Throughout the month of October, PRiMEtime has been focused on how business schools are reporting on sustainability, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and responsible management more broadly and, more importantly, what the future of reporting might look like. Here we focus in on indicators and how they are used in reporting. While a growing number of Signatories are reporting on specific actions that they have in place that contribute to the SDGs, it isn’t always easy to understand what their actual contribution is or how to communicate the progress and impact of their contributions. In response to this, a group of Signatories in Latin America, led by ISAE-FGV and Universidad Externado de Colombia, developed a system of indicators that offers a way to prioritize and report on a schools most significant contributions to the SDGs. I spoke with Gustavo Loiola from ISAE Brazil about this collaborative initiative.
What is the University Social Responsibility and why is this important, in particular in Latin America?
The purpose of the initiative University Social Responsibility Indicators System is to build a series of indicators that would allow business schools to measure and track their performance in terms of sustainability in a reliable, comparable, objective and efficient manner. It is important because it helps a school define the parameters and scope of the management of sustainability within an educational institution, but it also allows a school to choose the level that they want to report at depending on their audience.
How did it come about?
The idea first started with Professor Gustavo Yepes, from Colombia, who as a focal point proposed, together with the Local Network of the United Nations Global Compact, the construction of a system of indicators for the social responsibility of the universities. Although this process started in Colombia soon, many academic leaders from Ibero-America joined and in the end 40 professors participated, expert members of the PRME, coming from 28 institutions and 7 different countries and took about 18 months of virtual and face-to-face meetings, it was finally presented in 2018 in the city of Lima, Peru at the PRME LAC meeting.
What is the Indicators Systems?
The Indicators Systems is made up of 5 areas, 27 general aspects, 85 sub-aspects and 181 indicators, which are comparable to the standards of the GRI, Principles of the Global Compact, the OECD guidelines and the Fundamental Subjects of the ISO. The five areas include leadership and strategy, teaching, research, extension or social projection and finally operational administration. Schools can also choose whether they report at a basic, standard, intermediate or advanced level depending on the level of detail provided. It is also characterized by being a traceable, comprehensive, adaptable, strategic and flexible system and its benefits are mainly based on the visibility of changes in the operation processes, evaluation of significant and common aspects of the institutions, comparable, promotes institutional leadership, promotes transparency with stakeholders and reflects the commitment to sustainability.
Why do you think this project is important?
I believe that the use of indicators is increasingly important to bring more seriousness and materiality to the SIP Reports. At ISAE, we always used the GRI framework, but we often had difficulties because they are indicators for companies – but they were clear indicators that support our sustainability strategy. What I would like to see is a better integration between the existing indicators, as well as it is extremely necessary to connect the goals of the Sustainable Development Goals – this view is fundamental.
How are the indicators being used?
ISAE was the first institution to officially use the indicator system and launch its SIP Report using the methodology. We used all indicators in an experimental way. At the same time, we made some adaptations, merging with the materiality process proposed by the GRI. The report is available at this link in a bilingual version (). The use of the system is very intuitive. We divided it into 5 stages: The first is to define the scope of the report (if it will refer to the entire university or just an academic unit, for example), the second is to define the report level (which influences the number of indicators to be used – in the case of ISAE, we consult our stakeholders to identify the demands), the third step is the collection of information, followed by the writing of the report, finally, layout and dissemination.
In Colombia, there is a working group that is implementing this process in some schools simultaneously, and in Brazil we also have a group discussing a new version for the indicators.
What are some of the challenges of using this?
The main challenge was data collection. Since much of the data had never been collected before, or was in different departments, this process was more laborious. However, after this collection, the internal feedback was excellent, since everyone now has clearer and more objective data collection tools. In October, we started collecting data for the 2021 report.
What advice do you have for schools developing indicators for their reporting?
The ideal is to seek the integration, simplicity and objectivity of the indicators.
The University Social Responsibility Indicators System was built with this in mind and is available for use by any school, so there is already an interesting framework available.
I think that objectivity in data collection and a good writing are essential to ensure that the document is read by all interested parties. After all, it is not enough to just have a beautiful and data-rich document, without anyone reading it, right?
Any advice for Chapters looking to work collaboratively on a project?
We are more than happy to share more of our experiences and insights with other schools and to share the process of building a report using the indicators. In Brazil, together with some other institutions in the Chapter, we are working on a workshop model to train schools that are signatories or that want to become signatories to the PRME to understand more about the reporting process. In the future, the idea is to incorporate this training for Latin America and perhaps other chapters. It would be interesting for other schools in different countries to learn about this system of indicators and use them.
What’s next for this project
At PRME Chapter Brazil, we created a working group to review the indicators and propose improvements. Currently, the objective is to incorporate the SDG target indicators, in addition to some themes that are required by international accreditors and other local assessment systems. We hope to have a new version by the end of this year.
How can others use this tool?
The system is available to PRME schools in English, Portuguese and Spanish. It is an intuitive and easy-to-use tool that contributes not only to the report but also to the construction of an effective sustainability strategy in educational institutions, clearly relating to the principles of PRME. I invite everyone to read and take ownership of this content!
To review the indicators and project, read .