University of Melbourne

The University of Melbourne – Building an enduring foundation for sustainability leadership

“The Charter and Sustainability Plan led to a heightened level of engagement by the University community, and a shift in positive sentiment towards our sustainability approach. We are working very constructively with our stakeholders, which is a huge benefit. The Sustainability Report was the third piece of the Sustainability Strategy. This is a handy reference for a lot of people around the University and is now widely referenced. Deep engagement on sustainability around the University was evident throughout our data gathering and report preparation. Annual reporting is serving as a very effective promotional tool for our strengthened commitment to sustainability.” Clare Walker, Associate Director, Sustainability

ACCSR supported the University of Melbourne to develop its Sustainability Charter, Sustainability Plan 2017-2020, and its 2015 and 2016 Sustainability Reports.

The Client Challenge

The University of Melbourne takes seriously its role as a public-spirited institution and global thought leader. It recognises the responsibility that goes along with that aspiration – to lead and act on addressing the greatest societal issues. The development of the Sustainability Charter was foreshadowed in Growing Esteem, the University of Melbourne’s 2015-2020 strategy governing teaching and learning, research and engagement.

The University also wanted to develop a Sustainability Plan to operationalise the commitments made in the Charter. The University wished to use the Global Reporting Initiative for sustainability reporting to communicate to stakeholders how it was addressing its main sustainability impacts, and demonstrate its progress towards the delivery of sustainability targets.

Our approach

Our approach was to work closely with the University’s Sustainability Executive, acting as an extended part of the team. Work began on the Charter in 2015, as a framework for embedding social and environmental sustainability across all University activities.

We began by benchmarking leading Universities globally for their approach to sustainability to provide the University of Melbourne with best practice examples against which to aspire. We then worked with the University to develop and implement a stakeholder engagement and consultation plan to draft the Charter. This entailed public forums and workshops as well as online feedback.

The Charter was published in March 2016. It is an enduring framework, which defines the University’s principles and values and the high-level commitments for its activity areas.

We then moved to develop the Sustainability Plan, using stakeholder mapping, engagement, and consultation. This included a series of public forums and workshops, online feedback and working with a range of University committees charged with developing actionable targets. Both students and staff were involved.

The stakeholder consultation process also established a foundation for ongoing engagement in the implementation of the designated actions, including greater awareness among stakeholders of the University’s activities, and greater collaboration among research departments. The Sustainability Plan has an operational focus which identifies the University’s priority actions, targets and commitment from 2017-2020.

The high quality, succinct Sustainability Reports have been valuable tools to engage stakeholders and support the University’s reputation as an innovative and dynamic contributor to the sustainability agenda in Melbourne and internationally. The Reports are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Global Compact, using the Global Reporting Initiative Framework in 2015 and the Standards from 2016. To prepare the 2015 Report, we completed a materiality assessment and helped the University plan, collect information, and draft the 2015 Sustainability Report. The 2016 Sustainability Report announced the commitments in the Sustainability Plan. Annual Sustainability reporting will be used to communicate progress against the Plan in future.

The results

The Sustainability Charter, Plan, and Report form the institutional framework for sustainability that will underpin the University of Melbourne’s efforts for the coming years. Hundreds of students and staff were engaged in the development of this framework, in a respectful and thoughtful manner.

The University’s approach showed a deep commitment to the principles of stakeholder materiality, inclusiveness, and responsiveness, which underpinned a successful outcome for all stakeholders.

The Sustainability Plan is ambitious, representing strong commitment to lead and act on sustainability challenges. The University’s efforts focus on the integration of research, teaching, engagement, governance and operations, with the aspiration to develop its campuses as models of resilient communities.

The Sustainability Reports are widely referenced within the University and are a point of pride for the University community.

To read about the University of Melbourne’s commitments and achievements, click here.

To read about ACCSR’s services, click here.