Senior leaders of organizations create the sustainability vision, mission and strategy, and substantively influence the adoption, implementation and performance measurement of sustainability practices, leading to the creation of sustainable value, and an organizational culture of sustainability 1. Sustainability mission and strategy should be understood and reflected in the performance measurement criteria. The performance metrics chosen by senior leadership become critical to the successful implementation and continual improvement of the organization's sustainability strategy. This study explored the critical influences that senior management should consider when conceptualizing and structuring an organization's sustainability strategy performance metrics. The overarching research methodology in this study is a comparative case study, including case study/action research, and semi-structured interviews. In order to better understand how an organization's sustainability performance metrics are properly conceptualized, I utilized the conventions of grounded theory to analyze my data.
This study revealed that the conceptualization of sustainability performance measurement metrics involves consideration, not only of specific performance measurement-related issues, but more importantly, of context internal and external to the organization, as well as the consideration of the needs and wants of the broad array of organizational stakeholder. Stakeholders, both internal and external to the organization, directly impact the thinking of the organization's senior leadership and resulting organizational sustainability mission and strategy. In the tradition of whole system thinking, performance reporting will have an impact on the organizational stakeholders, both completing and initializing the cycle.
This study calls for the development of sustainability strategy, and related performance measurement metrics, via high level engagement with stakeholders through use of the polyvocal citizenship perspective, enabling senior management to better comprehend the organization's operating context. A model is presented which describes the cycle of sustainability influence, measurement, and reporting termed The Collaborative Organizational Sustainability Cycle. Finally, the study rejects the concept of unitary, standardized sustainability reporting across organizations and industries, instead concluding that sustainability reporting reflective of specific organizational context, and which directly addresses stakeholder needs and wants, better serve the sophisticated community of stakeholders.
1 Sustainability, sustainable value, and sustainable performance measurement are defined in Chapter 1.