Engaging with the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development: A role for Integrated Reporting in universities
The United Nations’ Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is one of the most ambitious and important global agreements in recent history. The agenda, with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at its core, is a guide to tackling the world’s most pressing challenges – including ending poverty and bringing economic prosperity, social inclusion, environmental sustainability and good governance to all countries and all people.
Education and research are explicitly recognised in a number of the SDGs and universities have a direct role to play in addressing these through our learning and teaching, research, operations and impact.
There is no ‘right way’ for a university to engage with the SDGs and they will choose to act contingent on their size, context, research or teaching strengths, funding availability, values, priorities and the needs of the communities they serve. However, to adequately address these goals requires innovation, acceleration, new ways of thinking and collaboration.
The Erasmus+ project Innovative Solutions for Sustainability in Education (ISSUE) provides an opportunity for Leeds Business School to engage with university partners across Europe to encourage and support Integrated Thinking and Reporting as a means of engaging with and addressing the sustainable development agenda.
At a recent workshop at the Bled School of Management in Slovenia, Leeds Business School academics - Dr Fiona Robertson and Dr Albana Rasha provided an introduction to Integrated Reporting (IR) and the role that it can play in taking forward the SDGs. They outlined the IR framework and the function that Integrated Thinking plays in a process to support a journey where universities use the IR framework to clearly identify and articulate the value they create and their connections with the SDGs.
Over the next eighteen months we will collaborate with university partners in Finland, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia and Spain to take forward IR in each university.
This will include making the business case for IR, mapping current practice and a series of workshops to facilitate integrated thinking and longer-term value creation that are central to IR and future sustainable development.
Reflection on these experiences will inform the further development of practical knowledge and improve our understanding of the value created by universities in relation to some of the biggest sustainable development challenges we face.