Voluntary disclosure of sustainability reports by Canadian universities

Abstract

In contrast to corporate firms, voluntary sustainability reporting by universities is still in its infancy. Against this background, we have investigated which Canadian universities report their sustainability performance and what specifically is reported. Our study applies content analyses as a methodological approach to determine the relative importance of disclosure topics by using a university-specific catalogue of indicators. This unique study completely covers all sustainability reports published between 2011 and 2015 by Canadian universities and as such provides evidence and analyses of voluntary sustainability reporting by universities, which has been the subject of very little research to date. The findings show that sustainability reporting by Canadian universities diverges considerably and the range of aspects included is relatively narrow. Overall, the results show a clear focus on the environmental dimension and very weak coverage of the social dimension. The environmental orientation of many Canadian universities seems to be a result of their participation in the STARS program.

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Correspondence to Remmer Sassen.

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The authors thank The University of Hamburg Center for a Sustainable University for its financial support of the project. We are grateful to Logini Yoganathan and Julia Floßdorf for their support in data collection. The authors thank two anonymous reviewers and Prof. Dr. Inga Hardeck for their valuable comments, which have greatly improved the paper.

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Sassen, R., Azizi, L. Voluntary disclosure of sustainability reports by Canadian universities. J Bus Econ 88, 97–137 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11573-017-0869-1

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Keywords

  • Sustainability reporting
  • University
  • Voluntary disclosure
  • Higher-education institution
  • Canada
  • Content analysis

JEL Classification

  • Q560
  • I230