Sustainability practices in Spanish higher education institutions: An overview of status and implementation

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2021-05-01
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Elsevier
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Abstract
Higher education institutions have been steadily progressing towards the integration of sustainable practices in their university system. Consequently, an increasing number of these institutions have recognized their responsibility and are incorporating sustainability into their operations, and practices, following a holistic approach. Despite these efforts in the implementation, there are still many challenges to pursue sustainability. In the Spanish framework, there is a lack of studies that investigate sustainable development in higher education by considering all the dimensions. Especially, the efforts of the Spanish Universities in research have been scarcely analysed in detail. This study analyze how Spanish Public and Private Universities (SUE) are integrating sustainability into their institutions by the following dimensions: Research (based on a search strategy proposed by considering the social, economic and environmental perspective); Internationalization (participation in GreenMetrics ranking and European Framework projects), University Governance (Strategic Plans); Assessment and Reporting (Sustainability Plans) and Campus Operations (Green offices). The findings reveal that some institutions present a higher production of scientific activity on the topic (e.g. UAB), while others with less production are more specialized (e.g. UA). The commitment of the universities has increased over time but it varies greatly among different kind of universities, especially in favour of the public institutions. By analyzing the correlation between sustainability practice, it was found that there are high association between some of the variables i.e. sustainability plan and having a green office. However, this study clearly demonstrates that although SD is recognized as being very important to HEIs and society, it is not yet embedded in the whole system's strategies, activities, and policies.
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