Creating a Sustainability Report – lessons from Hanken School of Economics

HankenAt the 2013 PRME Summit – 5th Annual Assembly in Bled Slovenia, a number of schools were recognised for their Sharing Information on Progress (SIP) Reports. Produced by schools on a regular basis, SIP reports outline a school’s approach and activities related to responsible management education. Hanken School of Economics was one of the schools recognised at the Summit, because its report had a clear and coherent structure, readability, and detailed the evolution of their activities, along with the school’s future goals and plans.

As many schools have experienced, putting together a report that brings together all of a school’s activities around responsible management education is a challenging, yet rewarding experience. I recently had the chance to speak with Nikodemus Solitander and Martin Fougere at Hanken about their experiences and lessons learnt around putting together a solid report.

How did you go about putting together the report?
From the beginning, we had a clear three-fold aim with establishing a SIP reporting praxis at Hanken: (1) Approach the task the same way we would a research project. This means that, on the one hand, we draw on the critical research the two of us have conducted on Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and UN Global Compact reports, and on the other hand,  we do not outsource the collection or analysis of data to administrators or the marketing department, and we try to be upfront and transparent about progress as well as lack of progress and tensions.(2) Whenever possible, we try to create synergies with the data collection and reporting we provide to other organisations, such as AACSB or EQUIS, applicable research projects (as both myself and Martin conduct research on the implementation and pedagogy of PRME), and general development projects within the school. Finally,(3) we report on all principles even the ones where we do not excel.

How do you collect the information?
The data are collected from various sources, but the bulk of the information comes from interviews with the heads of each of Hanken’s units. The unit heads have the most up-to-date knowledge on projects, research, and various initiatives related to the PRME Six Principles that are addressed in their units – and are therefore in the best position to provide relevant information. The headmaster provides her contribution in the form of a letter where she discusses the ways in which PRME-related issues are worked into Hanken’s strategy, while interviews with deputy headmasters reveal how those strategies work in practice. We also look at our database of publications and identify recent research that relates to the topic area in a relevant way, and include these in the report. In addition, we talk to members of the administration and other staff to learn how sustainability goals are integrated into their jobs.

How has putting together your report changed over the past 3 reports?
For sure it is more systematic today. Now, we collect the data throughout the year and “reposit” it until we start writing the drafts. Usually we start working on drafts 6-7 months prior to our submission date. During the first year we made the mistake of not collecting data “outside” of the actual report production, and then it was really time-consuming to start collecting data about events and seminars retrospectively. You tend to forget a lot of things that are so rooted in praxis that they seem mundane – it becomes difficult to recall these in retrospect. These days, we start the actual writing earlier, for the first report we started 4 months prior, now its 6-7 months and it still feels rushed. For the most recent report, we wanted to develop the reporting on progress in a more clear and readable manner, so we introduced simple arrow symbols to indicate progress or lack thereof.
Is there a part of the report, or the report process that you are particularly proud of?
We’ve made an effort to be frank about lack of progress and things we have identified that need further development and work. Being reflective and transparent about your own organisation is never easy. The report has the feeling of being a report on our own organisational learning, and organisational learning is always something to be proud of. We’ve also made a very conscious effort to stay clear of marketing discourse with the reports, and we’re pretty content we’ve fulfilled that aim.

What have been some of the challenges you faced and how did you work through these?
In the last mile of the report we have been consistently late with the last parts of editing and fine-tuning the report – keeping the deadlines is really hard. Our finalising process is such that after our PRME assistant has collected the data and put together the draft (3 months prior to submission), the two of us edit and rewrite the draft on top of our “paid duties” as faculty – as with all editorial work, it is at times monotonous and tedious. Getting the report to reach the consciousness of all internal staff was another challenge, until we received the SIP reporting prize at the PRME Summit. This gave the report and reporting process a good soap box to stand on.

How do you share the report? How has it been received by the school’s community?
Once the report is finalised, a printed copy is sent to everyone who has been involved in helping us gather the information. Of course it is also made available in electronic form, and posted on the school webpage, where it can be accessed by anyone. After the success of the last report, we were asked to present it to faculty and staff, at a type of mini-seminar. Additionally last year, the school rector presented us with an award for advancing these sustainability principles at Hanken. We would say that the whole process of interviewing key people for the report, as well as the final resource of the report, helps increase awareness of PRME within Hanken.

