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In Scotland, Edinburgh Napier University is ranked as the prevalent Higher Education Institution that has currently 18,000 students and they are from about 109 countries across the world. The competitive edge that the university has over others in the industry is that it ensures the courses offered keep an optimum balance between the theory taught and practices done in the real world. All of the university's graduates are equipped with the skills and competencies required to compete effectively in the global market (About Us, 2013).
In order to represent itself as an organisation that is concerned about the surrounding ecological issues related to the economy, social, environment and cultural, the University has undertaken a wide range of sustainability initiatives. Even the strategy of the University is developed in such a way that it emphasises its aim of enchaining the prospects and lives of people of the country along with their communities. However, there are some challenges that are faced by the Higher Education Institutions in the country that are challenging for successful embedding of the sustainability in the environment (Celeumans, 2010).
Higher Education Sector of United Kingdom (UK)
United Kingdom (UK) has an internationally recognised system of the higher education. In the last few years, the number of people enrolled in HEIs has increased by significant proportion as there is a diverse range of subjects offered to the students. Almost all the graduates of these HEIs can successfully get jobs with lucrative pays and make successful contribution to the country's economy (Russell International Excellence Group, 2010).
The employers and country's economy are exploiting the benefits from the HEIs that are ensuring that the country is provided with highly qualified, competitive and proficient people who can support in boosting the economic performance of UK. In today's world, there is a growing trend of the universities that make contribution to the well-being of the community and environment. HEIs have become conscious about their roles in fostering the concept of sustainability by introducing programs that spreads the knowledge about Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development. Both of these subjects are new in the industry and they have gained importance because of the deteriorating conditions of the country and the global warming side effects (Gray-Donald et al., 2010).
Challenges related to sustainability issue
On global level, all societies are have to deal with the matter related to intertwining future that is immersing people deeply into the realities about social inequalities, changing climatic conditions and weak economic systems. There is an ever increasing demand for sustainable development which is defined as "the development that will meet the present needs without making any compromise on the capability of forthcoming generations for successfully meeting their own requirements" (Puukka, 2008).
Since the introduction of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects by the governments and corporations, there is a growing trend of developing a green environment. Now-a-days, people are conscious about the impact of their decisions on the environment and give excellent status to those organisations that support the idea of sustainability and protection of natural resources (Vohra & Sheel, 2012). Almost all the commercial entities are getting their stakeholders engaged in the CSR projects so that they can to something beneficial for the entire community welfare (BIS, 2010).
As a University is considered to be an organisation and is assumed to be an integral part of the society, it has to ensure that it undertakes its activities in accordance to the desires of the community. For instance, the global warming is an alarming issue worldwide and the key environmental players are employing methods that can reduce Carbon dioxide emission, control pollution and preserve the natural resources. Similarly, the universities have to get involved in schemes that will allow them to create a sustainable environment (Rake & Grayson, 2009).
The key areas of sustainability concern that are prevalent in the environment are related to climate change, biodiversity, human rights issues and air pollution. Since HEI is a platform that improvises the future human resources of the country, they have a role in developing the ethical and social conscientiousness in the students, staff, faculty and all other stakeholders (The Bridge Group, 2011). Hence, the university plays an important role in cultivating the sense of social accountability of being a country's citizen.
In order to nurture the ethical and social responsibility, the universities have changed their program curriculums to incorporate the courses related to business ethics, social responsibility and widening the scope of sustainability (Tilbury, 2012). With the help of these courses, the students and teachers are encouraged to undertake researches that will unleash the areas that have not been discovered. Usually, the HEIs have developed research centres specifically designated for such research projects but the problem encountered is lack of funds or insufficient staff.
As the economic recession has severely impacted the lives of many people, it has become difficult for them to bear the educational costs. The government of UK has even reduced the amount of funding that it provided to the HEIs for providing the financial assistance to the students; it has decreased the number of scholarships that were available for the merit students. Even the number of qualified faculty and staff members has reduced to a great extent because they don't have the money to finance the expensive educational programs (Djordjevic & Cotton, 2011). Similarly, the health of people is declining which means that the employees are looking for more health benefits in their prospective jobs.
However, the challenges related to the availability of research personnel and funding resources are being handled by the concerned authorities and they have been resolved to a considerable extent. There are still many HEIs that have to bring about required changes so that they can provide assistance in enhancing the sustainability of environment and its people.
Growing concern for embedding sustainability in Universities
In order to embed the sustainability development infrastructure within the University, it is important to make the stakeholders realise the need of developing ethical behaviour and fulfilling their social responsibilities. It is believed that HEI is the right place for nourishing the mandatory attitudes of students so that they can employ their skills effectively in sustainable developmental projects (Hooi, Hassan & Jami, 2011).
According to Kakabadse, Rozuel, and Lee-Davies (2005), an enhanced perceptive of a responsible citizen, following ethical code of conduct and supporting cultural diversity can be improvised during the education period in HEI. During their study tenure, the students develop the ability of doing critical analysis of their behaviour as they have to comply with the institution's rules and regulations and any violation of the policy can impact their career life.
