Leveraging Sustainability Reporting in Higher Education Institutions—A Multidimensional Research Agenda

Thorsten Schoormann, Jan Buhrig, Dennis Behrens, Ralf Knackstedt


Sustainability has become increasingly important to research and practice. In order to determine impacts, identify improvement potential and to disclose efforts towards sustainability, an organization needs appropriate reporting. Thus, sustainability reporting has become a topic of broader interest, for example, to assess own situations, enable benchmarking, communicate own efforts and improve trust. Although sustainability reporting is a complex issue, only limited research and guidelines for higher education institutions (HEI) are available. Accordingly, negative impacts occur such as regarding the standardization and, thus, the comparability of reports. This article describes and demonstrates how different approaches from research related to reporting (information systems research in particular) and sustainability can be transferred to the field of sustainability reporting in HEIs to leverage the applicability of such reports. As a result, classifications of existing indicators and methodical approaches are provided, which are based on the analysis of a campus management system and different reporting standards as well as reporting knowledge in general. These classifications indicate that financial aspects are often focused and environmental issues are neglected. Moreover, the findings emphasize the importance of further multidimensional research on different topics such as (re-)development of specific indicators for HEIs, (re-)design of campus management systems and extension of current reporting standards. Therfore, a research agenda—with 18 agenda items—that synthesizes the presented directions is proposed. This agenda can be used to position further research or to derive new and innovative research questions.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5430/ijhe.v6n4p185


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International Journal of Higher Education
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