What advice would you have for other schools putting together their first report?
Try to be comprehensive in regards to reporting on the Six Principles, rather than minimalistic – recognising the needs for development is more important than reporting only on success, in the long-run. Try to create synergies with other activities with regards of the collection of data. Keep track of your institution’s PRME-related activities throughout the year, instead of working backwards. Begin writing the report three months prior to your original plan – it always takes longer than you expect.

What are your plans for your next report?
To have time for a proper spelling and language check… Half-jokes aside, we will build on the existing report and its structure, and perhaps try to get more student input again for the next report.

 

Putting together your first SIP report – Glasgow School for Business and Society (Part 2 of 2)

GCUIn August, Glasgow School for Business and Society at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) submitted their first Sharing Information on Progress (SIP) Report. The report was recognised for Excellence in Reporting among new signatories at the 2013 PRME Summit – 5th Annual Assembly earlier this year in Bled, Slovenia. I recently had the chance to speak with Dr. Stephen Sinclair and Dr. Alec Wersun, Co-Chairs of the PRME leadership Team at Glasgow School for Business and Society, about their experiences putting together the report (click here to read Part 1).

5.       Were there things that you were pleasantly surprised about as you went through the process?

What became most apparent in the course of gathering information for the SIP report was the sheer range of expertise and the quality of the work undertaken within GCU. However, one corporate activity that stands out in particular is the Caledonian Club, which is designed to open up access to higher education to traditionally under-represented groups and deprived communities in both Glasgow and London, where GCU also has a campus. The Caledonian Club involves a programme of activities aimed to make University study an opportunity for everyone and not a privilege for the few. Staff and students who volunteer to deliver some of the Club’s activities help to ‘demystify’ University life for those who are unfamiliar with higher education and build up their confidence and aspirations. Increasing social mobility and contributing to social justice depend upon activities such as this.

6.     What advice would you have for other schools putting together their first report?

PRME is a process rather than a one-off event or accomplishment. We certainly don’t feel that we have reached the end of our journey nor got everything right, and we are open to ideas and learning from others. PRME is not a competition (even though we were proud to win an award!) but an opportunity for sharing experiences and improving together – the very name of Sharing Information on Progress expresses this sentiment. Sharing knowledge and experience strengthens and enhances rather than diminishes it, so we would advise others who are preparing their own SIP reports to take what they can from other members of the PRME community, adapt it where necessary – and perhaps even improve it in the process – and let others know about they have learned from their experience.

7.     What are your plans for your next report?

We hope that our 2014 report will reflect a deepening and widening application of PRME within GCU. Many of the activities and processes we have initiated to embed PRME in our culture and practices are new, and we hope that each report will reflect not only their growing impact but also our increasing understanding of how to improve them. We see this commitment as an ongoing journey. It is our aim to embed the Principles of PRME in everything we do, teach, and research. We would welcome any feedback that colleagues from the international PRME community may wish to give and, of course, we would be happy to provide any additional information to anyone who may wish to know more about our approach and experiences.

Why the GCU’s SIP report was recognised for Excellence in Reporting:

  • The structure and organisation of the report is clear and coherent. Initiatives for each Principle addressed are easily identifiable and key achievements are highlighted.
  • Actions undertaken are shown in concise, honest (i.e. failures/challenges are recognised, in addition to successes), realistic, useful, and inspiring ways.
  • Reporting has been used for both internal improvement/development and external communication. The report itself provides doable ideas for faculty mobilisation, project implementation/facilitation, prioritisation or evaluation of progress.
  • The evolution of the activities (the story of the institution, efforts undertaken, challenges, etc.) and future goals or plans are provided.
  • The report is clear, inviting, and readable.

- What were your experiences putting together your SIP report? Share them in the comments below. -

Putting together your first SIP report – Glasgow School for Business and Society (Part 1 of 2)

GCUIn August, Glasgow School for Business and Society at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) submitted their first Sharing Information on Progress (SIP) Report. The report was recognised for Excellence in Reporting among new signatories at the 2013 PRME Summit – 5th Annual Assembly earlier this year in Bled, Slovenia. I recently had the chance to speak with Dr. Stephen Sinclair and Dr. Alec Wersun, Co-Chairs of the PRME Leadership Team at the Glasgow School for Business and Society, about their experiences putting together the report.

