: School Of Business and Governance
United Nations SDGs: Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
Goal 13: Climate Action
Supervisor(s): Trireksani, Terri
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/42721
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