Sustainability Takes Center Stage

The SDG Dashboard, which helps institutions track their progress toward meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, is attracting interest on the world stage, and taking on greater presence on Hawk Hill.

Rachel Kipp and Colleen Sabatino ’11 (M.A.)


SDG Dashboard illustration at Saint Joseph's University showing the different elements of SDG

Designed by the United Nations as a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all,” the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) seek global and cross-sector solutions to some of society’s most intractable problems: poverty, gender and racial inequality, environmental threats and ending conflict and war.

A growing number of institutions are seeking to tackle the goals head-on, looking toward the same audacious objective: achieving all of them by 2030. Saint Joseph’s has been at the forefront of this push with its SDG Dashboard, a data analytics tool that helps business schools and universities to share best practices and track institutional progress toward achieving the SDGs.

Developed by David Steingard, Ph.D., an associate professor of management and director of the SDG Dashboard, and his colleagues, the SDG Dashboard has been gaining international notice: In January, Steingard was invited to travel to Davos, Switzerland to participate in three events related to the annual World Economic Forum, a meeting of government leaders, academics and entrepreneurs to discuss the key risks and challenges facing the world in the coming years.

“Davos is viewed as a space for unveiling global innovations to improve the world, like massive global vaccine initiatives, and this year, of course, transformative capitalism for good,” Steingard, who participated in a panel discussion on the role of SDGs in higher education, said in January shortly after returning from Davos. “Featuring the SDG Dashboard in this milieu helped contextualize our work as contributing to the complex and oftentimes vexing issues of our time.”

The need to combat these issues has come into sharper focus due to the coronavirus pandemic. The spread of the virus has caused widespread economic instability and in halting many activities that damage the environment, has brought the need for sustainable practices in the future into sharper focus.

“In the era of COVID-19, we are reminded that the SDGs provide humanity a framework and a plan for how to work together to address this global crisis,” Steingard says.


SDG Dashboard illustration at Saint Joseph's University showing the different elements of SDG

David Steingard, Ph.D., associate professor of management, discusses the role of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in higher education at the 2020 World Economic Forum. Photo by Elma Okic/Courtesy of the UN Global Compact.

Reporting Progress

The SDG Dashboard, created in 2017, allows institutions to concretely capture and showcase how they are contributing to the 17 goals. Steingard was inspired to create the tool after Saint Joseph’s joined the UN’s Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) initiative as an Advanced Signatory member in 2016. PRME is a widely recognized global business association focused on responsible and sustainable management education. The SDG Dashboard is included in PRME’s SDG Blueprint for how institutions can integrate the UN goals into curriculum, research and partnerships.

Steingard spent a sabbatical pondering the question, “What would it look like if … business schools and universities started to seriously incorporate these SDGs into their strategies, their relationships with communities, into everything?” and “How would they report it?”

First, Steingard developed an extensive survey that prompts business schools to showcase all of the work they are doing toward fulfilling the SDGs — through teaching, academic research, community work, outreach, campus integration and partnerships. Then, he worked with Kathleen Campbell Garwood, Ph.D., associate professor of decision and system sciences, to create data visualizations to show a clear picture of what business schools’ sustainability work looks like.

Students were brought into the process, too. Steingard and Garwood recruited undergraduate and graduate students to help shape and develop the SDG Dashboard, and business intelligence and analytics majors to help analyze data when schools completed the survey.

Shortly after launching the SDG Dashboard, the tool caught the interest of business schools and universities across the globe, creating a demand for the tool.

Among the next developments for the SDG Dashboard is a new SDG Impact Intensity™ data analysis tool, which allows businesses and higher education to better assess the rigor of their efforts to incorporate the SDGs into their operations or curriculum. Steingard says the tool can also be helpful for academic journals, higher education rating systems, and businesses that want to use the SDGs as part of their performance evaluation formulas.


In the era of COVID-19, we are reminded that the SDGs provide humanity a framework and a plan for how to work together to address this global crisis.”

David Steingard, Ph.D.

associate professor of management

“Everybody wants to use the SDGs … but this looks at the underlying standards to determine if those efforts are making a demonstrable impact,” says Steingard, who was invited to speak about the SDG Dashboard at the recent virtual PRME Global Forum. “We’re helping businesses, academics and the world to see accurately and transparently, judging by objective standards their performance in fulfilling the SDGs.”

The Forefront of Social Change

The SDGs will also be taking on a more prominent role on Hawk Hill in the fall. Starting with the coming academic year, the Erivan K. Haub School of Business will be picking one or two goals each year to integrate into courses, lectures and other activities. The goals for 2020- 21 will be No. 5, Gender Equality, and No. 10, Reduced Inequalities.

“When it comes to social justice work, businesses and corporate communities absolutely need to be in the forefront,” says Associate Dean Vana Zervanos, Ed.D.

“We have seen an encouraging upsurge of global corporations who have altered their practices in light of calls for racial justice sparked by the killing of George Floyd and supported by the Black Lives Matter movement,” adds Steingard.

At Davos, Steingard discussed the importance of teaching sustainability principles to future leaders alongside fellow panelists Ann Rosenberg, senior vice president for UN partnerships at SAP; Christoph Meinel, president and CEO of the Hasso Plattner Institut; and Mette Morsing, UN Global Compact senior adviser and now Head, UN PRME. Steingard also shared the SDG Dashboard with many academics at other venues in Davos. Overall, he says there was “tremendous receptivity” to the SDG Dashboard.

“General awareness of and interest in the SDGs is on the rise. Companies, corporations, higher education and civil society are coming together to support the achievement of the SDGs by 2030,” Steingard said in January. “The SDG Dashboard is very effective at highlighting and sharing a particular institution’s best practices advancing the SDGs. Universities appreciate the opportunity to be recognized for the great work they are doing with the SDGs – and this is exactly the point of the SDG Dashboard.”

The panel, held on January 23, was part of the UN SDG Media Zone, an initiative brought to Davos to mark the 20th anniversary of the UN Global Compact.

According to Steingard, universities are becoming increasingly interested in incorporating the SDGs because they’re a way to show how they are contributing to pressing global issues such as climate change, economic growth, promoting gender equality and environmental sustainability.

“The SDG Dashboard is also a management tool institutions can utilize to assess their progress and opportunities to make real change on issues underlying the SDGs,” he said. Steingard said he was encouraged to see many efforts aimed at developing cross-sectoral solutions to pressing global issues highlighted at Davos.

“Across the global economy and the education system that serves it, there is a sea change in corporate purpose, ethics, human rights, sustainability, diversity and innovative capitalism for the betterment of person and planet,” he says. “It is evident that this economic and educational transformation aligns perfectly with the core concepts of Ignatian values, Catholic Social Teaching, social justice and sustainability championed at Saint Joseph’s.”

Colleen Sabatino ’11 (M.A.) is director of marketing.



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