1.     Briefly describe GCU’s approach to sustainability

Our approach to sustainability is to make it strategic and incorporate it into our way of working as well as into our teaching and research. While we think it is vital to educate our students (future leaders) about all aspects of the sustainability agenda, we think it is equally important to ‘walk the talk’ and practice what we preach.  It is for this reason that the Glasgow School for Business and Society (GSBS) is a member of Business in the Community, the United Kingdom’s largest business-led charity of its kind, committed to building resilient communities, diverse workplaces, and a more sustainable future. It is also important to emphasise that we see ‘sustainability’ as covering not only environmental sustainability, but also economic and social sustainability.

To give you a sense for our commitment to environmental sustainability, GCU recently won a Gold Award under the UK’s ‘Eco-Campus’ programme, thanks partly to installing a more efficient heating system to help the University reduce its carbon footprint, actively encouraging recycling throughout the campus, and setting up a gardening group to grow vegetables on campus for resident students. Environmental sustainability is also a feature of research in all three Schools of the University. For example, GCU recently launched a Climate Justice Resource Hub, in partnership with the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice, that aims to uphold the ‘Principles of Climate Justice’ created by that body.  Climate Justice links human rights and development to achieve a human-centreed approach, safeguarding the rights of the most vulnerable and sharing the burdens and benefits of climate change and its resolution, equitably and fairly. There is so much more we could tell you, but space precludes this!

2.     How did you go about putting together your first SIP report?

Most of the information included in our first SIP report was provided by colleagues, and this was gathered by talking to as many members of staff as possible to learn more about relevant teaching, research, and community and stakeholder engagement activities that they were involved in or knew of. We also contacted a number of our external stakeholders and partners to learn more about what they valued in their relationship with GCU and considered how these accomplishments related to the Six Principles of PRME. Because of the wide-ranging nature of PRME, it is unlikely that all of the potentially relevant information would ever be held in any existing central repository, and so we found that there is no substitute for asking questions and engaging colleagues in dialogue. This process becomes a way of not only learning more about the work underway within GCU but is also a way to publicise GCU’s involvement in PRME itself.

In this sense, our first audience for the report was internal; it was a way of documenting and celebrating some of the excellent work in which our colleagues are engaged. An additional benefit is that, the more we all learn about the work of our colleagues, the greater the opportunities are for new collaborations between us, and this is at the very heart of our inter-disciplinary School, comprising business, law, and social sciences.

3.     Is there a part of the report or of the report process that you are particularly proud of?

If we might be permitted to select two features in our SIP report, we take particular pride in our close relationship with Nobel Prize Winner Professor Muhammad Yunus as well as GCU’s commitment to paying a ‘Living Wage’ to all staff.

GCU’s relationship with Nobel Laureate Professor Yunus dates back several years but was deepened and extended when he was appointed University Chancellor in 2012. Our relationship is about far more than merely having Professor Yunus as a figurehead, important as that is, there is a vibrant academic and research aspect as well. For example, the Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health is developing an important and entirely new research agenda, exploring the relationship between microenterprise, capability, and health. Sadly, although Glasgow is a vibrant city with lots of exciting things happening, parts of the city, along with other parts of the West of Scotland, are blighted by some of the worst health outcomes in the developed world, so developing and evaluating the viability of innovative responses to this problem is a vital socio-economic issue, as well as an important scientific challenge.

GCU’s commitment to paying all staff a ‘Living Wage’ – beyond that required by the statutory national minimum wage – is an important statement about the value that the University attaches to the well-being of all its members. GCU is the first UK University outside London to make this commitment, and hopefully it will not only contribute to improving the living standards of staff, but also serve as an example to other employers of the importance of recognising and respecting the contribution of all staff.

