Bernardo M. Villegas
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Reporting on Sustainability in Academe

           Academics can sometimes be very critical of government agencies or business corporations in matters related to the three Ps:  People, Planet and Profit.  For the first time in the Philippines, a university has looked at the mirror instead and examined its own behavior as regards not only the three Ps but also  a fourth one:  governance performance.  The University of Asia and the Pacific issued last July 12, 2013 the UA&P Sustainability Report that was presented to an audience made up of government, business and educational leaders. 

          Since 2007, UA&P has been playing an active role in shaping the global sustainability agenda through its elected seat in the Netherlands-based Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).  GRI has pioneered and developed a comprehensive Sustainability Reporting Framework that is widely used around the world.  The Framework helps organizations measure and report their economic, environmental, social and governance performance--the four key areas of sustainability.  The Reporting Framework--which includes the Reporting Guidelines, Sector Guidelines, and other resources--enables greater organizational transparency about economic, environmental, social and governance performance.  The transparency and accountability build stakeholders' trust in organizations, and can lead to many other benefits.  Numerous organizations all over the world--of all sizes and sectors--have been using GRI's Framework in order to understand and communicate their sustainability performance.  

          GRI's is a multi-stakeholder, network-based organization.  Its Secretariat is headquartered in Amsterdam.  The Secretariat acts as a hub, coordinating the activity of GRI's many network partners.  GRI has Focal Points--regional offices--in Australia, Brazil, China, India and the USA.  Its global network includes more than 600 Organizational Stakeholders--core supporters--and some 30,000 people representing different sectors and constituencies.  It also enjoys strategic partnerships with the United Nations Environment Program, the UN Global Compact, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, International Organization for Standardization, and many others.  GRI's Guidelines are developed with the expertise of the people in its network, international working groups, stakeholder engagement, and due process--including Public Comment Periods--help make the Guidelines suitable and credible for all organizations.

          In his introductory message to the UA&P Sustainability Report 2011-2012, President Jose Maria G. Mariano emphasized “that the sustainability report is not just one among many reports we produce annually but a unifying mechanism for our regular review processes.  It provides a system for consolidating, integrating, and internationalizing all our reporting efforts.  The GRI Guidelines has given us an integrating perspective that is aligned to one of our central hallmarks--people development.  Its GRI framework--triple bottom line (TRL) reporting--captures an expanded spectrum of values and criteria for measuring organizational success, giving as much premium to social (people) and environmental (planet) aspects as to the economic profit."

          The TRL framework was a perfect fit into the corporate culture of UA&P because since it was founded as a think tank called the Center for Research and Communication in 1967, it has always integrated corporate social responsibility (CSR) into its various programs of research, education and communication.  In 2002, it started to offer a three-unit CSR course, making it a mandatory subject for the students.  The move even preceded the Commission on Higher Education-mandated integration of CSR in business courses.   To strengthen further the commitment to CSR, the management of UA&P established the Center for Social Responsibility, which is now one of the hallmark centers of the University.  The Center takes care of UA&P's integrated development programs that enable people, particularly the poor and marginalized, to help themselves.

          Through its networking with hundreds of Philippine enterprises, that began as the Friends of CRC and now is called the Business Economic Club--the professors and research staff of the University have been assisting companies with innovative sustainability reporting solutions.  To share its technical expertise, promote meaningful dialogue, and exchange ideas about sustainability reporting, it has organized a yearly Sustainability Conference that pools together leaders from all types of Philippine business.  At the same time, the University has given the highest priority to its most important stakeholders--the people who work in the University.    It has formed a People Development Committee whose objective is to identify programs and projects that will best benefit the employees.  Every semester, a general assembly is held in which employees are updated on the operations of the University and how issues they previously brought up are being resolved.  For comments, my email address is