At HEI, the students are required to show ethical and responsible behaviour especially in relation to assessment items or deception in examinations; accepting the rights of others; acquiring research data improperly; and assisting others in any fraudulent activity. Each student is even expected to give respect to the staff of University all the time and promote the culture of courtesy and tolerance among students and provide evidence of respect for the different cultures (Brown & Cloke, 2009).
In order to make worthwhile contribution in sustainability in higher education, the universities vary in terms of magnitude and scope. Some of them cover an extensive range of programmes and initiatives from anything as simplistic as developing an elective course for intense social integration to in-depth integration at social level between the student and community. Now-a-days, the HEIs are getting engaged in various CSR activities that are making meaningful contribution in the society (Murphy, Sharma & Moon, 2012).
Almost all the sustainability projects that are being run by HEIs are addressing one of the sustainability issues highlighted by the environmental experts such as carbon emission, pollution in air, biodiversity and human rights issues. It has been found in numerous studies that the universities are supporting the concept of developing a green strategy that takes into account the entire range of environmental, social and economical issues (Sibbel, 2009).
Some of the major projects that are initiated by the HEIs are termed as Carbon Management Projects, Energy Conversion Measures, Information Services optimisation, Energy efficient transportation, Waste Management (Paper, water, plastic and other materials), Biodiversity, CSR and proficient procurement techniques (Idowu, 2012). All of such projects have demonstrated the willingness of the universities to ensure compliance with the sustainability development within the country.
Analysis of initiatives undertaken by the Sustainability Office at Edinburgh Napier University
Edinburgh Napier University has ensured that it embarks on its sustainable development responsibility by commencing various projects that address the environmental and social issues that are faced by the HEIs (Sustainability, 2013a). The detailed analysis of the University's Strategy that is provided in its 2009-2015 plans reveals the following aims:
To ensure that apex organisational standards are achieved.
To curtail and reduce our business impact on the environment by ensuring sustainable growth.
To ensure that Environmental Sustainability Plan is effectively implemented and will even commit ourselves to the Universities and Colleges Climate Commitment for Scotland. The first step that will is planned to be taken is the implementation of the green IT systems at our Sightill Campus.
To ensure that the carbon emissions are calculated on routine basis as it is the primary key indicator of performance.
Finally, the university will act as a responsible business that is committed to the growth of sustainability, controlling the adverse impacts of the business on the environment by reducing waste, energy usage and various other courses.
The analysis of the Sustainability Report published by the University indicates that it has implemented various sustainable developmental projects (Sustainability, 2013b). In order to promote the support for sustainability, it has developed Environmental Management (EMS) System that comprises of Carbon Management Awareness Plan, Carbon Management Plan Update and EcoSystem.
The main tasks performed by the EMS are management of biodiversity, management of contractors, efficient construction mechanism, production of effluent noise, enhanced procurement and waste management techniques, usage and storage of chemicals, oils, pesticides and refrigeration cases, economical use of utilities and proficient extraction of wood (Sustainability, 2013a).
According to Mehta (2011), a university that ensures proper integration between CSR and sustainability requirements is able to prosper successfully in fulfilling the environmental responsibilities. In addition to the development of the programs, it is vital that the top management fulfils its commitment, make appropriate plans for implementation of the business strategy and develops realistic and clear goals. The monitoring of the effectiveness of these projects is mandatory to ensure that the university is applying the appropriate concept of environmental management.
It is evident from the study of EMS system of Edinburgh Napier University that the success of this system is based on the following key factors:
Full commitment and involvement of the top management in terms of resources availability and providing support for the implementation of these sustainable developmental projects.
Strong and effective communication channels in the form of monthly meetings, publishing of the sustainability reports and documentation of the plans.
Planning mechanism is flexible so that any immediate requirements or changes can be appropriately incorporated.
Monitoring practices are detailed so that comprehensive examination of the initiative can be done.
All improvement goals are made in alignment with the strategy so that the overall business can take advantage and it can maintain its competitive advantage in the industry.
Perfectly integrating management system as the new EcoSystem is incorporated with excellence in the already existing management system.
Overall, Edinburgh Napier University is definitely a good example for those HEIs in Scotland who want to play a meaningful role in the environmental protection. Since its first project, the University has ensured that it undertakes all those measures that will help it in enhancing the living standards of the people belonging to the community.
Part B: Reputation is crucial in Higher Education in UK
Evaluation of importance of University reputation in Higher Education Sector
When the prospective students are looking for information about the university options that are available in accordance to their field of study, there is an array of factors that are considered by them. The key factors that the students give undue importance to comprise of the reputation of the university, faculty available, fees structure of the program, facilities available for the students and accommodation and transportation services (Idowu, 2012). Among all the factors, the major feature that is given top most priority to the university is its reputation.
In today's market, any organisation that has a good reputation in the market is able to attract more customers and has more chances of earning huge amounts of profit. Similarly, the HEI who has an excellent ranking is able to enjoy a superior position in the industry (Rusinko, 2010). Since the consumers are concerned about the activities that are undertaken by the businesses, they prefer to avail the products and services of those organisations that are eco-friendly and ensure that they implement the green strategy.