4.     What have been some of the challenges you faced?

PRME is still unfamiliar to many and so there is a job to be done in explaining what it is and how it relates to the interests and expertise of some colleagues and stakeholders. However, the aim of transforming business practice and management education so that they become part of the solution to contemporary and future global challenges quickly becomes appealing to those who learn about PRME and the Global Compact. Once again,we have found a process of continuous dialogue to be the most effective way to improve understanding of PRME among staff, students, and other stakeholders, so that they are able to consider how it relates to their work and how best they can contribute to it. It soon becomes clear that anyone with an interest in sustainable development, equalities issues, or globalisation – let alone business and management issues – can contribute to PRME and the transformation in thinking to which it ultimately aspires. Within GCU, we have tried to enhance this process of familiarisation by establishing a PRME Leadership Team, which promotes awareness of PRME and which shares information on how the Principles relate to teaching, curriculum development, and research.

Stay tuned for Part 2 to learn more about GCU’s first SIP report. To read GCU’s SIP report click here.

- What were your experiences putting together your SIP report? Share them in the comments below. -

Sustainability Reporting – 5 questions for Carol Adams from La Trobe University, Australia

Last week, I had the chance to sit down with Carol Adams, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Sustainability) at La Trobe University, Australia to speak about the release of their 2010 Sustainability Report Responsible Futures. The Responsible Futures report follows the Global Reporting Initiative‘s sustainability reporting guidelines and is the first university to have a GRI report that is externally assured.

1.    Tell us a little bit about your background and sustainability at La Trobe.

I started as a qualified accountant with KPMG and then moved into teaching. My research focused on social and environmental reporting, and I worked extensively in this area with multinationals. In 2009, I was asked to chair a sustainability task force on top of my role as deputy dean, and then dean of the faculty, because I felt that, not only it was an important issue, but also that La Trobe was the kind of university where it could probably work, because it has a history of a focus on social responsibility and a concern for social issues. So, I agreed to chair the task force (which has since turned into a sustainability management committee), and by the end of the year, we had the agreement from senior managers about the way to move forward. We also have a sustainability advisory board comprised of outside experts who give us good advice and keep us on track.

2. So why sustainability reporting?

Because of my background in this area, I know the value of reporting. Not everyone will read a report, but the process of preparing it, setting targets, defining the key performance indicators with the senior managers, and then reviewing performance against targets is valuable.

The report process was really important in focusing our attention on areas of poor performance. For example, there were two key areas of poor performance highlighted in our report; one was energy consumption and the other was the proportion of women in senior levels of management and, on both of those issues, we have achieved quite a lot in the last few months in terms of a commitment to action and also action itself. The report highlighted the issues and drove change. Collecting the data on energy consumption for the report and having that externally assured was really important in creating the buy in we needed to move forward.

3. What is happening in the area of sustainability reporting with universities?

When we published our report, only 26 other universities had also published reporting using the GRI framework, but ours was the first one to be externally assured. GRI is a network-based organization that produces a comprehensive sustainability reporting framework that is used by a range of organizations around the world, including most large multinational companies. There are many benchmarking exercises for universities around sustainability, but I don’t think they can surpass the GRI process. What does need to be added to the GRI is a way of measuring the core business of universities, – education and research and their impact on sustainability.

I’m on a working group of the United Nations Global Compact developing guidelines for academic institutions in implementing the Ten Principles. It recommends that universities could use the GRI reporting as a way of reporting against GC principles.

4. Any tips for other universities thinking of doing this?

I think this is a really useful tool for other universities. I think that it really does need to be centrally managed. We are linking operational projects with faculty and student research projects, but the overall direction and performance needs to be seen as something that the university is managing.

We looked at a lot of reports, both by universities and from other sectors, to figure out what to report on. Using a report that has already been published as a framework could save other universities a lot of time. Another piece of advice is that it is really important to involve the managers who are concerned with that particular area, so with carbon emissions, speak those responsible for your transport fleet and people responsible for operations and electricity measurement systems and buildings. All players really need to be involved in the process because, if it is done without their involvement, it is not going to get embedded.

5. Will you do it again?

We will continue to do it as long as we have resources allocated to do it, because it really does focus attention on what is important and what is not. It will help us reduce costs associated with, for example, energy, travel, paper use, etc. I think it will become easier and less resource intensive as we move forward. We are also very proud of our report and just recently won two awards for it, the Association of Chartered Account’s (ACCA) ‘Best first time report’ in Sydney this year and the Continuous Improvement – Institutional Change’ award at the 2011 Green Gown Australia awards in Adelaide for our centralized approach to sustainability governance and management.

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