Business schools and universities around the world have been putting together their sustainability efforts into comprehensive sustainability reports. These reports provide the opportunity to engage the school community and provide an overview of activities and a baseline for future activities.
Schools themselves take a variety of approaches regarding the organisation of their reports. A growing number of companies are creating integrated reports. According to the International Integrated Reporting Committee, “integrated reporting demonstrates the linkages between an organisation’s strategy, governance and financial performance and the social, environmental and economic context within which it operates.” Euromed Management in France is one of the few business schools that produces an integrated report, and I recently had the chance to speak to Tashina Giraud, Sustainable Development Manager, about her experiences.
1. Why did Euromed Management decide to take this approach?
Incorporating broader indicators into the sustainable development matrix allows for a better understanding of the complex relationship between financial and extra-financial performance. It also serves as a management tool so that we have a clearer vision of the risks and opportunities of our strategy.
We firmly believe that quality reporting leads to better decision making and more sustainable performance. Euromed Management’s integrated report looks like an average corporate report. Its uniqueness comes from its structure and content. Divided into four main chapters, the report covers our strategy, our spheres of activity, our performance and stakeholder contributions. The heart of the report is found in the second chapter that is structured around our sustainability strategy, or Green Plan.
2. What is the French Green Plan and how does it affect the school?
The French Green Plan is a sustainability assessment tool developed for and by higher education institutions. The French Green Plan was launched in June 2010 by the presidents of the “Conférence des Grandes Ecoles” (French Business and Engineering Schools) and the “Conférence des Présidents d’Universités (Public Universities), the French Minister for Higher Education and Research and the French Minister for Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and the Sea. It identified sustainable development plans for higher education institutions. In 2009, a law was passed in France that obligates higher education institutions to report their “Green Plan” every year to the ministries.
For the past three years, we have based our analysis on sustainable development indicators within our “Green Plan,” which are divided into five categories: strategy and governance, teaching and training, research activities, social policy and community involvement, and environmental management.
3. How has the integrated report been received? What have been your successes? Challenges?
In 2012-2013 we published our second integrated report and it has been even better received than the first edition. The integrated report allows us to reach a larger audience than our traditional report did. It also demonstrates the coherence between the school’s strategy, communications, and actions.
We continue to receive letters and emails from organizations such as UNESCO and PRME congratulating us on this innovative and transparent reporting method. But this recognition is not our greatest success. What is incredible is that this report truly comes from our entire school, not just the sustainability department. It has been a great to tool for federating and inspiring interest in sustainability actions.
Our greatest challenge was centralising a large quantity of information and effectively communicating on our findings, – for example, finding the balance between corporate reporting and sustainability reporting.
4. What advice do you have for others looking into integrated reporting?
Start with a quality sustainability assessment tool. Sustainability is such a transversal topic that it is a good base for reporting. It also helps structure the report in an easily understandable and credible manner.
Another key notion to remember is that of transparency. The goal of this integrated report is to be exhaustive and frank with the reader. It is not a tool for Green Washing and simply valorising a school’s actions. You also have to recognize when you have not met expectations.
5. What’s next for Euromed Management?
This is a critical year for our school and the last year that we will be known as “Euromed Management.” We are currently merging with Bordeaux’s management school and we will soon be called “Kedge Business School.” This means that the next integrated report must not only integrate financial and extra-financial information – it must also merge the reporting of two different schools. Luckily for us, Bordeaux also uses the Green Plan for its reporting.