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.

 

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