Governance issues, here interpreted as the provisions of adequate policy frameworks characterized by reliability and accountability, coupled with resources to support their implementation, are known to be the basis for the implementation of sustainable development measures. This paper discusses the influence of governance in the ways sustainability is perceived and practiced in a higher education context. Apart from due considerations to the role of governance as the basis for regulation and institutional actions and management decisions, this paper reports on an empirical study undertaken in a sample of higher education institutions. This study entailed an analysis of sustainable development policies, certification, organizational structure, budget, reports, team for sustainability, staff training, and challenges for the integration of sustainability and governance. The results suggest that even though there are different opinions and attitudes on the role of governance, it is regarded as an important component in supporting efforts by higher education institutions to include considerations on sustainable development as part of their strategies.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Aleixo, A. M., Azeiteiro, U., & Leal, S. (2018). The implementation of sustainability practices in Portuguese higher education institutions. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 19(1), 146–178.
Baker-Shelley, A., van Zeijl-Rozema, A., & Martens, P. (2017). A conceptual synthesis of organisational transformation: How to diagnose, and navigate, pathways for sustainability at universities? Journal of Cleaner Production, 145, 262–276.
Bauer, M., Bormann, I., Kummer, B., Niedlich, S., & Rieckmann, M. (2018). Sustainability governance at universities: Using a governance equalizer as a research heuristic. Higher Education Policy, 31(4), 491–511.
Biermann, F., Abbott, K., Andresen, S., Bäckstrand, K., Bernstein, S., Betsill, M. M., et al. (2012). Navigating the Anthropocene: Improving earth system governance. Science, 335(6074), 1306–1307.
Byrne, E., Desha, C., Fitzpatrick, J, & Hargroves, K. (2010). EESD: A review of international progress. Workshop paper for 3rd international symposium for engineering education. Cork, 30 June–2 July 2010.
Ceulemans, K., Molderez, I., & Van Liedekerke, L. (2015). Sustainability reporting in higher education: A comprehensive review of the recent literature and paths for further research. Journal of Cleaner Production, 106, 127–143.
Christensen, L. J., Peirce, E., Hartman, L. P., Hoffman, W. M., & Carrier, J. (2007). Ethics, CSR, and sustainability education in the Financial Times top 50 global business schools: Baseline data and future research directions. Journal of Business Ethics, 73(4), 347–368.
Cobián, R. A., & Reátegui, F. (2009). Toward systemic social transformation: Truth commissions and development. Transitional Justice and Development: Making Connections, 8, 158–159.
Connolly, T. M., Stansfield, M., & Hainey, T. (2007). An application of games-based learning within software engineering. British Journal of Educational Technology, 38(3), 416–428.
Coutinho, V., Domingues, A. R., Caeiro, S., Painho, M., Antunes, P., Santos, R., et al. (2018). Employee-driven sustainability performance assessment in public organisations. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 25(1), 29–46.
Crow, M. M. (2010a). Organizing teaching and research to address the grand challenges of sustainable development. BioScience, 60(7), 488–489.
Crow, M. M. (2010b). Toward institutional innovation in America’s Colleges and Universities. Trusteeship, 18(3), 8–13.
Dacin, M. T., Dacin, P. A., & Tracey, P. (2011). Social entrepreneurship: A critique and future directions. Organization Science, 22(5), 1203–1213.
Deemer, R., & Horvath, V. (2017). Shared governance from both sides of the fence. Shared Governance in Higher Education, Volume 2: New Paradigms, Evolving Perspectives, 2, 21.
der Alonso-Almeida, M., Mar, M., Casani, F., & Rodriguez-Pomeda, J. (2015). Diffusion of sustainability reporting in universities: Current situation and future perspectives. Journal of Cleaner Production, 106, 144–154.
Disterheft, A., Caeiro, S., Azeiteiro, U., Filho, W., & Leal Filho, W. (2015). Sustainable universities—A study of critical success factors for participatory approaches. Journal of Cleaner Production, 106, 11–21.
Disterheft, A., Caeiro, S. S., Leal Filho, W., & Azeiteiro, U. M. (2016). The INDICARE-model-measuring and caring about participation in higher education’s sustainability assessment. Ecological Indicators, 63, 172–186.
