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Mapping sustainability initiatives in higher education institutions in Latin America

Leal Filho, Walter, Amaro, Nelson, Avila, Lucas Veiga, Brandli, Luciana, Damke, Luana Ines, Vasconcelos, Claudio RP, Hernandez-Diaz, Paula M, Frankenberger, Fernanda, Fritzen, Barbara, Velazquez, Luis and Salvia, Amanda (2021) Mapping sustainability initiatives in higher education institutions in Latin America. Journal of Cleaner Production, 315. ISSN 0959-6526

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Abstract

Many higher education institutions (HEIs) around the world are involved in a variety of sustainability initiatives. These are acknowledged to be important elements in fostering the cause of sustainability in HEIs, in further developing the organizations’ culture and in acting as enablers in the institutional embedding of sustainability. But despite the relevance of sustainability initiatives, there is a lack of systematic international efforts in how best to map them, especially in Latin America. On the basis of the need to address this gap, this paper reports on the results of an empirical study, aimed at analyzing the current status of sustainability initiatives among Latin American HEIs. Apart from a review of the latest literature, an international survey was performed to design a model using principal component analysis to identify the main descriptors of sustainability initiatives among Latin American HEIs and also the major drivers and challenges. The study sheds some light on the ways universities perceive and handle sustainability-related initiatives. The results show that sustainability is being incorporated in more than 80% of the sampled universities, and that a special emphasis is being given to campus operations. The value of the paper resides on the fact that it one of the few papers that have holistically investigated trends in sustainable development across universities in Latin America. The implications of the study are twofold. It maps for the first time how sustainable development initiatives are being practiced in 157 universities in 13 countries, being one of the most comprehensive studies of its kind, and it also outlines some of the main challenges that universities in the region face. The central message of this paper is that the different levels of emphasis given to SD in Latin American universities need to be better understood in order to catalyze continued and long-term actions.

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