How does a business know it is doing good environmentally and socially while doing well financially? What does it need to measure to show it is being sustainable? And how do consumers know to trust the environmental claims an organization makes?
This is where sustainability reporting standards and frameworks come in. They help organizations from the public and private sector understand, measure, and communicate their impact on pressing global issues like climate change and human rights.
Though the Lundquist College of Business’s Center for Sustainable Business Practices (CSBP), students learn what these standards are, why they’re relevant, and what it looks like when they’re applied in the workplace.
“We’ve been doing it for over 12 years,” said Izabel Loinaz, director for the center, and that’s an advantage in attracting students to the Lundquist College of Business.
Previously, professionals had to learn these frameworks on the job, Loinaz pointed out. But CSBP has been integrating the sustainability reporting standards and frameworks into its courses and curriculum for a while now, particularly at the MBA level. There’s even an MBA specialization in sustainable business practices.
By providing this education before students even graduate, they come out of the gates with the skills and knowledge to immediately help business execute and evaluate their sustainable business strategies.
These days, more and more business schools are adding these sustainability frameworks to their curriculum, though often at additional expense. But the Lundquist College of Business is well ahead of the trend and integrates sustainability reporting and standards throughout its courses—without any additional cost.
“Our students are at the level, or higher, than others spending $1,700 on these certification courses,” Loinaz said, who is a Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) certified instructor.
The GRI Standards are the most recent of GRI’s reporting frameworks, developed by the Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB). The first global standards for sustainability, the GRI Standards are free for the public, and as opposed to other reporting frameworks.
Performance indicators tracked in the framework include energy, biodiversity and emissions, and there are 30 environmental indicators ranging from EN1 (materials used by weight) to EN30 (total environmental expenditures by type of investment).
These priorities can affect every aspect of a business. For example, some indicators focus more on supply chain, while others are more operations focused. And at the Lundquist College, students learn what these priorities are, why they’re relevant, and what it looks like when they’re applied in the workplace.
“That’s really what we’re going for. We’re very heavy on experiential learning. Students understand so much better when they have to ‘touch and feel’ the work,” Loinaz said.
The GRI Framework is one of many sustainability reporting standards students are exposed to at the University of Oregon. But no matter what framework students work with, the goals are pretty much the same: help businesses and corporations play a part in addressing issues like income inequality and climate change, while also working to reduce poverty and to promote goals like education for women and girls all over the world.
According to Loinaz, not all markets are right for graduates entering the job market familiar with the GRI Framework, but they should be.
“In terms of the environmental commitment of the business community, this is the only direction to survive,” Loinaz said.
“Survival is to understand the effects of climate change on the future of business. Businesses that understand this are scooping up these students.”