Drahein, A. D., De Lima, E. P., & Da Costa, S. E. G. (2019). Sustainability assessment of the service operations at seven higher education institutions in Brazil. Journal of Cleaner Production, 212, 527–536.
European Union. (2018). Summaries of EU Legislation. Glossary of summaries. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/summary/glossary/governance.html Accessed 28 February 2019.
Ferrero-Ferrero, I., Fernández-Izquierdo, M. Á., Muñoz-Torres, M. J., & Bellés-Colomer, L. (2018). Stakeholder engagement in sustainability reporting in higher education: An analysis of key internal stakeholders’ expectations. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 19(2), 313–336.
Findler, F., Schönherr, N., Lozano, R., & Stacherl, B. (2019). Assessing the impacts of higher education institutions on sustainable development—An analysis of tools and indicators. Sustainability. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11010059.
Fonseca, A., Macdonald, A., Dandy, E., & Valenti, P. (2011). The state of sustainability reporting at Canadian Universities. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 12(1), 22–40.
Gamage, P., & Sciulli, N. (2017). Sustainability reporting by Australian Universities. Australian Journal of Public Administration, 76(2), 187–203.
Gibbons, M. (1999). Science’s new social contract with society. Nature, 402(6761), C81.
Global Reporting Initiative. (2013). G4 sustainability reporting guidelines. Reporting principles and standard disclosures. Global Reporting Initiative. https://www.globalreporting.org/resourcelibrary/GRIG4-Part1-Reporting-Principles-and-Standard-Disclosures.pdf Accessed 17 May 2019.
HESI. (2017). Higher education institutions—Key drivers of the sustainable development goals. A special event of the 2017 High-level political forum on sustainable development, UN HQ, New York, NY.
Johnson, L., Becker, S. A., Cummins, M., Estrada, V., Freeman, A., & Hall, C. (2016). NMC horizon report: 2016 higher education edition (pp. 1–50). The New Media Consortium.
Jones, G. R. (2013). Organizational theory, design, and change. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.
Jones, P., Selby, D., & Sterling, S. (2010). Introduction. In P. Jones, D. Selby, & S. Sterling (Eds.), Sustainability education: Perspectives and practice across higher education. London: Earthscan.
Keddy, P. A. (1991). Working with heterogeneity: An operator’s guide to environmental gradients. Ecological heterogeneity (pp. 181–201). New York: Springer.
Kjaer, A. (2011). Rhodes’ contribution to governance theory: Praise, criticism and the future governance debate. Public Administration, 89(1), 101–113.
Klugman, J. (1999). Financing and governance of education in central Asia. MOST: Economic Policy in Transitional Economies, 9(4), 423–442.
Leal Filho, W. (2010). Teaching sustainable development at university level: Current trends and future needs. Journal of Baltic Science Education, 9(4), 273–284.
Leal Filho, W. (Ed.). (2012). Sustainable development at universities. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.
Leal Filho, W., Pallant, E., Enete, A., Richter, B., & Brandli, L. L. (2018). Planning and implementing sustainability in higher education institutions: An overview of the difficulties and potentials. International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology, 25(8), 713–721.
Leer, R., & Ivanov, S. (2013). Rethinking the future of learning: The possibilities and limitations of technology in education in the 21st century. International Journal of Organizational Innovation (Online), 5(4), 14.
Lozano, R. (2006). Tool for a graphical assessment of sustainability in universities (GASU). Journal of Cleaner Production, 14(9–11), 963–972.
Lozano, R. (2011). The state of sustainability reporting in universities. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 12(1), 67–78.
Lozano, R. (2018). Sustainable business models: Providing a more holistic perspective. Business Strategy and the Environment, 27(8), 1159–1166.
Lozano, R., Ceulemans, K., Alonso-Almeida, M., Huisingh, D., Lozano, F. J., Waas, T., et al. (2015). A review of commitment and implementation of sustainable development in higher education: Results from a worldwide survey. Journal of Cleaner Production, 108, 1–18.
Mader, C., Scott, G., & Dzulkifli, A. R. (2013). Effective change management, governance and policy for sustainability transformation in higher education. Sustainability, 4(3), 264–284.
Nanda, V. (2006). The “Good governance” concept revisited. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 603(1), 269–283.
Nordqvist, M., Sharma, P., & Chirico, F. (2014). Family firm heterogeneity and governance: A configuration approach. Journal of Small Business Management, 52(2), 192–209.
