Commitment versus reality

translating good intentions into performance outcomes in sustainability programs in Australian universities

Lorne Butt, Elizabeth More, Gayle C. Avery

Research output: Contribution to journalConference paper


Most universities in Australia have implemented some form of sustainability program. The development and implementation of these programs is usually guided by various charters, policies, manuals and procedures that state the organisation's commitment to sustainable practice. These guiding documents also usually set out the activity areas covered by the organisation's sustainability program, and the goals and objectives for each area. However the rhetoric of sustainability programs does not always match the reality of achievement against stated goals and objectives. This paper presents an analysis of information gathered via longitudinal desktop research conducted on the public websites of four universities in the metropolitan region of Sydney, Australia. While the research focussed specifically on each institution's sustainability website, searches were also undertaken on each institution's public website as a whole to ensure systematic coverage of sustainability initiatives. Data collected was subjected to gap analysis and assessment against Benn, Dunphy and Perrott’s (2011) six-phase Strategic Sustainability model. Results indicate that while all four institutions have made significant commitments in relation to their sustainability programs, the rhetoric to reality gap in terms of achievement of outcomes against stated goals and objectives needs addressing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-394
Number of pages10
JournalThe 2012 European Academic Conference & Mediterranean cruise program
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventEuropean Academic Conference - Rome
Duration: 6 Jun 201217 Jun 2012



  • Sustainability
  • Universities
  • Goals
  • Objectives
  • Outcomes

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