An exploratory analysis into measuring business contributions to sustainable development in Australia

Doctorate other than PhD


Peach, Neil. 2005. An exploratory analysis into measuring business contributions to sustainable development in Australia . Doctorate other than PhD Doctor of Business Administration. University of Southern Queensland.
Title

An exploratory analysis into measuring business contributions to sustainable development in Australia

TypeDoctorate other than PhD
Authors
AuthorPeach, Neil
SupervisorAdkins, Glenda
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Business Administration
Number of Pages289
Year2005
Abstract

The aim of the research in this dissertation is twofold. First, from a wide ranging
survey of the themes, principles and approaches to sustainable development, the
objective is to establish a method of measuring whether or not business and industry
are contributing to sustainable development. The second objective is to then use this
method of measurement (called the Business Sustainable Development Index [BSDI])
to evaluate the contribution to sustainable development of selected Australian firms.
The three pillars approach to sustainable development and the capitals theory
approach to its measurement are the theoretical bases for the measurement framework
developed in this research (Elkington 1999; Figge and Hahn 2002; Faucheux and
Muir 1997). The study is grounded on the proposition that in a business setting 'what you don't
measure you can't manage'. However, there are difficulties at both the conceptual
level and the practical level which make the measurement of business actions in
relation to sustainable development problematic (Burritt 2002; Deegan 1999a;
Elkington 1999; Reinhardt 1999).
One of the major difficulties is that the concept of sustainable development applies to
a broad, macro scale whilst individual business entities operate within boundaries
defined by corporations law and the contemporary governance framework of business
(Daly 1992; Deegan 1999a). In this regard, the approach in this dissertation draws
on the work of Atkinson (2000) in only seeking to measure business 'contribution' to
sustainable development. The concept of 'contribution' provides the bridge between
the scale of the firm, as an economic entity, and the application of the principles and
approaches to sustainable development which operate, most easily, at various natural
scales (for example - the catchment scale or the continental scale). However, there are
also practical difficulties, which arise because of the legal and financial limits
(including increased costs) arising from current corporate governance expectations of
business (Burritt 2002; Reinhardt 1999).
In view of these difficulties and to ensure that the meaning of sustainable
development is not lost or reshaped when being translated from the broad scale to the
business scale, this research establishes both 'scope' and 'functionality' tests for
reviewing methods of measuring business contribution to sustainable development.
This has been done to avoid important omissions which have been identified in
applying the principles and themes of sustainable development to business settings
(Dyllick and Hockerts 2002; Veleva and Ellenbecker 2000). The 'scope' test deals
with the nine key themes and concepts which underlie the overarching concept of
sustainable development. The 'function' test introduces a preliminary formalisation of
emerging thinking that seeks to connect existing notions of organisational
performance measurement (for example efficiency and effectiveness measures
related to organisational goals, inputs, outputs and outcomes) with the contribution of business to sustainable development (Higgins 2001). The functions of 'matching' and
'linking' are introduced as a bridge between principles of sustainable development,
such as generational equity, and the organisational performance framework based on
measurement against stated goals (Higgins 2001).
Based on these foundations and emerging from a review of current methods of
measuring business contribution to sustainable development, a Business Sustainable
Development Index (BSDI) and an Industry Sustainable Development Index (ISDI)
are developed as more comprehensive responses to the application of sustainable
development in business. Both indexes provide a consolidated indicator as well as
providing a sub indicator of contribution in relation to each of the three pillars of
sustainable development. Analysis is then undertaken to discern differences in
contribution to sustainable development between firms which have been recognised
for contribution to sustainable development and other firms which have not been
recognised. To do this the study compares the financial performance of two groups of
firms over 10 years and seeks to discern differences in contribution to the economic
pillar of sustainable development.
In addition, the study reviews the performance of a pair of firms (one recognised for
contribution to sustainable development and the other not recognised) for 6 years and
reviews financial, environmental and social performance (the three pillars of
sustainable development) in an endeavour to discern differences in performance
overall and for each pillar. Additionally, the performance of relevant industry
groupings is reviewed to provide a context and benchmark for considering firms'
relative performances.

Keywordssustainability, sustainable development, functions of sustainable development, business contribution, measurement of sustainable development, Business Sustainable Development Index, Australia
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020350302. Business information management (incl. records, knowledge and intelligence)
380105. Environment and resource economics
Byline AffiliationsUniversity of Southern Queensland
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