Popescu, M., & Beleau, C. (2014). Improving management of sustainable development in universities. Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Brasov, 7(56), 97–106.
Ramos, T. B., Caeiro, S., Van Hoof, B., Lozano, R., Huisingh, D., & Ceulemans, K. (2015). Experiences from the implementation of sustainable development in higher education institutions: Environmental management for sustainable universities. Journal of Cleaner Production, 106, 3–10.
Rath, K., & Schmitt, C. T. (2017). Sustainability at universities: Degrees of institutionalization for sustainability at German higher education institutions—A categorization pattern. Handbook of theory and practice of sustainable development in higher education (pp. 451–470). Springer.
Sivapalan, S. (2016). Engineering education for sustainable development in Malaysia: Student stakeholders perspectives on the integration of holistic sustainability competences within undergraduate engineering programmes. In W. Leal Filho & L. Brandli (Eds.), Engaging stakeholders in education for sustainable development at university level., World sustainability series Cham: Springer.
Smith, A. A. (1993). Campus ecology: A guide to assessing environmental quality and creating strategies for change. Los Angeles: Living Planet.
Soini, K., Jurgilevich, A., Pietikäinen, J., & Korhonen-Kurki, K. (2018). Universities responding to the call for sustainability: A typology of sustainability centres. Journal of Cleaner Production, 170, 1423–1432.
Spira, F., Tappeser, V., & Meyer, A. (2013). Perspectives on sustainability governance from universities in the USA, UK, and Germany: How do change agents employ different tools to alter organizational cultures and structures?. In: Sustainability assessment tools in higher education institutions (pp. 175–187). Cham: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02375-5_10.
Stiglitz, J. E. (1999). The World Bank at the millennium. The Economic Journal, 109(459), F597. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-0297.00473.
Tappeser, V., & Mayer, A. (2012). Change-agents in sustainability governance: Institutional transformation at three institutions of higher education. In W. Leal Filho (Ed.), Sustainable development at universities: New horizons. Frankfurt: Peter Lang Scientific Publishers.
Trencher, G., Bai, X., Evans, J., McCormick, K., & Yarime, M. (2014). University partnerships for co-designing and co-producing urban sustainability. Global Environmental Change, 28, 153–165.
UN (United Nations). (1972). Report of the United Nations on the human environment. Stockholm, 5–16 June 1972. A/CONF.48/14/Rev.1. http://www.un-documents.net/aconf48-14r1.pdf and http://www.un-documents.net/unchedec.htm Accessed 3 March 2019.
UN (United Nations). (2019). Higher education sustainability initiative (HESI). https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdinaction/hesi. Accessed 03 March 2019.
U.S. AID. (2005). Policy. Nine principles of development and reconstruction assistance. www.usaid.gov/policy Accessed 27 February 2019.
van Zeijl-Rozema, A., Cörvers, R., Kemp, R., & Martens, P. (2008). Governance for sustainable development: A framework. Sustainable Development, 16(6), 410–421.
Vaughter, P., McKenzie, M., Lidstone, L., & Wright, T. (2016). Campus sustainability governance in Canada: A content analysis of post-secondary institutions’ sustainability policies. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 17(1), 16–39.
Vorley, T., & Nelles, J. (2009). Building entrepreneurial architectures: A conceptual interpretation of the third mission. Policy Futures in Education, 7(3), 284–296.
Wals, A. E. J., Tassone, V. C., Hampson, G. P., & Reams, J. (2016). Learning for walking the change: Eco-social innovation through sustainability-oriented higher education. In M. Barth, G. Michelsen, I. Thomas, & M. Rieckmann (Eds.), Routledge handbook of higher education for sustainable development (pp. 25–39). London: Routledge.
WCED. (1987). Our common future. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
World Bank. (1992). Governance and development (English). Washington, DC: The World Bank. http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/604951468739447676/Governance-and-development. Accessed 28 February 2019.
Yee, N. (2006). The demographics, motivations and derived experiences of users of massively-multiuser online graphical environments. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 15, 309–329.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Leal Filho, W., Salvia, A.L., Frankenberger, F. et al. Governance and sustainable development at higher education institutions. Environ Dev Sustain (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-020-00859-y
- Higher education