Is the global reporting initiative suitable to account for university social responsibility? Evidence from European institutions



Recognising the importance of universities in the achievement of social and global objectives, this paper aims to study the relevance of the global reporting initiative (GRI) methodology for reporting University Social Responsibility (USR) activities, taking into account the specificity of higher education institutions (HEI).


After a review of the literature and background, the European HEI reports prepared according to the latest version of GRI standards are selected and a comparative study is carried out. The analysis focusses on comparing to what extent the standards are responding to the information needs generated in the field of higher education.


General issues, common to all types of organisations, are adequately reported by HEIs, but difficulties are encountered in integrating a vision that incorporates the role of their missions in standards related to economic, social and environmental aspects.

Research limitations/implications

There are few GRI reports with this format and further research is encouraged as the number of reports increase. So far, major limitations have been found by HEIs to account for their societal missions when using the GRI.

Practical implications

The debates on USR are promoting an increase in the number of reports on sustainability. This paper provides some examples of the use of disclosures that can be adapted in this context, to move towards the systematisation of these practices.


This is, to the authors’ knowledge, the first comparative study on the application of GRI to sustainability reports at a European level, focussing on the adequacy between disclosures and missions.

Keywords: 2030 agenda, GRI standards, Higher education institutions, Sustainability reports, Sustainable development goals, University social responsibility