Sustainability reporting tools: solving the maze

EAUC CEO Iain Patton talks about the organisation's new mapping research and how we see it helping members.

Navigating through the increasingly complex landscape of sustainability reporting tools often seems a daunting task. In response, the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC) has released new mapping research that looks at the wide ranging sustainability standards and reporting tools available to the UK post-16 education sector.
Universities and colleges are in a unique position to influence the next generation of forward-thinking leaders, and their role in transforming and embedding sustainability is not to be underestimated. Sustainability is quickly heading up the strategy and objectives list as colleges and universities realise its value. These tools are therefore starting to set the agenda and direction of the higher/further education sectors approach to sustainability.
By mapping the tools, this helps sustainability leaders see which areas of sustainability their current tools cater for and if there are any areas of the institution that could receive more attention. Our thinking behind this is, if we can build one single simple picture of a university or college's sustainability performance, this should profoundly help it to communicate and get credit for its achievements, build wider stakeholder support, address performance gaps and build more cross organisation motivation and momentum to do even better.
The project has achieved three main results:
1) Tools of importance to the UK further/higher education sector have been identified and are presented in the form of a guide providing an overview of each.
2) These diverse tools have been ‘mapped’ under a whole institution approach framework, as modelled by LiFE (a self-assessment and reporting mechanism developed by the EAUC).
3) A ‘Dashboard’ has been developed to compile all the tools and systematize their comparison and analysis. The dashboard tools also include an allocated score on the basis of its coverage of the whole institution sustainability, as defined by LiFE. The Dashboard provides a mechanism for creating customised ‘baseline’ maps which will include all an institution’s tools to identify gaps and further drive performance.
In parallel to this research, the EAUC has commissioned ARUP to develop the accreditation process for LiFE, as an option for institutions aspiring for external recognition. In this context, a future LiFE which potentially combines external tools with in-house activities could be published by institutions as an externally accredited image of all their achievements. Get this right and it should dramatically reduce duplication of effort where tools overlap and increase staff efficiency.
Consideration is also being given to how this mapping research and the LiFE framework could help to widen the sustainability scope of the AUDE Green Scorecard. A list of gaps in LiFE has been developed as part of the mapping process. In time and in consultation with EAUC members LiFE will be updated and improved.
We think understanding sustainability in post-16 education is paramount – these institutions are, after all, creating the ‘new normal’ and that normal is conscious of tomorrow’s world and active in its efforts to create a better future.

You can read the research here:
Mapping Sustainability Assessment and Reporting in the UK Tertiary Education

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