Assessing and Benchmarking Sustainability in Organisations: An Integrated Conceptual Model

Assessing and Benchmarking Sustainability in Organisations: An Integrated Conceptual Model

Arunasalam Sambhanthan (School of Information Systems, Curtin Business School, Curtin University, Perth, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/IJSSOE.2017100102

Abstract

This article proposes an integrated conceptual model for assessing and benchmarking sustainability initiatives in organisations. Recent relevant published literature in the business sustainability assessments and benchmarking related domain has been surveyed and documented. Business sustainability is being conceptualised using two approaches, namely abstractive decomposition and typology. The conceptualisations derived from both of these approaches have been integrated to construct a new conceptual model for the theorizing of business sustainability from a holistic perspective. A text visualisation of the sustainability reports of ten large-scale software development firms have been done to look at the density of sustainability concepts in practice-based documentations, such as company reports. The conceptualisations derived through both the abstractive decomposition and the typology have been validated using the secondary data aggregation done from the analysis of reports. The article concludes with a summary highlighting the key aspects of the chapter.
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1. Introduction

Sustainability is a well-used and popular term, but its use lacks in clarity. There are a number of terms, such as sustainable development and triple bottom line, which are interchangeably used with the term ‘sustainability’ (McKenzie, 2004). At the business level, sustainability is often equated with eco-efficiency (Dyllick & Hockerts, 2002). Documented research exists on the review of sustainability terms and their definitions (Glavič & Lukman, 2007). These authors give prominence to terms like cleaner production, pollution prevention, pollution control, minimization of resource usage, eco-design and other similar terms. However, there is a considerable gap in the research literature in terms of defining business sustainability with a holistic view. Being a branch of the Sustainability discipline, business sustainability has quite a number of perspectives and angles that have been researched. Investigations of the business sustainability concept include consumer behaviour, climate change, stakeholder management, innovation and strategy. In the context of consumer behaviour and sustainability, there are studies on measuring the gaps between customers’ expectations and their perceptions on green products (Tseng & Hung, 2013); investigation of factors influencing the sustainable consumption behaviours of rural residents (Wang, Liu, & Qi, 2014); the role of moral leadership for sustainable production and consumption (Vinkhuyzen & Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, 2014); survey and analysis of consumer behaviour on waste mobile phone recycling (Yin, Gao, & Xu, 2014) and the empirical investigation of green purchase behaviour among the younger generation (Kanchanapibul, Lacka, Wang, & Chan, 2014). Definition of climate strategies for business (Pesonen & Horn, 2014) and the influence of stakeholders’ power and corporate characteristics and social and environmental disclosure (Lu & Abeysekera, 2014) are studies that document the relation of climate change and sustainability. The climate change related studies take more of an environmental sustainability angle when looking at sustainability. In terms of innovation, the link between eco-innovation and business performance (Cheng, Yang, & Sheu, 2014) and sustainability oriented innovation in small and medium enterprises (Klewitz & Hansen, 2014) are some notable studies that have been recently published. These studies look at the economic dimension of sustainability in the context of small and medium businesses. From a management perspective, there are studies on, for example, keeping track of corporate social responsibility as a business and management discipline with particular reference to Pakistan (Memon, Wei, Robson, & Khattak, 2014); a study related to the strategic niche management of cleaner vehicle technologies from prototype to series production (Sushandoyo & Magnusson, 2014); and the critical importance of strategic competencies for sustainable development (Mulder, 2014). The management related studies have been primarily focused on the strategic and sustainable development angles of the subject. However, there is still a lack of research in terms of integrating these disciplinary perspectives in sustainability related research.

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