According to Grindsted (2011), the green strategy has become an integral part of every business strategy because it gives a positive signal to the customers that the organisation values the protection of environment and natural resources. It has been found that the organisations that have a good reputation as being 'environmental friendly' are able to gain competitive edge in the market (Cannon, 2011). Some of the universities have employed the 'sustainable development' concept to enhance their image among the students and the effectiveness of CSR activities is evident from their continuous growth in the respective education industry.
Edinburgh Napier University's image and reputation analysis
The concept of CSR has been present in the business world for many years and it has undergone various reforms to ensure compliance with the changing trends of the competitive and global environment. It has evolved from promoting only ethical and socially responsible behaviour to creating sustainability. The universities in UK have started to incorporate the CSR activities to portray their image as the sustainable and green supporting HEIs (Gray-Donald et al., 2010).
For many years, the universities have been following the capitalist theory as stated by Friedmon (1970) which mandates that a business exists to maximise the profit and has sole responsibility towards satisfaction of the customers and shareholders. Friedmon also gave a viewpoint that engaging in social activities will reduce the profit so the organisations should not get involved in such schemes (Idowu, 2012).
However, the researchers such as Freeman, Elkington, Daly, Carroll and many others studied the concept of CSR with more depth and concluded that an organisation has a wider range of responsibility to various stakeholders such as employees, community, customers, shareholders, government, suppliers and distributors (Cannon, 2011). Every business has two main reasons for this moral duty i.e. ensure that their operations don't impact the environment in hazardous way and appreciate the assistance made by the stakeholders in acting as ethical and socially responsible contributors.
Environmental responsibility, Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainability are inter-related
The researchers have developed various theories to explain the concepts of CSR and sustainability so that the corporations and business entities can develop their strategies in accordance to the requirements of the stakeholders. One of the most effective theories that has helped in understanding the importance of CSR is known as "The Bottom Line" which was developed by John Eklington. According to the researcher, an organisation has to fulfil three goals i.e. economic, social and environmental so that it can sustain for long time in the market (Puukka, 2008).
Similarly, Archie Carroll developed a Four-Part Model in which the pyramid shows that a corporate entity has four levels of responsibility which are classified as legal, philanthropic, economic and ethical. Another well-know framework is the Stakeholder Engagement which promotes the idea of involving every stakeholder in CSR activities as everyone is equally responsible for the protection of environment and has to fulfil their roles as responsible citizens (Hooi, Hassan & Jami, 2011). The crux of all these frameworks is that the organisations have to incorporate activities in their business operations that will enhance the environment and allow them to sustain in the market for unlimited time period.
Regarding the ethical conduct of CSR activities, there are two main viewpoints prevailing among the researchers i.e. the utilitarian view and the deontological view. According to the former school of thought, the CSR activities are based on the consequences which emphasises that an organisation has to maximise the profit by making appropriate resource allocation decision. While, the former view holds that every organisation is oblige to fulfil its social and moral duties; every organisation has to keep a wide perspective in mind to provide benefits to every stakeholder (Rake & Grayson, 2009).
The latest trend in CSR field is that an organisation has to develop a green strategy to ensure that it is able to compete effectively in the market. It has become mandatory for the corporations to explicitly mention in their goals and mission statements that they are aware of their environmental and social accountability and will fulfil their commitment of acting as a socially responsible entity.
'Green' is a source of competitive advantage
In Higher Education industry, there is a growing demand from the students, teachers, government, faculty and other stakeholders that the universities get engaged in projects that will protect the environment and society as a whole. It has been found in the studies of Grindsted (2011) and Mehta (2011) that the competitive advantage can be sustained by creating a distinctive and positive image in the minds of the people. Previously, the faculty and types of programs were the main factors of competition among the universities but now the students are willing to get enrolled in those universities that are and will promote the green concept within the society.
Edinburgh Napier University has been successful in maintaining its distinctiveness in the Higher Education market by promoting its image as an environmental friendly institution. Everything of the University from its mission statement to the strategy reinforces the importance that it gives to act as a green organisation. There is a Sustainability Office that has an entire range of professionals who look after the sustainability researches, programs and projects that are being run by the University.
Almost all the important environmental issues are effectively handled by the University as it has covered the areas such as protection of biodiversity, waste management, pollution control, energy efficient transportation, energy conversation, storage of utilities and many more (Sustainability, 2013a). Edinburgh Napier University has exploited the CSR activities to give a boost to its reputation in the market and it has been observed that it is flourishing at a fast pace in the market.
In order to compete in today's every changing market, reputation is the key feature that allows the organisation to capture a strong market share. Edinburgh Napier University has undertaken various strategic initiatives to intensify its image as an environmental friendly, socially responsible, ethical and sustainable university. Hence, the green strategy has helped the institution in proactively responding to the environmental needs and it has fortified and successfully created twofold icon in the Higher Education market.