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

Peach, Neil (2005) An exploratory analysis into measuring business contributions to sustainable development in Australia. Other thesis, University of Southern Queensland.

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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.


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Item Type: Thesis (Non-Research) (Other)
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) (Pre-2008) thesis. The DBA as accredited from 1998 to 2007 was a professional doctorate with both coursework and research dissertation components.
Depositing User: epEditor USQ
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Business - No Department
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2007 00:26
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2013 22:33
Uncontrolled Keywords: sustainability, sustainable development, functions of sustainable development, business contribution, measurement of sustainable development, Business Sustainable Development Index, Australia
Fields of Research (FOR2008): 15 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services > 1503 Business and Management > 150301 Business Information Management (incl. Records, Knowledge and Information Management, and Intelligence)
14 Economics > 1402 Applied Economics > 140205 Environment and Resource Economics
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/678

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