The Confluence of Sustainability and Governance at the Universidade da Coruña (Spain): A Case Study

The Confluence of Sustainability and Governance at the Universidade da Coruña (Spain): A Case Study

Ángeles Longarela-Ares, Estefanía Mourelle, Carmen Gago-Cortés
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7634-2.ch005
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Universities are experiencing a transition to sustainable universities, as addressing environmental concerns has become a cornerstone for the governance of higher education institutions. As responsible for the formation of decision-makers and because of its duty with the society, these institutions must be in line with the current society. This chapter deals with the implementation of sustainable procedures and initiatives in a concrete university: the Universidade da Coruña in Spain. Great efforts have been done regarding raising awareness on environmental issues and the implementation of sustainable procedures, even with limited economic resources. As a result, this university is very well positioned in international rankings and has great potential in the field of sustainable development.
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Higher Education institutions (HEIs) are responsible for fostering and building critical thinking of citizens and future decision-makers (Henchen et al., 2019). Therefore, these institutions have the vision, the knowledge required and the power to lead the transition towards sustainable development, promoting the necessary changes (Ramísio, 2019). Hence, it is necessary to include academic activities and projects that promote social and environmental education in their study programmes. Nevertheless, HEIs must also put these initiatives into practice, so their internal management must become a successful benchmark of sustainability for the population (Henchen et al., 2019). Therefore, they must carry out both internal and external activities, which may include awareness campaigns, selection of relevant bibliography, socio-environmental training courses, energy eco-efficiency, responsible consumption, promotion of sustainable means of transport, financial transparency, and treatment of waste, among others.

The in-depth study of the different activities and its implementation process in this type of institution acquires a special relevance given that these activities can become an important reference for other organizations. The objective of this chapter is to carry out this analysis through a case study: The Universidade da Coruña (UDC), a Spanish Higher Education institution.

The UDC's transition towards a sustainable university begins to take shape with the 2013-2020 Strategic Plan, which clearly expresses the university's commitment to sustainable development. Since February 2014, this institution is implementing ecological management procedures under the Green Campus programme. Moreover, the commitment to sustainability is reflected in the UDC Sustainability Campus created in 2018. Other fundamental reference for sustainability is the Office of Environmental Planning, responsible for environmental management, awareness, and participation of the university community in the related issues. Another key objective of the Strategic Plan is the promotion of a quality, innovative and specialized teaching, as well as positioning the UDC as a leading institution in training for sustainability. Apart from the above-mentioned issues, the financial aspect of implementing these measures and the promotion of an efficient use of resources is also taken into account in the analysis. Addressing the sustainability actions from different perspectives and areas ensures that all the main objectives are considered, and this makes the analysis more complete.

Firstly, this study begins with a review on the relevance of sustainable development in today’s society. Secondly, the attention turns to education and its role on developing sustainable goals; in particular, the focus is Higher Education (HE) and its transition to sustainability at all levels. At this respect, we depart from a general framework to a particular one, deepening in the specific case of the Universidade da Coruña. This central section is a case study that goes from the institutional framework to the sustainability strategies adopted. From this analysis, the principles behind the implementation of the sustainability strategy of this university are introduced. Due to its importance, a separate section is devoted to the economic and financial implication that the transition to sustainability in HE involves. Finally, a discussion, as well as the most important conclusions, are presented.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Sustainability: The ability to continue its existence for a long time with activities that do not damage the environment and are in harmony with social and economic concerns.

Sustainable Development: The development achieved considering the needs of all type of stakeholders and that goods and services should be produced in ways that do not use resources that cannot be replaced and that do not damage the environment.

Governance: The art or way of governing to achieve lasting economic, social, and institutional development, promoting a healthy balance between the State, civil society and economic market.

Strategic Plan: Document that establishes the direction and objectives of an organization and the actions needed to achieve those objectives.

Resource Efficiency: The limited resources management in a sustainable manner while minimising environmental impacts.

Third Mission (of Universities): HEIs must be able to meet the social demands and to link their activity to the one developed in the socioeconomic context that surrounds them.

Higher Education (HE): Tertiary education leading to award of an academic degree as an optional final stage of formal learning that occurs after completion of secondary education.

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