Sustainability and Stakeholder Awareness: A Case Study of a Scottish University
Environmental effects of industries and plants
Renewable energy sources
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AbstractThis paper adopted a case study approach to investigate the sustainability practices of a Scottish university in order to understand if sustainability forms part of its central policy agenda. As such, the paper focuses on the levels of awareness and disclosure of their sustainable practices, measuring the impacts and effectiveness of those initiatives. This paper introduces signaling theory to explore the idea that appropriate communication via integrated thinking can close the gap between the organization and its stakeholders. We believe that the provision of this relevant information will lead to better communication between the organization and its stakeholders, supporting a signaling theory interpretation. Therefore, we are suggesting that integrated thinking is an internal process that organizations can follow to increase the level of disclosure as a communication tool with stakeholders. From the literature reviewed, four themes were identified (definition of university sustainability, sustainability awareness, disclosure framework within universities, and level of accountability). The research adopted a pragmatic view and conducted individual interviews with participants belonging to three stakeholder groups (members of the university’s senior management, the governing council, and the student union executive). Although this study focused on just one Scottish university, it should still provide some insight for the better understanding of the underpinning issues surrounding the sustainability accountability practices of Scottish universities in general. The research findings indicated that the university prioritized only two sustainability dimensions—economic and environmental—and that the university still perceived sustainability as a voluntary exercise. Additionally, it is evident that the university had no framework in place for measuring its sustainability delivery—and therefore had no established medium of communicating these activities to its stakeholders. Moreover, research findings showed that the social and educational context of sustainability was lacking at the university. The university has done little or nothing to educate its stakeholders on sustainability.